European Mixed Team Preview: Ingo Kindervater

By RJ Mitchell

Badminton Scotland’s Head of Performance Ingo Kindervater looks ahead to December’s Women’s and Men’s European Team Championship qualifiers, including squad selection and the different challenges of teams travelling to Azerbaijan and Milton Keynes, England.

The Women’s qualifier in Azerbaijan will see Scotland compete in Group 4 with the hosts, Estonia, and Slovakia for a place in next February’s finals in Lodz, Poland.

The Men’s qualifier is being hosted in Milton Keynes (by Badminton Scotland) with Scotland in Group 5 to face Ukraine, Israel, Greenland, Slovakia and Belgium.

Ingo explained logistically and financially there are challenges to overcome before placing our best foot forward on court at the Ashberon Olympic Complex: “Obviously the Women’s event is being held in Azerbaijan and usually we would like to give a lot of the players the experience but the cost is such that we won’t be able to send a team of maximum size to benefit from that due to the financial challenge.

“So we’ve selected a seven player team with three singles players in Kirsty (Gilmour), Rachel (Sugden), and Lauren (Middleton) and then Julie (MacPherson), Ciara (Torrance), Eleanor (O’Donnell), and Rachel (Andrew) for the doubles.”

As Ingo admitted the opposition are not short on quality in their ranks and he said: “The hosts Azerbaijan have some good badminton players and the experience of going half way to Asia to qualify is also a challenge but we know that our girls will be okay to perform.

“The top Azerbaijan girl, Keisha Fatimah Az Zahra beat the No.1 German Yvonne Li at the European Games this summer, and they have quite a few good players who are in there and they will be tough.

“That said it is the same with the other two teams in the group, Estonia and Slovakia, with Estonia’s team for example featuring the Scottish Open runner up Kristin Kuuba.”

Meanwhile for the Scottish Men’s Team there is the relative ease of a saunter down south to Milton Keynes in a month’s time where they will compete in Group 5, Subgroup 1 against Slovakia and Ukraine with Subgroup 2 comprising Israel, Belgium, Greenland.

As Ingo admitted, the short cross border trip has allowed us to field a numerically stronger squad which boasts exciting comebacks from two of our men’s singles stars.

Badminton Scotland’s Head of Performance said: “We have selected 10 players with the men’s squad as clearly financially it is easier for Milton Keynes than Azerbaijan and we also want to give a group of these players the opportunity to have this experience.

“So we have 10 players who are deserving of being selected for Team Scotland and really we could have selected more which is a nice situation to be in.

“But singles wise I am really pleased with having Josh (Apiliga) back given how long he has been dealing with an injury and then also with Callum (Smith) after what he has had to come back from with his ankle injury (James Robertson and Matthew Waring complete the singles selection).

“So I am just really happy for both of them that they now can focus on improving their games on court and not rehabbing.

“So it is great for them but also for the team they are back.”

Yet there have been challenges in keeping our players in peak condition as the rigours of a demanding four tournament sequence in Europe has proven tricky: “Adam (Hall) is okay he played Mixed Doubles at Hylo and he had a little reaction but nothing too concerning and in fact he didn’t play Men’s Doubles as we pulled Alex (Dunn) out as he was feeling a hip.

“It has been there for a while and we have tried to manage it but last week it was a bit worse and we felt it was the right thing for him to rest it.

“But with both of them they have played a lot and we have three strong Men’s Doubles teams (Chris and Matthew Grimley, Jack MacGregor, and Adam Pringle) available and we will see how it plays out.

“But it is a challenging season and we must be aware of that in terms of their health.”

Of one thing Ingo has no doubt and that is our player’s will bank some vital experience on their national service next month and he said: “Experience is the right word in terms of what the younger players will get. It is obviously a chance for them to grow and be around the more experienced players although they have that chance in training.

“But competing and seeing how they compete, having that responsibility to represent Scotland is just a great chance for them to grow and it’s nice to give them that opportunity and see how they take it.”

Last weekend Kirsty Gilmour had an outstanding tournament at the Hylo Open in Saarbrucken where the Scottish No.1 made the semi-finals of the HSBC BWF World Tour Super 300.

It is a run that Ingo believes has produced plenty of positives for Kirsty to build on and he said: “Kirsty had done many good things in training and implemented a lot of that in tournaments but just wasn’t getting over the line.

“Steadily she was starting to, almost like lose in a better way, but at the Hylo she managed to get a run of wins together including against Japan’s Aya Ohori (World No.16) in round 2 who has been one of the form players and won a medal at the Asian Games and is well established in the world top-20 rankings.

“The previous week at the French Open, Ohori had made the quarter -final where she beat Carolina Marin in straight games and then in the semis lost 22-20 in the third to Tai Tzu Ying, so she has been playing really well and that win for Kirsty can rank really high. Then she backed it up with another good win against Malvika Bansod to make the semis.

“Unfortunately in the semi-final she didn’t quite find the level from the rounds before but overall the direction is very positive and I’m sure she’s feeling confident about competing in the next tournaments.”