KIRSTY GILMOUR is back in action for the first time since the Olympic Games in Rio.
Bothwell's Commonwealth Games and European silver medallist, who has been out of action since the autumn following knee surgery, began another Yonex Scottish National Championship challenge by tackling the mixed doubles on tonight’s opening session in the Bell’s Sports Centre in Perth.
The Scotland star was desperate for competitive court time but began with a walkover when Alex Dunn (Motherwell) withdrew from the mixed doubles through injury.
But Gilmour and Patrick MacHugh (Kinross) came through their first test when they beat Giffnock brother and sister pair Ciar and Caitlin Pringle 21-17 22-20 despite seeing a 19-9 lead evaporate in the second game.
Things got tougher in their semi-final when they took on top seeds Adam Hall and Eleanor O’Donnell and came through a real battle 21-12 16-21 21-18 to book a final clash on Sunday against MacHugh’s men’s doubles partner Martin Campbell and Julie MacPherson (both Edinburgh).
Gilmour said: “Of course it’s great to be back. It was hugely frustrating at first when I was sitting it out. But I came to accept the situation once I got back into rehabilitation.
“I’ve been brilliant in training,” she joked “but this is what I needed, court time in real match situations. Tonight was a chance to iron out a few nerves and get back into the swing of things.
“This is my first mixed final but we all know it’s not my main event.”
For MacHugh, the local hero from Kinross, this is his first mixed doubles final as well. The 2015 men’s doubles winner will be looking to regain that title this weekend with Campbell but he hopes his family and friends will be along to cheer for him on Sunday although he admitted “Not many of my mates will be bothered about coming to watch badminton but it’s nice to be able to play in my local event. There aren’t many opportunities.”
One thing is for certain - there will be two new names on the mixed doubles roll of honour in the post-Imogen Bankier/Robert Blair era and Gilmour is now bidding to be the first player since Rita Yuan Gao 15 years ago to get her hands on a senior title in all three disciplines, having previously won five singles and four women’s doubles..
Campbell and MacPherson, meanwhile will be out to improve on last year when they finished runners up to Blair and Bankier to leave MacPherson with runners-up spot in all three events. The pair booked their showdown with Gilmour and MacHugh by squeezing passed Christopher Grimley (Glasgow) and Ciara Torrance (Prestwick) 17-21 21-18 22-20.
Gilmour will be back in action tomorrow when she begins her challenge for her sixth consecutive women’s singles title. She begins with a bye before facing the winner of the opening round clash between Lily Farnood (Edinburgh) and Lauren Middleton (Dundee).
Glasgow’s Kieran Merrilees begins his bid for a fifth men’s singles title but South Queensferry’s Matthew Carder is the defending champion with Scotland’s top two singles players seeded to meet in the final.
The action tomorrow will see men’s and women’s singles and doubles played through to the semi-finals with play starting at 10am while the semi-finals take place on Sunday morning (10am) with the final from 1.45pm.
Tickets for the Yonex Scottish Nationals are available at the Bell’s Sports Centre tomorrow and Sunday.
The Yonex Scottish National Championships are being staged at Bell’s Sports Centre in Perth courtesy of Perth and Kinross Council.
BADMINTONscotland are also indebted to Yonex UK, Live Active Leisure, Perth Common Good Fund, the management and staff at Bell’s Sports Centre, and BADMINTONscotland Court Officials and volunteers.
Results can be viewed at http://www.tournamentsoftware.com/sport/tournament.aspx?id=30C5EDFD-1B15-4DC6-9665-E6686238EF40