IN the first of a two part special feature, we will be showcasing two of Scottish Badminton’s rising stars who shared a breakthrough Scottish Nationals Championship which has firmly announced them as outstanding talents on the national stage.
We begin with Matthew Waring, the 16-year-old Lanarkshire schoolboy who reached the final of the Scottish Men’s Singles Championship at Scotstoun earlier this month, while next up it will be the turn of Katrina Chan, also 16, who stole the show in the Ladies Singles when she came within a point of making the Scottish Final.
By RJ Mitchell
MATTHEW WARING followed a well-trodden route into badminton when he first took the sport up at Holy Family Primary School enjoying a social game with his mates as many do before both his talent and passion for our game became obvious and he joined up at the Shuttle Stars Club in Hamilton.
Although just 16, the Lanarkshire lad’s rise through the ranks has been meteoric to say the least with national titles already claimed at under-15, 17 and 19 level while Matthew is the only Scottish boy to hold both the last two of these titles at the same time.
The Lanarkshire Badminton Academy graduate is already a staple of the Badminton Scotland Senior Development Squad and also a regular in senior squad sessions while a last-16 appearance in the European Under-17 Championships in Slovenia has already hinted that Matthew has a talent that can flourish on the international stage.
If all that wasn’t enough, at just 16-years-old Matthew made a barely believable glory run at Scotstoun earlier this month knocking out then Scottish No.2 James Robertson in an epic three set encounter to become the youngest Scot to make the final of the national men’s singles championship.
Yet all of that came within one millimetre of going up in smoke when a freak accident at school almost left Matthew blind in his right eye which continues to function at just 80% and has forced the teenager to wear protective goggles when on court.
Matthew said: “The accident happened on the 16th of September, 2021, when I was 14 and it is a date I will never forget.
“I had just come back from the European Under-17 juniors champs in Slovenia and made the last 16 and was desperate to kick on from there but a day or two later I was blind in one eye. It couldn’t really have gotten much worse!
“The eye injury happened at my school, Cardinal Newman when I got a pen through my Cornea which required emergency surgery and really set me back a while.
“It occurred in my English class and was a totally freak accident. I was mucking around with my friends and one of my pals hit a pencil with his pen and it ended up going right through my Cornea and I went completely blind in my right eye.
“Thankfully my mum was round really quickly to get me and we ended up at Specsavers and they told me I had a hole in my eye and then we went to Hairmyres Hospital for emergency surgery, and yeah, it was pretty frightening stuff.
“There I ended up with five stitches in the eye to close the hole and after that I couldn’t do anything for six weeks in order to recover and that is why I wear the glasses on court – basically for protection.
“Now I am only 80% full sight in my right eye but if it had been one millimetre more I’d have completely lost the sight in that eye for good. So really I was lucky!”
Yet a few weeks later Matthew made the first step of a comeback that wouldn’t be amiss in a movie script, he added: “I remember vividly when I walked into the specialist’s room six weeks after the injury and he said I could start hitting again, it was just a massive relief!
“He made it clear it would be very light hitting with no movement and the day after I was on court with my brother and I’ve never enjoyed hitting a shuttlecock so much. It was a great feeling.
“Those six weeks I had been bored silly; I couldn’t even lift my schoolbag! So to be able to go back to the sport I love was just unbelievable and I won’t forget that first day back on court either.
“Right now I still actually have a stitch in my eye and while I won’t play Men’s Doubles because of that, thankfully singles is fine with my protective glasses on.”
Matthew had already begun to make waves within Scottish Badminton when he made the West of Scotland and Dunfermline Open finals last year where he lost to three-time national champion Callum Smith in both trophy matches, promisingly taking a set from Smith in the latter.
Then at Scotstoun last month victories over Callan Short and Angus Meldrum took him to the semi-finals of the Scottish where No.2 seed James Robertson awaited in a contest which, physically at least, resembled David versus Goliath.
Reflecting on his breakthrough Nationals, Matthew said: “The fact James is so tall where I am medium height at best was quite a prospect! The angle he gets on his smashes is just amazing and being able to defend so well to win it in three sets and do it decisively in the third was just very satisfying.
“This aspect, that I won the semi with James in three sets was the most satisfying part of the semi-final for me. I’d had a bit of a mental block in the past when I got into a third set and had really intrusive negative thoughts that I wouldn’t be able to win. So it was a big, big win for me.”
Then a debut appearance in the Scottish Final awaited: “In the lead up to the final I had so many people coming up to me and saying: ‘Well done!’ and I just never expected that at 16 I would be in the final of the Scottish Championships. Also I had my family there in the stands watching me; it was surreal,” said Matthew.
The new Scottish No.2 continued: “In the final Callum got off to an absolute flyer and I’ve never played someone who was so good over the first 11 points. At the 11 turn I was down maybe 11-2 and after that Keith (Turnbull) my coach, who was courtside, calmed me down and told me to play my normal game and shut out the fact it was the Scottish National Finals.
“So I got back into the match at the end of the first set and then at the beginning of the second I came out all guns blazing and attacked everything I could and I think I was 11-6 or seven and after that Callum showed his class to turn it around it and win 21-15.
“So congratulations to Callum on winning a third Scottish title, he proved why he is Scottish Champion three years in a row.
“But I’d like to specially mention Keith, who is still my personal coach and has been the whole way through. I owe him an awful lot and he was really important to me getting through the whole experience.”
Yet when Scottish champion Callum Smith was unable to play in the recent European Mixed Team Championships in France and James Robertson deputised for him there was to be a surreal postscript to the story of Matthew’s comeback.
He said: “I was actually sitting in my chemistry class at Cardinal Newman when James was playing Viktor Axelsen the World No.1 and thinking that could have been me. I actually have an autographed poster of Viktor which is quite funny!
“But I am 16 and don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, that said I’d love one day to have that experience.
“I know James did well and really stuck at it and hopefully if I ever get the chance to do something like that I can do the same.”
We are sure that day will dawn soon.