By RJ Mitchell
AFTER another hugely successful Scottish International Masters, we caught up with two players on the Scottish scene to get some invaluable perspective on just why the event is continuing to go from strength-to-strength.
Christine Black is a true legend of our sport who has done and seen it all, having won bronze at the 1986 ‘home’ Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh with Billy Gilliland (Mixed Doubles), while notching 54 full caps.
Christine also went on to manage and coach our senior national teams while she has also achieved a clean sweep of World Masters titles across singles, mixed and women’s disciplines and is currently Chair of Performance with Badminton Scotland.
Colin Leslie is a multiple Scottish National Champion in Para Badminton, where he competes in the SL3 (Standing/lower limb impairment/severe) category.
Colin regularly competes in Masters events and was in the thick of the action at the Sir Craig Reedie Badminton Centre to sharpen his skills for the upcoming Scottish National Disability Championships, at Dalkeith, this weekend.
First we turn to Christine and she shared: “It’s absolutely fantastic we have the Scottish International Masters Championships and it’s amazing that the numbers just seem to just increase every year.
“It is great to catch up with people that you may have played with at junior level who are back playing and that is the thing about Masters Badminton, it just shows that you are never too old to get something from our sport.
“But it’s also nice to be pushed at times and you can’t underestimate the competitive element. So Masters may be very sociable and really enjoyable but you still have that little twinkle in your eye, that you can win.
“Personally speaking I have been really lucky that I haven’t had any major injuries and I’ve always kept myself fit and made sure I was fit to play badminton by doing a lot of routines.
“I think that the better prepared you are the less chance you have of getting injured and that’s important. It has certainly stood me in good stead when it has come to the Masters.
“Masters wasn’t a big thing when I quit at 35 but now I’ve won gold medals at every discipline in Europeans and World Masters. That was my target and I’ve now eventually done it and it’s something I take great pride in.”
With players from all over Europe making up the 189 entry draw spanning eight age group categories, Christine teamed up with Maragaret Emery in the Ladies Over-65 doubles and Phil Richardson to take the title in the over-65 Mixed Doubles.
Reflecting on all of that, the former Commonwealth Games gold medallist added: “Obviously there is an extra pleasure in winning your home masters but also with selection riding on it for the international with England in a fortnight it had added significance this time around.
“So this means a lot to a lot of people, there is no doubt about that and it was great to partner up with Phil Richardson to win the Mixed – beat Christine Graham and Douglas McBriar: 22-24, 21-10, 21-16.
“I also partnered Margaret Emery in the Ladies Doubles and she stepped in after my usual partner has broken her wrist.
“Margaret is actually an over-70s player, so there was a strong social element to our partnership and we won two and lost two and only just lost out to the eventual winners Ann Callaghan and Carol Crawford (24-22, 17-21, 13-21), which wasn’t bad for a scratch team!
“So really it has been a great weekend and the badminton was just played in such a lovely atmosphere.”
For 52 year-old Colin, who is a double amputee following a tragic work accident, there is no doubt about how important the Masters are to sharpening up his game.
The British National disabled doubles champion said: “For me the Masters is an open avenue as I play a lot of disabled tournaments at National, European and World level but playing against able -bodied players is obviously different to all of that.
“Clearly it is at another level and it brings my game up a notch, so when I go to compete at disabled level against the very best there, which I have now been doing for the last 10 years or so, that’s just amazing. So to play in the Masters against and with able bodied players is just brilliant.”
Partnering Scot Adam Wesley, the duo finished a creditable third in Group A of the Men’s Over-50 doubles including a fine three set victory over Steven Duffield and Dave Foley (18-21, 21-18, 21-17) in a category which was eventually won by Morten Aarup and Carsten Loesch.
It was a pairing that Colin hopes will prove a regular combination going forward: “So I just put in for a partner and Adam and I were teamed up and the first match went to three ends but we won it against a pairing from Midlothian which was great while we also lost to the No.1 seeds (Aarup and Loesch) from Denmark in straight sets but that was a good experience against a fine pairing” said Colin.
He added: “Although we also lost our final match against an English pairing considering we were a scratch pair we played pretty well together and we both enjoyed it.
“Hopefully Adam and I will pair up again. It has been a great opportunity to meet new people but also now possibly to form a partnership going forward is even better.”
Colin also provided some fascinating insight into the challenge his disability poses to his able-bodied opponents and he explained: “People see me with a disability and they don’t know how to take me. They can either jump on me and take advantage or feel sorry for me!
“But in terms of shots I can compete with the best of them although with movement front to back I struggle and a sneaky cross court drop is something I will find it hard to deal with but that’s where I rely on my partner.
“If it’s a normal game without the fancy shots, I have proved over the weekend that I can compete with the best and I have certainly taken a lot of confidence from the Masters.”
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