Posted on 25th June 2021
Having waited just over 15 months since the end of the last junior tournament to be staged in Scotland (SSBU Secondary Championships – 8th March 2020), Iona Muir ventured south to take part in the Badminton England U15 tournament at National Badminton Centre in Milton Keynes. 358 miles is a long way to go to compete but after 462 days of enforced abstinence, it seemed a small price to pay for the 14-year-old shuttler.
England’s ‘Gold’ junior events traditionally see tournament organisers split the girls and boys singles into two tiers: ‘Gold star’ and ‘Gold’. Entry to the former is linked to Badminton England’s grading system, which saw the top 16 girls grouped into four pools of four. A strong field saw Muir seeded 3/4 in a field which included nine of England’s top ten U15 girl players.
Having come through her group games without dropping a set, Iona faced the difficult prospect of England’s number one, Lucy Brierley, in the semi-final. Battling nerves and the excellent play of her opponent, she dropped the first set 13-21, but fought back bravely after trailing in the second to take it 21-17 before powering through the third 21-13 to claim an excellent victory.
In the final, she faced England’s number two seed, Grace Sachdeva, for the first time. Despite the big-hitting Sachdeva’s powerful attacks, Iona held her nerve to claim her first ever tournament win at the Gold star level, triumphing 21-12, 21-12.
Hoping to emulate her gold medal from the Saturday, Iona returned on the Sunday to partner the Welsh number one, Saffron Morris, in the girls doubles event. The first-time partnership made a fast start and progressed smoothly through to the final where they faced the number one seeds from England, Lucy Brierley and Lucy Dodd. Both pairs played well with the English duo prevailing 21-17, 23-21 in the final. A worthwhile trip to a safe and well-organised event, and a welcome return to competitive play!