By RJ Mitchell
CALLUM SMITH is already targeting a pre-Christmas return to the competitive fray in the 2023 European Men’s Team Championship qualifiers in an impressive show of resolve following his recent ankle ligament injury.
The three-time Scottish Men’s singles champion suffered a torn ligament and bone bruising to his right ankle during a training session at the Sir Craig Reedie Centre on June 28 and will undergo surgery next week to repair the damage.
But buoyed by the well-wishes and support of family, friends and his colleagues in the Scotland squad, Callum is already focussing on his post-op rehab in a demonstration of admirable positivity.
While the 21-year-old has already been back in the gym to power his way through an upper body weights session after Monday’s timely draw for the European Men’s Team Championship qualifiers, which has landed Scotland in Group 5 sub group 1 alongside Slovakia and Ukraine, gave him a blazing beacon of light on the horizon.
The Scottish champion said: “I’m definitely happy I have the surgery next week. The medics confirmed I’d need it this week and then I will have the procedure next week and that is a big positive for me mentally.
“It will mean I will be back to normal a lot quicker, knowing that the surgery is ASAP and the Scottish Institute have been dealing with that and they have been excellent.
“They have helped me through the last month and it is a huge plus to be part of the set up with the quality of medical staff available helping me to recover from this and I’m already very grateful for all that has been done for me.
“The European Men’s Teams Champs qualifiers in December is something that I hope I can be a part of but I just don’t know how recovery will go and the main thing is not to be putting pressure on myself in this respect.
“With the draw coming out earlier this week it did give me something positive to think about and it would be great to help us qualify for the finals in Poland.”
Smith has spent most of the post injury period encased in a protective boot but has already been able to drive to physio sessions all of which has been a help after sustaining the injury.
Recalling the instant it all went pear – shaped, Smith demonstrated impressive perspective regarding the moment all professional athletes fear most: “It happened in a training session where I had been engaged in an attack and defence exercise and I went for a jump smash and on the way down I almost landed on my toes. Then with all my weight and gravity coming down through my ankle I went over on it, heard the snap and the voice inside my head just went: ‘Oh No!’
“Then I was straight down on the floor and when I tried to get back up it wasn’t happening and I had to get carried to a chair. So I have a snapped the ligament and have bone bruising to the right ankle and it is by far the worst injury I’ve had.
“But although the first four weeks I’ve been on crutches and had the big boot on the swelling has gone down quite quickly, so that has been a big plus.
“After surgery, which is scheduled for next week, possibly on Thursday, I will be back in crutches and on the boot again and won’t be able to do much for the next four weeks.
“But I have already been working closely with the Scottish Institute of Sport doctors and physios and post op I will be trying to make sure I get back as best I can without taking any shortcuts.
“So roughly I will be out of action for three or four months and it’s going to take out a third of the year for me competitively speaking.
“But last week I was able to start driving and it was great just be able to get myself to the physio and then I was back in the gym doing a weights session for upper body which helped with my mood big time.
“Now with surgery confirmed next week I am looking at that as the first day of my comeback and then I will build from there.”
Still just 21 years-old and already a three-time national champion Smith was determined to look forward rather than back in anger: “It hasn’t really been a great year for me with catching Covid and then a few niggling injuries but then as an athlete you are never going to get through your career without injuries.
“I’d rather it happened at 21 than in my prime at 26 or 27 when I am hopefully established. For sure it’s not ideal to get surgery at 21 but it’s the right thing to do if I want be an elite athlete.
“The main thing now is to listen to the medics and not to rush it.”
When it comes to the monotony of rehabbing Callum has already discovered he may have a previously undiscovered skill which will help pass the time: “I have been trying not to sit on my bed and watched a few movies to pass the time. My girlfriend is desperate to see Barbie but that is maybe a bit of a stretch for me!
“But the other day I was actually cooking meals for my girlfriend’s family and I really enjoyed that so you never know how that might go in the months ahead.”
Yet of one thing there is no doubt and that is Callum’s genuine gratitude for the support of family, friends, colleagues, and sponsors which he has no doubt will play a key part in him bouncing back better than ever.
The Scotland international said: “All my family and friends have been great and so have the players in the Scotland squad. I came in the other day and the level of support and the well wishing from the guys really meant a lot.
“It really does help to have all that support as being in crutches and a boot, well 24 hours can seem like 48 hours, believe me! So it really lifts my spirits.
“Also a massive thanks to Scottish Institute, my friends and family and my sponsors who always have my back.
“So thanks to Victor, Uplift Forklifts Sandy Maclean & Co, Pearsons of Duns, Border Embroidery, they have all been great to me and a huge thanks to everyone, your support it is really appreciated.”
Everyone at Badminton Scotland wishes Callum a speedy recovery!