By RJ Mitchell
CALLUM SMITH has expressed his delight at the news he has been included in the provisional Scottish Men’s Team for next month’s European Qualifiers at Milton Keynes.
The three-times Scottish Singles champion suffered a torn ligament and bone bruising to his right ankle during a training session at the Sir Craig Reedie Centre on June 28 and was forced to undergo surgery the following week.
However Callum’s dedication to his rehab regime has been rewarded with a call-up to the provisional squad (to be confirmed) which includes Josh Apiliga, Alex Dunn, Christopher Grimley, Matthew Grimley, Adam Hall, Jack MacGregor, Adam Pringle, James Robertson, and Matthew Waring.
Taking stock of his four-month journey back from a potentially career threatening injury Callum admitted his inclusion is the final proof that he has beaten the crock and he said: “Being in the team has been a big target for me and I am so happy to be back and raring to go. It was a huge piece of motivation and always something to aim for.
“I was thrilled I got selected as I was out for so long and I wasn’t sure the coaches would have the belief and trust in me but they still do and they still see me as one of the top players in the country.
“That faith means a lot and I am thrilled to be picked and now I just want to play my part in getting us to the finals.
“Every week I have seen progress and that has just built. Initially it was tough when I was in the big moon boot but since I have been out of it, it has been quite exciting.
“Almost weekly there has been something new to add on and also the knowledge that I am one step closer and that has been a huge motivator and it is a great feeling.”
As Callum admitted his injury battle has given him an impressive new perspective on playing for his country: “Every training session now I make sure it is the best it can be. Not having the choice to play has really put things in perspective and confirmed to me this is what I want to do.
“With that being taken away from me it was so frustrating and now I have that back I want to make the absolute most of it.
“Previously I would have bad days and just go through the motions sometimes and now I feel so much regret over that.
“When you have it all taken away well it has been eating me alive just to get back.”
Callum continued: “The progress I have made has been massive and I’m almost fully back in training. In fact I just have to make sure I am not doing too much in terms of physicality, as clearly with just coming back I have not been doing so much and my body needs to be eased back in.
“So what is important is that I am cautious and don’t injure a different part of my body as I haven’t trained properly for a while so it is a case of being careful.
“It feels like a lifetime ago although I guess it is only four months but it certainly has seemed like a lifetime.”
Callum rejoined the rest of the elite international squad for training recently and admits that gave him a huge lift as selection for the European Qualifiers loomed: “Basically over the last 10- days I have joined in with the rest of the guys as if I’m fully back, but I’m doing less sets and numbers and avoiding diving in at the deep end.
“It is a case of building myself back up but in terms of my ankle that isn’t the main concern, it feels great, it hasn’t been sore and going with the surgery was the right move in terms of my career.
“I am also really lucky in that I don’t need to wear any type of protection or strapping but I have a lot of rehab exercises I need to do daily to strengthen it.
“But that is my part of the journey. If I want to get back to where I want to be, what is vital for me is to stay disciplined.”
A recent visit to the Scottish Open also helped lift Callum’s spirits as he got behind his team mates at the Emirates Arena and he said: “Being at the tournament was great from the point of being back in a tournament atmosphere but I really wished I could be playing.
“That said I was cheering Josh (Apiliga) and Matthew (Waring) on and it was great to see them going so well even if I really missed not being out there on the court.”
Before the European Qualifiers Callum will be entering the Welsh International Badminton Championships on November 28th as he bids to take his preparation and match sharpness to the next level as he explained: “I’ve entered the Welsh the week before the European qualifiers but I am treating that as just getting back into the right mindset for the Europeans.
“I haven’t played a competition since May so I am looking at it just to help me get back into that environment and mentality.”