European Games 2023 Reflection: Kirsty Gilmour

By RJ Mitchell

KIRSTY GILMOUR claimed her eighth major games medal in Krakow with the bronze accolade being the third of that nature to add to a collection of five silver medals claimed from Commonwealth Games, European Games and European Championships respectively.

Projecting forward, Kirsty is adamant that there is plenty more to come as she eyes August’s World Championships in Copenhagen followed by next year’s Paris Olympics with the Victoria Commonwealth Games 2026.

Reflecting on all of this, Scottish No.1 and European Games bronze medallist said: “This year has been up there with the toughest years I’ve had but the little rewards are like a dangling carrot to keep going – not that I’m thinking of stopping anytime soon!

“I definitely have Paris next year and then after that I will be looking towards the Victoria Commonwealth Games and so unless there is any major interference before then I will keep it going until 2026.

“Obviously I have to think what more can I do but if I can still keep getting these major medals and the decent wins it makes it all worth it.

“Winning is the fun part so why would I want to take that enjoyment away from myself? As long as I am still winning things and getting a couple of titles or medals under my belt I will keep it going.

“I can’t put a definitive (date) on it but you’d kind of look at a major event and maybe call it after that and as I said there are a few coming up in the next couple of years I very much want to compete at.”

At the European Games, it was Spain’s former World No.1, ex-Olympic and three-time World Champion Carolina Marin who was to stand in Kirsty’s way in what was their fourth medal match meeting with the World No.6 prevailing 21-13, 21-11 as she preserved her 100% record against the Scot at major games.

Kirsty was positive about her battle with the women’s singles all-time great: “There were things that I could have done better and there will be a take away to look at regarding my game but in terms of on the day Carolina was almost flawless.

“So fair play to her she came out all guns blazing and I just didn’t have an answer for a lot of her play. But in terms of my game we will take time on it and see what areas we can sharpen up.

“But as a whole this tournament has been really positive; I am in a good place and have a lot to build on.”

Taking stock of her Krakow campaign, which saw Kirsty play six matches on successive days, the Scot has no doubt there are plenty reasons to be cheerful and Kirsty said: “So it’s six European medals in the last seven years which is an okay record I guess with four silvers and two bronze.

“I have been thinking about it all as you don’t often stop to reflect on the big picture aspect of it all. Really you are always blinkers on and tunnel vision in terms of what is happening at that very moment.

“But I think when you get some history in the bank you can stop and say: ‘That’s pretty cool,’ like I said I still hope I can add another couple to it before I’m done.”

While Kirsty negotiated the group stages serenely without dropping a set the knock-out stages were tough from start to finish as the World No. 25 shared: “The Hungarian girl (Vivien Sandorhazi) in the last-16 was a physically very tough match and I was so nervous for that one. I don’t know why but maybe my body just knew it would be an absolute scrap but I didn’t play my best badminton but did just enough to get me through (17-21, 21-17, 21-17).

“But because it was such a tough battle it actually settled my nerves for the next match against Line (Hojmark Kjaersfeldt), so it just helped me believe I could get through it all.

“Line has been playing pretty well this year and has been in good form over the last year, taken a lot of people very close and had some very good results, so I was pretty up for it and really delighted to get the win, especially from being so far down in the final game, at 9-15, to seal it off in the third (16-21, 21-11, 21-19). So never count me out!

“Recently it has been: ‘I am right there but just missing out,’ so to really seal the deal with a good win and take a major medal again is really quite important and proves we have been on the right track all this time.”

Yet while her on court heroics were demanding, travel to and from the Arena Jaskółka also added to gruelling long days as Kirsty revealed: “Six matches back-to-back with no day off is more than winning a tournament as it would be five normally to do that. Plus the two days training we did before we arrived meant it was eight days of getting in the zone.

“On top of that it was an hour-and-a-half bus journey each day to the venue, so three hours spent on the bus, for nine days and so 27 hours in total when you include the trip in for the medal ceremony.

“So I’m relieved, satisfied and happy with how the week has turned out and looking forward to a well-earned week’s holiday and then it is countdown to the world champs in Denmark.”