By RJ Mitchell
Head of Performance Ingo Kindervater believes the Scottish Women’s march to a bronze medal finish in last weeks’ European Team Championships was a greater challenge than the similar gong garnered in France four years ago.
The success in Poland came despite the loss of key players like Eleanor O’Donnell to retirement and the injury of singles no.3 Lauren Middleton in the opening Group Two encounter with the Netherlands.
With coach David Gilmour overseeing from the sidelines, our glory girls were able to mix it up, and singles lead Kirsty Gilmour filled in to form a vital emergency doubles partnership with Rachel Andrew.
This was complemented by debutante Brooke Stalker playing in the singles discipline against Spain before Julie MacPherson was able to combine her doubles duties with a semi-final clinching singles success against Germany in the ultimate group encounter.
All of which has left a proud Ingo to reflect: “If you are in the last eight nations (of the European Team Championships) that is a fine performance as we will always be on the smaller end of funding and player base and so on.”
Ingo Kindervater – Scottish Open 2023 – 8th 2023
“Basically with this second medal for the women’s team if that doesn’t leave us proud and with a really good feeling then maybe our expectations would be surprisingly high!
“So I am really chuffed for the team and delighted to see them back-up the medal from four years ago and doing something like this twice has an even higher quality as an achievement as it just shows the first time wasn’t a fluke.
“It is also a good standard they are setting for themselves and future Scottish Women’s teams and that is all very positive.”
For Scottish singles No.1 Kirsty Gilmour an unbeaten three game group campaign, which included a victory over former three-time world champion Carolina Marin, combined with two victories on the doubles court with Rachel Andrew, produced a week to remember.
Considering this Ingo said: “Kirsty showed in the matches she has played that the confidence is really growing back in her and is such a game-changer.
“This week was some of the highest level she has played in a while but it did not come out of nothing as she has been on a really good performance trajectory for some weeks and months now.
“So a crazy good level in the first two matches and especially the one against Spain and also Germany.
“The first match against Carolina (Marin) was quite a performance and result and from the confidence perspective the relentlessness she had in executing her best level was quite something.
“We knew it would be tough in the semi, as to play Carolina twice in one week is an even tougher ask in the second game, we expected her to come out firing on all cylinders and so she did.
“Kirsty was absolutely up for it but she just didn’t quite get the momentum going for her and even in the second set she was in there up to the middle, then little things went with Carolina and when the gap appeared she closed it out.
“But Kirsty has had several great matches this week and I can’t argue with her level as it was excellent.”
For Rachel Sugden, who occupied the challenging No.2 singles slot, there were positives to take for Ingo and he said: “Rachel’s top level is great and her task going forward is to hit that top level more often and more consistently as that is the bit between Rachel and the level of player she has faced this week.
Rachel Sugden (left) and Lauren Middleton at The Nationals 2023
Unfortunately with Lauren’s injury in the opening match on Wednesday literally hamstringing the Scots, an imaginative option was required as Ingo shared: “It was a creative solution! Generally it’s nice that we are in a position to go there with three competitive singles players but when this happened at such short notice it meant we were left with no further singles back-up.
“So when Lauren was out we knew that we had Julie, who can still perform very highly on a women’s singles court, but that is a card that we didn’t want to play on consecutive days.
“When the injury happened to Lauren against Netherlands we decided that if we were going to play the Julie card we would do it against Germany.
“The outlook was more positive in the third singles match against them and we kind of knew it might be an important match for us – as it turned out.
Ishbel McCallister and Brooke Stalker – Scottish Open 2023
“Against Spain Brooke stepped up and she did absolutely okay there. I assume she would have pictured her first cap to be a doubles one not in singles but I’m sure it will be a good memory for her!”
Ultimately the semi-finals berth was booked by doubles expert Julie MacPherson’s triumph at No.3 in the singles deployment when she dispatched Germany’s Antonia Schaller in a comprehensive straight sets success.
Leaving Ingo to assess: “The way the team match played out against Germany was one of our doubles players winning a singles match for us and also Kirsty playing doubles with Rachel Andrew delivering in an event she is not practising at.
“Especially with Julie it was history repeating in the third singles as that was what she did in the same match against Russia also four years back.
Ciara Torrance and Julie MacPherson
“Ideally we would have only doubles players winning doubles matches and singles players winning the singles matches but we are also not complaining if this is a team that wins European medals!
“So I can only tip my hat to the girls for delivering more medals for us.”
Turning his attention to the doubles, Ingo continued: “Ciara (Torrance) and Julie delivered a convincing win against Spain in the group so it’s a shame that they didn’t get the chance to play again in the semi-final.
“Admittedly I didn’t have the chance yet to watch their match against Germany back but I thought in their performance against the Netherlands they reached a really high level just not 100% consistently yet which is what they should aim for in the next tournaments.
Ciara and Julie
“With regard to Rachel (Andrew) she is one of the girls that I’m especially happy for as she delivered such a vital point with Kirsty in that doubles against Germany. Showing up like that when it really mattered should really be pointed out here. That was an outstanding performance.”
For 17-year-olds Brooke Stalker and Ishbel McCallister the championships also provided a huge learning curve which Ingo is confident can only benefit the talented teenagers and he said: “We didn’t 100% know how this week was going to play out for Brooke and Ishbel but basically with the performance level and trajectory they have, especially after Eleanor was not an option for us anymore, they were the choice for the doubles group.
“We didn’t know 100% if they’d get a match or not and it came down to how it played out and it didn’t feel like the right moment to give them that match as we were in there competing to the last end and some other players were more experienced in that situation.
Ishbel (left) and Brooke
“But one of the main goals for them was to expose them to the overall experience, be it in training, be it out there in Poland and experiencing what it is like to be in the team competing with the best in Europe. Hopefully that is what their future is going to look like.
“So the experience was part of the week irrespective of them getting the match or not.
“That said I would assume that when I catch up with them this week they will be positively excited about the experience and I have no doubt they will have made the most of the week.”
European Women’s Team Championships: Ingo Kindervater Reflects | Badminton Scotland