March

Scottish shuttlers prepare to depart for the Gold Coast

Four years ago, Scotland caught badminton fever and the Emirates Arena was packed with Saltire-wielding shuttlers fans.

The 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow saw two home medals during 11 days of fiercely fought competition – Kirsty Gilmour claiming silver in the women’s singles and Robert Blair and Imogen Bankier scooping bronze in the mixed doubles.

Gilmour is returning to spearhead an eight-strong squad who are aiming to bring more success back from the Gold Coast this time around.

She is joined by seasoned campaigners Kieran Merrilees, Martin Campbell and Patrick MacHugh who have competed at Commonwealth level in the past.

And while she will be seen as one of the more experienced performers ahead of the action in Australia, two-time European silver medallist Gilmour is not getting ahead of herself.

“I'm really looking forward to firstly just getting over to Gold Coast and getting settled,” said Gilmour, who was beaten in the round of 16 women’s singles at Delhi when she was just 17 years old. “Then I'll look to preparing for the competition.
 
“This will be my third Games so I'll be looking to utilise the experience I've gained in those competitions and put it to good use in Australia.

“It's going to be a tough event this year but I'll be doing everything in my power to be as ready as possible.”

Four Commonwealth debutants in Alex Dunn, Adam Hall, Eleanor O’Donnell and Julie MacPherson make up the eight-strong squad carrying the hopes of the nation Down Under, under the tutelage of head coach Tat Meng Wong and team manager Christine Black.

Scotland will also compete in the team event, where they take on India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Group A.

Hall and Dunn were only paired together regularly in the men’s doubles last year, but have enjoyed considerable success in that time, winning both Iceland and Turkey Internationals and the Irish Open.

And Hall admitted he was chomping at the bit to pick up his racket and represent his home country on such a huge stage.

“I’m really excited and just want to get out there now,” said the 22-year-old. “It’s been a long year trying to qualify and once the team got announced and you know you’re in the team, you just want to get out there and play.

“The start of the year I was telling myself not to get hung up too much on the result and not watch the ranking list, I’m just going to play and see what happens.

“But it’s very hard to do that – you do end up keeping an eye on it and there’s been a focus on getting good results. I tried not to do it but I couldn’t help myself!

“Alex and I are in a good run of form at the moment – we recently went a couple of months without actually losing a game. We had a solid few weeks of playing really well.”

Dunn, meanwhile, admitted the nerves had not really sunk in yet with the team set to fly out to Brisbane later this week.

But he believes that he and Hall have a chance of mounting an assault on the latter stages, although they are remaining grounded about their chances of medalling.

"So far, the nerves haven’t hit yet but I’m just really excited,” said the 19-year-old from Motherwell. “I’m absolutely buzzing and can’t wait to get out there to do the best we can.

"It’s absolutely incredible to represent Scotland at an event like that – it’s such a big event for any athlete at any stage of their career.

"I feel extremely lucky that at the age of 19, I’m able to put on the jersey and represent Scotland as best I can.

"Prior to the games we were trying to get into the top four seeding and we’re now fifth seeded position so that means we’ll get a harder quarter-final draw if we reach that stage.

"So now we’re just trying to get to the quarters and hopefully we’ll get a good draw and get the chance to progress to the semis."

Eleanor O'Donnell, who will partner Alex in mixed doubles as well as playing the women's doubles with Julie MacPherson, is just as excited to get going: "I'm very excited to get over to the Gold Coast with the rest of the team to compete in my first Commonwealth Games.

"It's only the second time I will have played for the senior team but at such a big event I'm really looking forward to getting out on to court and getting as many wins and as much experience as possible.

"It's going to be a tough challenge but along with the rest of the team we're all ready and looking forward to it."

The badminton team event will run from 5-9 April, before the individual events get underway from 10-15 April.