October

Scottish Open: A history of one of the world’s oldest badminton tournaments

You only had to hear the fervent support Kirsty Gilmour received from the hoards of fans packed into Glasgow’s Emirates Arena at this summer’s World Championships to know Scotland’s support for badminton is strong.

But it’s far from a recent interest, with the love affair between the sport and those north of the border dating back more than a century.

The Scottish Open is one of the oldest and most prestigious badminton tournaments in the world, originating in 1907. Only the All England Open (1899) and the Irish Open (1902) predate it.

Glasgow’s Emirates Arena will host the Open again from November 22 to 26 – it has been held at the venue since 2012.

F. A. Todd and V. I. Todd ensured a title stayed in Scotland in its inaugural year, claiming the women’s doubles championships.

The early years of the tournament were dominated by Englishman George Alan Thomas, whom the biannual Thomas Cup is named after.

He won 11 out of the first 14 men’s singles titles, and he took home either a singles or doubles crown every year until 1928.

A gifted sportsman, Thomas also reached the quarter-finals of the men’s singles at the 1911 Wimbledon Championships, and the semi-finals on two occasions in the doubles. In case that wasn’t enough, Thomas was also a two-time British chess champion.

Scotland enjoyed its most fruitful years of the competition in the 1950s and 1960s, culminating in a clean sweep of all five categories in 1963.

That year, Robert McCoig claimed the men’s title – he also won five men’s doubles and four mixed doubles in his Scottish Open career, with Mary O’Sullivan taking the women’s crown.

The pair also triumphed in their respective doubles with partners Frank Shannon and Yvonne Kelly, while Mac Henderson and Catherine Dunglison ensured a fifth mixed doubles Scotland triumph in seven years.

The hosts are one of only two nations to ever achieve this feat in the history of the tournament (England being the other).

The 1980s and 1990s saw an explosion of Scandinavian talent dominate the honours boards. One of the most notable champions was Danish legend Morten Frost, who won four men's singles titles during a period when Danish and Swedish shuttlers swept aside most in their path in what was a barren period for Scotland.

The home nation did not win a title between 1986 and 2001 until Sandra Watt and Yuan Wemyss (now known as Rita Yuan Gao) triumphed in the women’s doubles.

Yuan Gao won the women’s singles crown in 2004, with Susan Egelstaff’s title in 2009 the last time a singles championship has stayed in the country.

Indeed, McCoig’s final men’s singles win in 1968 was the last time a Scottish man has won individual title, while Egelstaff and Wemyss’ victories are the only two in the women’s draw since Joanna Flockhart in 1973.

More recent Scottish success has come in the form of Robert Blair and Imogen Bankier, winning back-to-back mixed doubles championships in 2013 and 2014, the latter adding to the bronze the pair won in the same event at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow that year.