By RJ Mitchell
SUSAN EGELSTAFF has bracketed her Scottish National Championship victories as among the highlights of her career.
The six-time Scottish champion competed at the 2012 London Olympics, won a Team Bronze at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and struck bronze in the Women’s Singles at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games four years later.
A multiple winner on the international circuit, Susan had the unique distinction of winning four Scottish championships as Miss Susan Hughes, with her first title coming in 2001, as a teenager, while winning two more as Mrs Susan Egelstaff, with her final championship coming in 2011.
Now, ahead of the 2024 Championships at Scotstoun later this week, Susan has no doubt about the importance of becoming a Scottish champion: “It’s high, the Olympics were the pinnacle but the Nationals are still so important as they are something that not many people can say that they have done in becoming a national champion.
“It can be easy to take it for granted when you are playing big tournaments in Asia but being Scottish National Champion is a big thing and nobody can take it away from you.”
Looking back at her stellar career, the memories soon came flooding back for Susan as she recalled: “My first nationals was a massive thing as a couple of years before that I had got to the final at just 16 and that had been the first time I’d made a mark in the seniors but I lost it to Gillian Martin.
“I had been expecting to lose it but it was still a huge thing to make the final but that said it was a totally different thing to win it and it took me another couple of years to do it.
“But I’d been looking at past winners like Anne Gibson (Roberston), Gillian Martin and for me it was a really big thing to be mentioned in the same conversation as these names.
“Anne (Robertson) had been at the Olympics, so it maybe made people think I had a future. I had been National Junior Champion but being the Scottish National Champion was just a huge thing.
“I probably went on to win bigger titles but winning that first Scottish National Championship against Fiona Sneddon (2001) was still a really big deal to me as that was the start of it all.
“It was also the beginning of a really big rivalry with Fiona and I would win one and then Fiona would win and beating a really good player like Fiona really made me feel like I’d earned it while that rivalry we had was good for both of us and that was all down to the Nationals.”
Of course the Nationals provide a unique type of pressure especially if you are a top seed and defending champion as Susan explained: “After the first final there was expectancy and it was a challenge to keep it together and retain focus and that persisted throughout my career.
“Whatever standard I was playing at outside Scotland I always felt the pressure at the Nationals, especially when you started doing things internationally.
“People just expect you to turn up and win the Nationals but it was never as easy as that as everyone raises their game for them, so it is a different pressure.
“Also with friends and family, who don’t get to watch you week in week out, turning up that all generates a different pressure.
“So every year I felt that pressure and that makes the Nationals different from any other tournament you play. So that element of being at home, especially if you are top seed, then everyone is out to beat you and there is a target on your back.
“Really in many ways it almost makes the Nationals harder than some of the higher level international tournaments to win.
“Also you don’t have too many chances to win it, pressure can be a burden but that said it can also bring out that bit extra in you, so I’d say just enjoy it. The nationals are just once a year, so it is about making the most of the opportunity.”
We asked the former six-time Scottish champion for advice to our outstanding youngsters who may follow in her footsteps…
Susan replied: “It is a cliché but I think you have to take it one point at a time and not worry about the bigger picture and winning your first national title or even if you hope to defend the championship.
“It’s best to treat it like a normal weekend and a normal tournament and whoever plays the best will win it.
“I definitely had Nationals where I regretted how I played and that I let the pressure get to me, so I think you have to do everything you can to block all the other stuff out and just focus on the court in front of you.
“It’s easier said than done but it’s got to be business as usual, so treat it like a normal tournament or match, it may be one of the biggest things you will ever do but at the time it’s best to put that all out of your head.”
Get your tickets now
Tickets are now on sale for The Scottish National Badminton Championships from 2-4 February at The National Badminton Academy, Scotstoun.
We are offering Badminton Scotland Individual Members a 50% discount on all tickets – you will have received your code via email – Tickets must be ordered in advance to take advantage of this offer. Discounted tickets will not be available on the door
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