By RJ Mitchell
BADMINTON SCOTLAND president Carolyn Young has shared her delight at a weekend of memorable badminton following the completion of the 2024 Scottish National Championships at Scotstoun.
103 entrants battled it out across all five disciplines, in which some of the most established stars in Scottish badminton found themselves engaged in epic battles with the ‘next gen’ of emerging talent – the action was at times fast and furious.
Carolyn, who was spectating across all three days of the competition, has no doubt that there were a huge amount of positives to take as she savoured an outstanding championship at the National Badminton Academy.
The Badminton Scotland president said: “This year’s Nationals have been a real success. First of all to have 103 entries for the 2024 Scottish Championships, which was up on last year, was very encouraging.
“But also the amount of our top players who were competing was terrific while the number of younger players taking part, and also the quality of these youngsters, was tremendous.
“For me that made it really competitive and was the big takeaway of this year’s Nationals – that we have so many fine young talents who are stepping up and have come through our system.
“It also provided some memorable badminton and I think all the supporters who were at Scotstoun over the weekend enjoyed some fantastic games and not just on the Sunday but across the three days.
When it came to the president’s vote for the championship’s most outstanding performance, Carolyn admitted there were three particular performances that left her cheerful: “Firstly young Angus (Meldrum) played superbly against Callum (Smith) in the Men’s Singles final and I really thought he was going to snatch that first set and if he had who knows.
“To go toe-to-toe with Callum was just amazing and that was perhaps my highlight of the weekend.”
Carolyn continued: “While in the women’s singles Katrina Chan played very well and made the semis before losing to Lauren (Middleton). It was also fantastic to see Eleanor O’Donnell coming through and winning the Mixed, in which I thought she was excellent.
“Given she has played very little because of her health issues, that was just a really nice moment for Eleanor to win the Mixed with Chris (Grimley).
“So, as I said, it was just an outstanding championship and one filled with special moments.”
With the Women’s Singles final first up, an enthusiastic Scotstoun crowd were soon enthralled as top seed Rachel Sugden and defending champion Lauren Middleton took their places in a highly-anticipated rematch of last year’s semi- final, and what an epic it proved.
With Lauren almost flawless to start with, the defending champion built up a healthy lead that she never relinquished as Rachel failed to settle before losing out 16-21.
In the second stanza, top seed Rachel carried greater velocity and determination to turn the tables, claiming the second 21-13.
The third set proved a case of point-for-point all the way with the lead changing hands on several occasions.
While Rachel rued some early service faults, at 16-all the top seed finally made the break as the pressure mounted. Rachel claimed her third national title after an action packed 46-minute encounter 21-16.
Afterwards the new champion admitted her three-peat was a career high domestically: “It really meant a lot as Lauren played a good final and to come through and turn it around meant the world. So this was right up there as one of the best moments of my career, without doubt.
“I knew it would be a tough game and last year in the semi I didn’t deal with it particularly well and I let Lauren dictate the pace a bit possibly because I was nervous but I stuck in and my confidence built.
“I think I used my strength well as I’m an attacking player and playing to these strengths got me through and I’m just delighted to be Scottish Champion again.”
Next up was the Mixed Doubles final which saw Jack MacGregor and Ciara Torrance face off against Christopher Grimley and Eleanor O’Donnell.
With Eleanor’s recent decision to retire from international badminton due to her struggles with lymphoedema, her partnership’s straight sets 21-19, 21-19 victory took on added poignancy.
Reflecting on this Eleanor said: “There was definitely more meaning to this one given everything I’ve been through over the last year and I just tried to enjoy the tournament and not let all of that get on top of me.
“It was just really nice to come through and to keep smiling all the way, so I’m just really happy to win the Scottish Mixed and to do it with Chris just means so much.”
With a smile Eleanor teased that this may not be her last Nationals: “I would never say never and I might just be back next year but we will wait and see.”
In the Men’s Singles Callum Smith admitted his fourth championship victory was undoubtedly the most satisfying after a year of injury frustration that only saw him return to competitive action in November.
After a see-sawing opening set, Callum claimed an early advantage 24-22 following a energetic start by the tournament’s surprise package Angus Meldrum.
The champion gradually imposed his experience and class on proceedings, employing a clever use of a delay/hold on his strokes to repeatedly wrong foot his opponent.
After the match Callum told us: “It’s definitely a relief to get that fourth title after the year I had in ’23. I didn’t know if I’d even make these nationals after my ankle surgery so this is definitely the most satisfying and it also gives me a huge confidence boost for the year ahead.
“Credits to Angus he came out the blocks flying and that shook me up but in the second set I made my experience count and I’m just delighted to get the job done.”
The Women’s Doubles Final saw top seeds Julie MacPherson and Ciara Torrance defeat second seeds Rachel Andrew and Eleanor O’Donnell 21-8, 21-15 with an assured performance that saw the duo claim their fifth successive Scottish title.
As Ciara admitted it was the perfect send off for next week’s European Women’s Team Championships in Poland and she said: “Every national title is special but I felt we just attacked really well all weekend and a lot of the stuff we have been working on came together.
“To win five titles on the bounce is a pretty impressive demonstration of consistency and I feel like it has really set us up for Poland next week.
“With Eleanor just retiring it was nice to have her in the final and also Rachel who will be flying out to Poland with Julie and me.
“So the perfect preparation for the Europeans really.”
In the Men’s Doubles Chris and Matthew Grimley produced a classy performance full of incisive accurate badminton to beat second seeds Jack MacGregor and Adam Pringle 22-20, 21-14, to claim their second national title in a high quality final which hinged on the first set tie-break.
Chris reflected: “Particularly in the first set we stayed composed and focused and that was crucial in allowing us to build our performance in the second set.
“We are good friends with Jack and Adam and there was nothing in it but we are just delighted to win our second National title.
“Given we were favourites the whole way there was more pressure but we coped with that and next year we’d love to play Adam (Hall) and Alex (Dunn) and finally beat them in a Nationals.
“But for now we happy to be Scottish champions again.”
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