Team Scotland has today announced the eight-strong badminton squad for the 2018 Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast in April.
Kirsty Gilmour, Commonwealth silver medallist from Glasgow 2014, headlines the team as one of four Scottish players who already have experience at this level.
The other four will travel to Australia as Commonwealth Games debutants in a squad which has an exciting mixture of youth and experience.
Team Scotland’s shuttlers are one short of reaching a total of ten Commonwealth Games medals in badminton, with Robert Blair and Imogen Bankier joining Gilmour on the podium on the home courts of Glasgow in 2014.
Gilmour has since become a European silver medallist on two occasions and she confirmed she is feeling in a good place and ready to embrace the challenges that lie ahead.
She said: “Physically I feel quite good. I had a long period in Asia over Christmas and New Year. I was in India then went directly to Malaysia and Indonesia so I had a good six weeks and I think that was what I really needed, to get some consistent matches against the top girls in the world.
“I’m trying to keep building some ranking points for seeding and looking towards the Commonwealth Games I’m feeling quite good.
“The Gold Coast is going to be a very different feel from Glasgow. Of course I’m hoping to have a high seeding position but I think the standard is going to be really strong this year.
“India are putting forward two girls, there’s myself, Michelle Li, there’s Jin Wei Goh from Malaysia, there’s Singapore, so there is going to be a lot of us vying for the medals.
“It’s just going to come down to all those little things linking up and I’m going to be as best prepared as I can be.”
Joining Gilmour on the Gold Coast will be Julie MacPherson, 20, and 19-year-old Eleanor O’Donnell, both set to take their Commonwealth bows.
The pair have been developing well and are high in confidence, winning their first senior international title together in Iceland earlier this year and retaining the women’s doubles title at the Yonex Scottish National Championships earlier this month.
O’Donnell also claimed the mixed doubles title in an impressive display in Perth, alongside Alex Dunn, another of those set for a first Commonwealth outing.
Dunn also won two national titles, taking the men’s doubles with Adam Hall and now, having won three international titles in the last three months, the pair are set to test their blossoming partnership on one of the biggest stages of all.
“It’s only about a year now since we started playing together. We started very well with a final in Poland straight away,” said Dunn.
“It’s been a bit up and down sometimes but a lot of good results. I’m very happy with how our partnership is going and it will continue to go upwards.”
And Hall added: “We’re looking to try and do well in Austria and Germany. We are close to being in the top four ranked pairs for the Gold Coast so we really want to get into the top four to give us a high seeding and the best chance to get a medal. I feel that’s well within our capabilities if we go out there and play the best we can.”
Also looking to impress in the men’s doubles are Martin Campbell and Patrick MacHugh who reached the men’s doubles last 16 in Glasgow four years ago and have since won the Scottish national men’s doubles title twice.
They have enjoyed some good form this season, including an excellent performance at the World Championships in August and a silver medal at the Swedish International last month.
Rounding off the eight is the most experienced member of the squad in Kieran Merrilees, a six-time national champion who has 42 international caps to his name.
And the Scottish No.1 is confident he can put his previous experiences at this level to good use.
“We’ve got the Gold Coast coming up a couple of months away and I’m looking to get some good training weeks in before it,” he said.
“In the last one [in Glasgow] I got to the quarter-finals so I don’t see why I can’t push on and try and go one better than that even though there’s a lot of good players in the draw.”
Christine Black will reprise her role as team manager on the Gold Coast while Tat Meng Wong leads the side as head coach.
Badminton Scotland Chief Executive Anne Smillie said: “We have a good blend of youth and experience in our squad. It is going to be a great challenge for the younger players but our top players like Kirsty and Kieran will be able to pass on their experience.
“The whole squad is preparing well and they will be ready to rise to the occasion.
“Everyone at Badminton Scotland wishes them, as well as the whole of Team Scotland, every success on the Gold Coast. We are right behind them all the way.”
And President Ian Campbell added his support, saying: “I am looking forward to the Games with great anticipation. The competition as always will be extremely tough.
“I know all our players have worked hard in preparation for the games and will do themselves and Scotland proud.”
Scotland will contest the team event, as well as the individual events.
The team in full:
Martin Campbell, 27, Edinburgh, (27 international caps)
Alex Dunn, 19, Motherwell (1 international cap)*
Adam Hall, 22, Mauchline (10 international caps)*
Patrick MacHugh, 25, Kinross (16 international caps)
Kieran Merrilees, 28, Glasgow (42 international caps)
Kirsty Gilmour, 24, Glasgow (30 international caps)
Julie MacPherson, 20, Edinburgh (7 international caps)*
Eleanor O'Donnell, 19, Beith (4 international caps)*
*Denotes Commonwealth Games debutant
Team Manager: Christine Black
Head Coach: Tat Meng Wong