All eyes on The European Games: Ciara Torrance

By RJ Mitchell

CIARA TORRANCE has revealed her determination to medal at next week’s European Games Badminton Championships.

Ciara and partner Julie MacPherson have been drawn in Group B of the Women’s Doubles competition and will jet out to Krakow, Poland, alongside Kirsty Gilmour, Alex Dunn, and Adam Hall as part of a five strong Scottish segment of the 10-player Team GB badminton squad.

Despite the fact Ciara and Julie have been drawn alongside Danish second seeds Maiken Fruergaard and Sara Thygesen, who defeated them 21-15, 21-16, in the European Mixed Team Championships earlier this year, Ciara is confident that experience can prove pivotal in pursuit of the ultimate prize.

Yet as she looked forward to next week, the Scottish Women’s Doubles champion also admitted her pride at being picked to play for Team GB for the first time at a major games.

Ciara said: “100% the target is a medal. Julie and I have a dangerous game in a lot of areas and we can definitely cause some upsets and in women’s doubles the medals could go to anyone and I don’t see why we shouldn’t go in with confidence and see where that takes us.

“But it’s always an athlete’s goal to get picked for that Team GB type Olympic event and although it’s obviously great to get selected for Team Scotland, and you feel even more patriotic about that, the GB selection is such a high honour as you’ve been selected from so many more people. So I am proud to be picked and it’s pretty cool.

“Also in some ways there are more eyes on us playing for Great Britain than for Scotland but I feel we should all be proud of getting selected and we should go in with a positive mindset and just go for it.

“Last year I played for Scotland at my first Commonwealth Games and I went in not knowing what to expect but because of that for GB this time around I will draw from that experience and knowing more what to expect.

“All of that is a big plus for the Europeans.”

If Ciara and Julie are to emerge from Group B they will need to qualify in the top two positions.

Also in their pool are another familiar pairing from the European Mixed Team Championships in the Ukrainian duo of Mariia Stoliarenko and Yelyzaveta Zharka with whom the Scots endured a three-set epic at the Complexe Sportif Regional before triumphing 21-23, 21-15, 21-13 in our final Group A fixture.

With the youthful Italian duo of Martina Corsini and Judith Mair making up the section, which will start for the Scottish champions on Monday with a clash against the Ukrainians at the Arena Jaskolka, Ciara says she and Julie are good to go after recent injury challenges.

The World No.32 ranked women’s doubles player said: “I had a good training block before the South-East Asia swing we have just finished and we are now both going to Krakow in good shape.

“Our first game is against the Ukrainians Stolarenko and Zharka and we played them at the European Mixed Team Champs and they played really well.

“They are a solid pair and don’t give a lot of errors away but if we play the right game against them we should be okay.

“Then it’s the Danes Fruergaard and Thygesen who we also played at the European Mixed Teams. They are a really experienced pair and are seeded No.2 and they’ve been high up in the world rankings for a long time and we played a pretty decent game against them at the Mixed but although we played okay against them we have a higher level in us and we will need to bring that this time.

“As for the Italians well I don’t know too much about them although I think they are a bit younger than us, so we need to make sure we give them nothing for free early on and impose our game plan on them and if so we will be fine.”

Of course Ciara and Julie have just completed a gruelling four tournament run in South-East Asia which was threatened by an ankle injury sustained by Julie in the opening event in Malaysia.

Thankfully Julie is fully fit for Krakow and Ciara was upbeat this will stand the duo in good stead for the European Games.

The Scotland international said: “The first week Julie hurt her ankle on the opening day and we didn’t know how she would be but she still managed to play some good stuff and it didn’t really impact in the other weeks after the Malaysian Open.

“Julie is more robust than me and doesn’t get injured a lot and it was pretty good she got through it but ankles are tricky and we are just lucky it was just a strain and not a snapped ligament.

“On my part I’ve had a back problem for coming on three years but it is an awful lot better now although I had to withdraw from the All England with it in March.

“But over these last few weeks I think our level definitely improved and we then found our rhythm that bit better and although in Indonesia last week we lost to the Hong Kong pair of Yeung and Yeung (16-21, 17-21) they were always going to be a tough pair to play against and they have had some very good results of late.

“In general we played pretty well in that match and executed our game plan well but there were a couple of errors in close points and they also got a couple of net chords and when you are talking just four or five points in each game that makes a difference.

“But all of that has meant we are in pretty good shape and our game is where it needs to be for the European Games and hopefully we can make the most of that.”