Susan Egelstaff: Euros Can Prove Massive Learning Curve For Youth Players

By RJ Mitchell


FORMER Scottish champion Susan Egelstaff has no doubt that the Scottish Women’s Team’s European Championship bronze medal will have provided a massive learning curve for teen stars Brooke Stalker and Ishbel McAllister as well as providing great encouragement for their peers by underlining that there is a pathway into the senior international set-up.


Susan, who won her first senior international cap against Spain in the Uber Cup back in 2000 as a 17-year-old, has no doubt just how beneficial the experience was for a career that was to see her win six Scottish National championships in singles, compete at the 2012 London Olympics, while also claiming a Team Bronze at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and striking bronze in the Women’s Singles at the Melbourne CWG four years later.


With the opportunity to observe world stars like Carolina Marin in action first hand while also being part of the Scotland set-up as the likes of Kirsty Gilmour, Julie MacPherson and Ciara Torrance went about their major championship preparation, Susan believes that the value of this particular takeaway will be priceless for our young Scots.



Importance Of The First Cap


Reflecting on all of this, the former World No.27 said: “It’s always massive getting your first cap, it is just a big hurdle to get over. I made my debut against Spain in the Uber Cup back in 2000 and I was up against someone, who on paper, I should have been expected to beat but I was just so nervous.


“So once you have dealt with the nerves of it being your first cap and then got into the match it’s just a really big deal to put behind you and move on from.

“Especially at a really high quality event like the European Teams with some of the top players and absolute legends of badminton playing like Carolina Marin, well this was a big moment for Brooke to make her debut and also for Ishbel to experience it all.


“Really it is just a huge deal to play for Scotland as your point really matters for the team. So you aren’t out there playing for yourself, you are playing for your teammates and your country and that’s right up there.


“In many ways the result can almost be secondary to the experience of getting your first cap, putting that in the bank and moving on but I’m sure Brooke will never forget her first international, especially with it coming in the singles at the Europeans, which makes it pretty special and well done to her.”


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Encouragement For Scotland’s Youth Players


With Scottish Athletics buoyed by the success of the likes of Laura Muir on the international scene, Susan is hoping the girls’ appearance in Poland can offer similar encouragement to their peers in the development squad.


The former Scottish champion said: “So I think if you look at Scottish Athletics then I am sure so many young girls are saying: ‘If Laura Muir can do it why can’t I?’ So now you have Brooke and Ishbel going back and they will be talking to their friends in squads and I am sure these other girls will be taking great encouragement from their inclusion over in Poland.


“The girls who are training alongside them every day will now realise there is a real opportunity if they put the hard work in to progress along the pathway to a full cap and that it is achievable.”


For Susan the emergence of Brooke Stalker has provided an element of the full circle after she had competed against Brooke’s mother Karen on her way through to achieving Scotland recognition.


The Hogg Badminton Dynasty


Brooke’s Aunt Julie was Badminton Scotland’s 2023 Performance Coach of the Year and her uncle, the late Russell Hogg, was Scotland’s third most capped internationalist with 117 caps.


Considering all of this, Susan said: “I remember playing against Karen when I was around Brooke’s age and it’s amazing to see Brooke having made that progress.


“So it’s just really nice to see the family line going so strong in Scottish badminton in 2024.”


Details can be the Difference


When it comes to the tactics and skill that make major championships an invaluable finishing school for young badminton players Susan shared: “Being in that environment and seeing how Kirsty (Gilmour) goes about things. Silly things like how they warm up, well it’s just so useful being around players who have been world class and at the top end of the game for years, you can learn so much from them at these team events.


“People can tell you about it but until you are in that environment yourself, experiencing it, seeing what they do and how they go about it with your own eyes, well that is just a whole different experience.


“So there is so much more to learn from your first cap than just the match itself. Although Ishbel didn’t get on court, the amount of invaluable information and the learning points for her around the whole week will be just so beneficial going forward.”


Looking back to her own debut Susan admitted the experience had been an eye-opener:


“Internationally when I was coming through it was Camilla Martin, the European and World Champion from Denmark, who was the player.


“She was a massive deal and I was obsessed with her and to be in the same competition as someone like that was a huge thing.


“So these team events can be the first time you see world class professional badminton players going about their work in that environment and it is just a real eye-opener.”

Kirsty Shows Her Class


With Kirsty Gilmour sharing singles victories with former World and Olympic champion Carolina Marin during a tremendous week for the Scottish No.1, Susan has no doubt about the benefits for the 10-time major medal winner.


She said: “It is always a huge confidence boost to beat someone of Carolina Marin’s status and I’m sure Kirsty will have been really pleased with her week’s work at the Europeans.


“It’s a big plus when you get matches against people of that level at the big team events and obviously the Olympics aren’t that far away.


“So it’s never a bad thing to be playing a player of Marin’s level just a couple of months out from Paris.”


Taking on the Challenge


When it comes to just how important our second successive European Women’s Team bronze was, Susan has no doubt we were up against tricky opposition in Poland.


The 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games singles bronze medallist said: “For Scotland I would say it’s always a big deal getting a medal in any international event given our playing resources, the advantages the other big countries like Germany have over us financially, and also in terms of our respective playing pool compared to theirs.


“Also when you consider England when they have been so strong historically, to finish in front of them with them having such a huge playing population by comparison to us, well it’s just fantastic.


“But to do well in an event like this you can’t just rely on one player to pull you through and you need real depth to make any impact.


“So when you consider the injury Lauren (Middleton) picked up in the first singles and the fact Eleanor (O’Donnell) had to retire on the run in to the event this bronze was a massive achievement.


“To absorb all that, cope with it, shuffle your cards and get a medal is a great achievement. It is just a great achievement for Scottish Badminton.”