Kirsty Gilmour: Second European Team Bronze A Career Highlight

By RJ Mitchell

KIRSTY GILMOUR has branded the Scottish Women’s European Team bronze medal as one of her career highlights.

The Scottish No.1 played an impressive seven matches over the course of four days in Łódź, Poland, combining her duties at the apex of our singles order plus a doubles run with Rachel Andrew.

Kirsty, who won her 10th major championship medal at the Sport Arena, has also claimed her second European Women’s Team Championship bronze after winning the first four years back in Liévin, France.

The Scots had to negotiate a draining trip to Azerbaijan to qualify for the finals and then saw their preparations punctuated by the illness enforced retirement of Eleanor O’Donnell and an injury sustained by Lauren Middleton in Wednesday’s opening Group Two match with the Netherlands.

All of which caused Kirsty to take extra satisfaction from this particular achievement: “We’ve had a lot of challenges and people haven’t seen what has been behind the scenes of this medal and they just see you on the podium.

Overcoming Challenges

Kirsty told us: “There have been so many challenges behind that, physical, financial, travel, it’s been tough. In fact we were just saying the other day that team medals are kind of my career highlights as there are so many moving parts and factors to a team medal coming together.

“For this one we were really put through it from the tough travel aspects of our trip to Azerbaijan for qualification in December, which was a pretty rough trip to have to complete at the end of the year.

“Then we’ve had Lauren’s injury in the first match of the finals and of course Eleanor’s retiral, so we were underdogs when it came to the medals but it all came together and that just made it very special.

“As a singles player you sometimes are not so much part of things but to be part of a wee doubles team with Rachel and just be part of the whole team aspect has been extra nice.”

Personal Achievements and Building Confidence  

On a personal level Kirsty produced a fantastic week of badminton as she emerged from Group Two with three singles victories, including a stand-out success over rival and former World No.1 Carolina Marin, plus two wins from three doubles outings.

Taking stock of this Kirsty shared: “It’s been a pretty good week for me. My main objective this week was to play super freely and just really see what I can do when I let loose on court and that experiment worked and I’ve had some great matches this week.

“So I have certainly gained a bit of confidence after a decent Asia tour, although it did have some difficulties with illness and tough scheduling in January, but this week has really given me a big boost.

“Sometimes I forget to stop for a second and take stock of the ups and then you dwell on the downs, so it has been nice this week to assess the situation and feel like I’ve been on a high. So a really good week for me personally.”

50/50 With Carolina

Kirsty’s two tussles with former Olympic and three-time World Champion Carolina Marin saw the Scot draw first blood in the group game before the great Carolina gained revenge in Saturday’s 3-0 semi-final success for the Spanish.

Dissecting this Kirsty said: “I think maybe her level wasn’t quite there in the first match and I definitely took advantage of that and caught her off guard a little, got some momentum and put the foot down.

“But in the semi, it was my seventh match in four days, which is not something I’m used to. I do train quite a bit at home but there is just unique demands in matches with the ups and downs of endorphins and nervous tension.

“So my legs had run out of a bit of steam and although I tried to put that to the back of my mind my body was not as fresh as it had been two days prior.

“I hung on as long as I could but you need to be functioning with all guns blazing if you are to beat Carolina Marin and she was fresher and also with that confidence of beating us in the group stages.

“But over the two matches I had with her I’m happy with how I did.”

The Next Generation of Badminton Talent

With the Scottish team including two 17-year-olds in Brooke Stalker and Ishbel McCallister the next gen of Scottish Ladies talent is now firmly emerging and Kirsty had warm words of encouragement for her young team mates.

The 10-time major medal winner said: “It’s been nice to have the young ones on the team and of course Brooke managed to get a cap (singles v Netherlands).

“Ishbel unfortunately didn’t but to have them around, and I remember what it was like for me on my first team trip which was also to Poland in 2010, just to be around the players and to see what’s required is great. You can almost see it before you have to do it and are not thrown right in at the deep which will be invaluable for them.

“So I think they’ve enjoyed it and we’ve enjoyed having them here as well and it will only serve as a springboard and neither of them have been shell shocked by it and have both taken it in the right way which is nice.

“It could have gone the other way as it is quite overwhelming to be at a big event and to be up close with the likes of Carolina Marin and some of the other world class players that were in Łódź, in a kind of intimidating environment, but it’s been a good week for the young ones and the old ones.”

Kirsty added: “For Brooke to play that singles game was really brave of her and Julie (MacPherson) also. So it’s been a tough week but a really great one.

“Basically we just said let’s throw everything we have at it and then Lauren’s injury was difficult to deal with but absolutely fair play to Brooke and Julie for stepping up and taking that spot.”

Doubling Up

Kirsty also revealed her enjoyment of her doubles campaign with Rachel Andrew which saw the duo posting a two from three success rate at the Sport Arena: “I enjoyed playing with Rachel and I certainly had fun out there but I have no plans to edge over to doubles currently!

“Doubles is just a whole different ball game and it was great committing to shots knowing my partner would pick up the return, so it was great fun.”

Playing To Order

With Saturday’s semi-final seeing the three singles ties played successively at the start of the meeting, as both nations had players competing in each discipline, Kirsty admitted it could have been interesting if the top string doubles tie had been positioned higher up the order.

Musing on this Kirsty said: “If we had got a point on the board and put a bit of pressure on the Spanish if the order had been a wee bit different you never know, but you just have to play who is in front of you.

“We had people playing two matches each in singles and doubles and that was just the way it went; it was just a shame.

“But we are happy with our bronze and there is no point dwelling on should haves and could haves.”

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