By RJ Mitchell
JOSH APILIGA is hoping that his recent fine run at the Scottish Open can help him reclaim his place in the Scotland Team for the European Men’s Championship Qualifiers in December.
The 22-year-old confounded expectations in negotiating three perilous rounds of qualifying in which he defeated England No.3 Nadeem Dalvi to make the main draw.
On the back of an injury ravaged two years, in which his ongoing battle with tendinopathy in the patellar tendon of his right knee had seen the Glaswegian’s Scottish ranking drop to 74, this was an impressive performance.
Yet Apiliga was not done and duly claimed another victory before succumbing to exhaustion and the No.2 seed Jan Louda in the last 16.
Now based at Loughborough University, Apiliga, who was singled out for praise by Scottish badminton legend Dan Travers in the aftermath of his Emirates Arena campaign, believes he is ready to answer his country’s call for their Group 5 sub group 1 campaign against Slovakia and Ukraine, after realising just how much he missed representing Scotland.
Josh shared: “There is no better feeling than playing for your country and also no better way to make your family proud, so it is just really rewarding and special.
“Looking back I had a year or two where I was selected for most things but recently I have been struggling with injury and getting picked again is probably the next big thing for me.
“Also there were times where I questioned whether I still wanted to do this? Really, if I’m honest, in the past I don’t think I realised just how much it meant to me to get picked and maybe I took it for granted.
“So I have come through a really cloudy period and I’m proud of the fact I have put a run together at the Scottish where hopefully I am back in the thoughts of Ingo (Kindervater, Head of Performance) for the team.
“I am taking nothing for granted, it’s been almost three years since the European Mixed Team Champs when I last played and it would mean an awful lot to get picked again but we will have to wait and see how it goes.”
Reflecting on his change of mindset Josh reckons his relocation to Loughborough has been pivotal and he explained: “There are few coaches there with Dave Lindley the head coach, who I work with most and I also work with Atu (Rosalina Sagita,) and then Chris Langridge the Olympic bronze medallist who is there once every two weeks and then there is also John Quinn.
“I am exposed to a lot of different styles, approaches, and advice and that is very beneficial for me but on top of that we have a group of four or five players with different personalities and we are all pushing ourselves.
“Alvaro Vazquez from Spain, who played the Scottish, is really committed and a quality player, then Zach Bobrowski, who I played in the first round of the Scottish Open (w: 13-21, 21-11, 21-19). Plus Rohan Midha who is an English player who has been in and out of the squad and is based at Loughborough.
“But the most important thing for me is the balance between life and badminton. So, none of my flatmates are badminton players and they play basketball, football, and American football and that allows me to switch off from badminton and chill.
“Also I am studying Accounting and Financial Management, so badminton is not the most important thing in my life and my biggest goal in life is to do well in my degree, and it’s a tough degree.”
Yet his impressive run at the Scottish has now given Josh a platform he is determined to build on and he said: “It was a pretty good week and a nice run at the Scottish Open is that bit more special. But a bit of time off after it was really welcome as it was pretty draining.
“After that it was just about going back to what I had been doing, not changing things, and sticking to what helped me play as well as I did at the Scottish.
“Next up I played for ABT Berlin in the second division of the Bundesliga where the standard is very good but the most important thing for me is playing a lot of matches now after all the time I’ve been out through injury.
“Really what is important is just finding ways to win and with playing for the University in the Bucks comps, I am playing against awkward players with different styles and that is all helping me develop and deal with different situations.”
Next up for Josh is a trip to Ibiza – for badminton reasons!
As he revealed: “I am going to Ibiza to play a Future Series and then I’m playing the Welsh International Challenge and really looking forward to them at the end of the month.
“Obviously I want to win but it is like a process where it is how I am playing and seeing the things I am working on improving and that was the most pleasing thing at the Scottish.
“When you have been working on stuff it is great when it comes off on the match court.”
As he admitted Dan Travers warm words of praise have meant a lot to Josh and he said: “When I was younger I was at a few tournaments with Dan when he was National Coach and I have a huge amount of respect for him and he is that guy!
“So in terms of what he is saying about kicking on then he is right, I felt like in Scotland I was going into matches feeling like everyone was winnable if I played my best.
“I have been at this stage before where I have got wins that were big for me but then failed to follow them up and lost to people I shouldn’t have.
“So now the most important thing for me is sticking with it and continuing to build my momentum. I know I can play at the right level and I just need to keep believing in myself and stay focussed on doing the right things consistently going forward from here.”