By RJ Mitchell
WITH 189 entries spanning eight age categories, this weekend’s Scottish International Masters Championships is the perfect proof of the enduring attraction of badminton and the passion it stirs within its’ ‘veteran’ players.
The tournament, which has been running for over 20 years, boasts one of the biggest entries of all the domestic tournaments promoted by Badminton Scotland and has attracted competitors from Scandinavia, Central Europe and of course our friends south of the border.
The event itself is preceded by an international match between a Scottish ensemble and an ‘Overseas Select’ on Friday morning at the Sir Craig Reedie Badminton Centre, prior to the tournament action starting in the afternoon – five disciplines will be in play spanning from over-35s to over-70 age groups.
One of the most illustrious names on the draw sheet is former Scotland international, Craig Robertson, who notched up 76 caps for his country, starring in two Commonwealth Games, culminating in him claiming a bronze medal as part of our only medal winning team, so far, at Manchester 2002.
Having competed in every category from over-40 up since he ‘made the step up’ in 2011, Craig is perfectly qualified to explain just why ‘Masters Badminton’ is booming in Scotland – and beyond.
Reflecting on all of this Craig, who is now a High Performance coach at Glasgow School of Sport (GSOS), explained: “In 2023 we had 193 entries and this year we have 189 competitors so it has been quite consistent numbers wise.
“I believe the senior National Championships had 104 entries approximately last year while the Junior Nationals sometimes don’t reach 100.
“So I would guess in terms of domestic national or international events this one is the biggest out with the Scottish Open that Badminton Scotland runs.
“I think that is because people love playing badminton and when you get to 50 or 55 and your kids are up and gone it’s a case of: ‘So what do I do now’ and you turn back to your first love so to speak!
“Personally speaking 2011 was my debut year as an over-40 and now as a 53-year-old I am competing in the Men’s and Mixed Doubles at over-50 and like everyone else I can’t wait to get cracking this weekend.”
Considering just where the constituent parts come from to maintain the enduring popularity of Masters competition Craig shared: “For me there is a combination of people who play Masters badminton. There are players like me who have played full international and then kept it going, folks who have played international then stopped playing and come back to it.
“Also people that didn’t play internationally at all and have just continued to play quality badminton and now have the extra focus of Masters Badminton to enhance their playing experience. Really they are finding that when it gets to Masters they can now enjoy competing at the higher level.
“So that is a Scottish Perspective and I’d guess it’s similar abroad.”
As Chair of the Scottish Badminton Masters Group, Craig explained that key personnel are continuing to try and streamline the Masters experience for all its participants.
There are now two subgroups; the Events sub team tasked with sorting logistics to take a cohesive Scotland masters’ team abroad and the Development sub team tasked with improving masters’ badminton in Scotland.
- Events subgroup: Julie Dunlop, Ross Gladwin, Dan Travers
- Development subgroup: Ross Gladwin, Shona Mackay, Steve McGregor
The Commonwealth Games bronze medallist said: “We are trying to make small changes around the sport going forward as we have only been in place for less than a year. In this respect we have an events group which has helped us create a new international with Ireland in May.
“For that we will be taking the biggest team that has ever travelled to play in a Masters International match and also play in the Irish Masters and that will be almost similar to what we are doing this weekend.
“The event is part of the legacy of Robert McCoig. The International was a match which has been held historically every second year when we played a home match with England and then over the last 10 years or so we have played a Scandinavian Select. This weekend we have an Overseas Select in a friendly starting 0930hrs tomorrow at the Sir Craig Reedie Centre and there should be some quality badminton played in that.”
Craig is not the only big name from the past to be battling it out over the weekend as he revealed: “There are household names like Christine Black and Dan Travers, who have won multiple medals at Worlds and Europeans in Masters and at open level with Dan highly renowned around the badminton world, and they are playing Mixed together.
“Christine was a trail-blazer, played Commy Games and is currently Badminton Scotland’s Chair of High Performance.
“Then there is Anne Roberston who is also playing and she was our first Olympian from 1996 (Atlanta, USA) and has over 100 caps and is playing 55 doubles.
“But there are also some superb Danes, Swedes and English who are winning medals at the World Masters regularly.”
Looking back at his own outstanding international career Craig says Masters competition is right up there with his full international heroics: “Winning the bronze medal at Manchester was obviously right up there but I was lucky enough to play at two Commy Games in ’98 in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and then Manchester in 2002.
“At KL I played singles and then after that I concentrated on doubles and mixed but as an international I have 76 caps and that is something I am proud of.
“Perhaps that is why I see the Masters a little bit differently from other people. I think the players who get their first opportunity to play for Scotland at Masters level against say England are every bit as excited as a 15 -year-old who plays in the quadrangular.
“Personally speaking I still get excited driving down to play an international, it may be seen as ‘old boys’ badminton but if you can imagine getting your first cap at 40, 45 or 50, well what a buzz!
“That is why I am involved in the Masters Group to try and bring it to the forefront.
With a feast of badminton action set to be served up this weekend, the singles competition will unfold on Friday afternoon with the doubles action starting on Saturday morning at the Sir Craig Reedie Centre and Scotstoun along with the remaining singles ties.
On Sunday at the ‘SCR’ it’s Mixed Doubles day.
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