SCOTTISH Under-17 champion Iona Muir is hoping that a strong performance at this week’s Bulgaria Under – 17 International can help provide her with a happy ending to her time in the age group.
Iona, who is from Renfrew, has been under-17 national champion for the last three years but will complete her time at this level when she competes in the European Championships in Vilnius next month.
A good run in Svilengrad, where Iona is seeded No.4 this week, could make a real difference in that respect.
Ahead of her opening match with Bulgaria’s Elena Popinova, Iona told Badminton Scotland: “The Bulgarian International is a European qualifying tournament so it’s important in terms of helping with my ranking.
“At the moment I am in the top -16 in Europe which means I will be ranked for the Europeans but the better I do in Bulgaria the higher I could be seeded in Vilnius.
“It’s a 64-draw in Bulgaria with Siofra Flynn of Ireland the top seed and Aleyna Korkut of Turkey seeded No.2 and in my half of the draw and I’m really looking forward to my first match against Elena Popinova.
“I’m seeded No.4 and I know a few of the players and although it’s a strong entry I believe I have the potential to win it if I play my best.
“The Europeans next month will be my final championships at under-17 and I’m determined to do as well as possible in Vilnius and how I do this week in Bulgaria could really set me up for that.”
Iona has recently made the transition from the Glasgow School of Sport to the set-up in the Badminton Scotland National Squad and has no doubt about the benefits of this already starting to pay -off.
The 16-year-old said: “I made the transition recently and it’s been very exciting and now I’ve made it I have a lot more time to focus on my badminton which has been great.
“Within the National set-up you have the Institute of Sport with psychology, physio and generally I just feel very supported and my coaches David Gilmour and Ingo Kindervater are great and very understanding and they keep monitoring my work load to watch for injury.
“That has allowed me to give it my all and I’m really enjoying it. Also working alongside players like Kirsty (Gilmour) and Rachel (Sugden) has just been an honour.
“I really admire Kirsty’s work ethic as I get to see her training daily and she is the same every time she is on court. The warm-up, the cool down she is so professional about everything and always gives 101%.
“You can tell she really gives it her all in every session and getting to see that from up close is a real example to me of the professionalism required to make it.”
As she dissected her own game Iona provided some fascinating insight into her development journey as a future Scotland senior international and she said: “There are specific technical areas I am looking to improve with my coaches from the Scotland squad and also physical aspects.
“The players I am up against in Europe are all very physically strong so I’m constantly working to improve my stamina but the most important area I need to improve is my tactical game.
“Sometimes I can produce some smart badminton and adapt to different game plans but then I can find it harder to concentrate on that and I’m trying to be more consistent in this.
“But every tournament helps in this and even those I don’t do as well in as I’d like there are learning points from.
“Playing abroad you learn to cope with different styles but also learn about yourself and that is really important.
“Also a lot depends on the person I’m playing, but I’m quite aggressive and I’d say my main qualities are my speed and movement.
“I get around the court and get a lot back and that has been a real help for me in winning some tight matches so far.”
A busy schedule has already taken Iona, who is also the Scotland under-19 champion, around Europe and there is no doubt where her highlight came: “My first big win was the Spanish Under-17 and that was a really important tournament for me and was an amazing experience as I played a Spanish girl in the final and the crowd were completely against me.
“So to come through that and win was really satisfying and with more exposure to international tournaments you become used to the crowd being against you – especially in Spain!
“I’ve been there a couple of times and they are passionate but now I find it easier to focus on what is going on in the court rather than external noise.
“I also played in Sweden at the start of the year, then Poland both in the under-17s and then I played up at the Spanish Junior in the under-19s, while last year I played Croatia, Ireland and Denmark and it’s all been a great experience.”
Iona was also keen to make a grateful thanks to those who have helped her make such a promising start to her badminton career and she said: “Firstly I’d like to say thanks to all at the Glasgow School of Sport for the five years I was with them, they really set me up nicely for transitioning to the Scotland set up.
“I’d also like to thank Yonex who have been great with me and of course my parents Nikki and Laura.”
Find out more