Posted on 26th June 2023
By RJ Mitchell
KIRSTY GILMOUR has revealed her pride at the five strong Scottish contingent that will mean a historic 50/50 split with their English counterparts as the constituent parts of the Team GB badminton team who start their 2023 European Games campaign in Kraków today.
Last time around in Minsk some four years back Gilmour flew the Saltire solo as she fought her way to an impressive silver medal in the Women’s Singles before losing out to Denmark’s Mia Blichfeldt.
Fast forward five years and the Bellshill born ace, who is seeded No.5 and begins her campaign in Group E with a singles against Cypriot top-flight Eleni Christodoulou today, is joined by Women’s Doubles partners Ciara Torrance and Julie MacPherson, and 4th seeded Men’s Doubles partners Alex Dunn and Adam Hall.
The long reigning queen of Scottish badminton says this is all impressive proof of the strides made by Badminton Scotland’s international set-up over recent years.
Kirsty said: “This time it is a bit more special as we have so many other Scots in the GB team, and I’ve never experienced a Team GB with Scottish friends! So it’s brilliant we are 50/50 with the English and it reflects on what we’ve done over the last few years, and what we’ve built in the Badminton Scotland set-up.
“Really it’s a massive achievement to be split straight down the middle with the England players but it’s also a really nice feeling to be part of the bigger team event, something bigger than yourself.”
Kirsty has just missed out on a top-4 seeding berth but is the leading light in Group E where she is accompanied by today’s opponents, Cypriot Eleni Christodoulou, the Netherlands’ Jaymie Laurens, and Poland’s Wiktoria Dabczynska, at the Arena Jaskółka.
While Kirsty hasn’t played any of the trio before, she is determined not to underestimate her Group E rivals as she plots a way through to the knock-out stage quarter-finals.
The Scotland No.1 said: “I have not come up against Eleni who I have in my opener today and so don’t know much about her. Across my group that is pretty much the same for the others, but I will give every one of these girls my full respect.
“My hope is that my group games will be a chance for me to get up to speed and to feel the hall out. Hopefully I can build match to match, get into a rhythm, make the knock-out stage and then anything can happen.
“I am coming into the European Games off a decent tournament in Indonesia last week where I got a solid win against Beiwen (Zhang) and in a BWF 1000 tournament that was really positive.
“So, a good win in round one and then I was just delighted to get on court with An Se Young, who I consider to be the true World No.1 right now, which on current form she certainly is and that was tough to go up against.
“Her style is very different to previous No.1’s over the last few years, it’s neutral verging on passive but it’s just so effective. She reads the game like a book and she seems to know what you will do before you do!
“But you get little ideas of what you need to do to sharpen up and it was a good experience to have before going to the Europeans, and one I think was a great way to finish my preparations off for Kraków this week on a really solid footing.
“For the Europeans I haven’t looked that far ahead, as the most important thing is to finish top of my group and take it from there. In that respect today’s opening singles and making the strongest start possible has all my attention.”
After claiming silver last time around there is no doubt about Kirsty’s determination to press repeat, and the World No.32 said: “I always go to the Europeans with a medal on my mind and this one is no different.”
Kirsty continued: “It will be a tough ask as beyond the eight seeds who all have medal potential there are a couple of other players who will fancy their chances, so it is a very strong field.
“I’ve beaten all of the top-4 seeds (Carolina Marin, Mia Blichfeldt, Line Kjaersfeldt, Yvonne Li) before and they have all beaten me so it’s tough to say I’d like this one or that.
“However the draw falls it is how it is, but obviously some styles are better match-ups than others.
“But Ingo (Kindervater, Badminton Scotland’s Head of Performance) and I are constantly trying to sharpen up little things and also make sure my overall base is strong. I’ve maybe been lacking in that fundamental base in the last few months, but we are definitely getting that back.
“Right now I feel good and although I can’t put a number on it in terms of my form, my conditioning is pretty good and I’ve picked up a lot of things in other areas that will help me.
“So much of it is mental but hopefully it will all come together.”
Meanwhile in the Women’s Doubles, Julie MacPherson and Ciara Torrance will begin their Group B campaign against Italy’s Martina Corsini and Judith Mair in a section where No.2 seeds from Denmark, Maiken Fruergaard and Sara Thygesen are top-ranked.
In the Men’s Doubles No.4 seeded Alex Dunn and Adam Hall open up in Group D against the Czech Republic’s Ondrej Kral and Adam Mendrek.
Two qualify from each pool phase.