By RJ Mitchell
KIRSTY GILMOUR has pronounced herself fit and raring to go as she gets ready to spearhead Scotland’s bid to qualify for the European Mixed Team Championships sponsored by VICTOR and NCS Office Systems at the National Badminton Academy, Scotstoun in Glasgow.
The Scots who finished fifth two years back in Vantaa, Finland are in Subgroup One, Group and will open their bid to make France 2023 with a Thursday bow against Luxembourg before meeting the Czech Republic on Saturday.
The group winner will then face the best from Subgroup Two which features Ireland, Portugal, and Sweden on Sunday for a place at Aire-sur-la-Lys, next year.
The 29-year-old had suffered a hip-flexor injury at the Hylo Open in Saarbrucken at the beginning of November which forced Gilmour to retire in her second-round match with India’s Malvika Bansod at the HSBC BWF World Tour Super 300 tournament.
This week will be the first time since Scotland claimed a 19th place finish in the 2007 Sudirman Cup, which was also held at Scotstoun, that the national team will be courting a home crowd in a major team tournament.
The great news is that Gilmour is good to go and looking forward to producing her best in the dark blue of Scotland in front of a home crowd and the Scotland No.1 said: “I am totally back to normal now which is great. I did have a few sticky weeks where there were little reactions down my left side with the hip better and then my quad holding on and then my back was a bit tight so it was like a domino effect but I am pleased to say I am absolutely fine now.
“On top of that I’ve now had a few really good weeks training and I am just raring to get going on Thursday and put it all out there on the court.
“We have such good depth now that I won’t be needed to cross over to the doubles and it is great to be able to focus on singles rather than worry about sharpening up my doubles skills.”
Kirsty continued: “Really it’s been a while actually as I haven’t played the last couple of Scottish Opens and I believe this will be the first home team tournament Scotland have played on home soil since 2007 and the Sudirman Club, which was also at Scotstoun.
“We repurposed the tennis courts into badminton courts and if memory serves China were champions, so it is all very exciting to have a major team tournament back in Scotland after quite a gap.
“I think we are looking at some great badminton and I think that Scotland are in a good place with a pretty strong team and real depth.
“So, it’s really important to qualify as it will underline our quality and I would say that the quality we have deserves a place in the European Finals next year.
“If we can get our heads down and turn in the performances that we are all capable then I would very much hope we will make France and that will show that we are undoubtedly top-eight in Europe.
“Really from there we have to be pushing on and looking at a bit of silverware as well.”
When it came to just what it means to her to play in a Scotland shirt and the importance of that connection with the home support this week Kirsty’s passion was palpable and she said: “I think a lot of sports like swimming and athletics, gymnastics, well with them when you tend to represent your country it is usually Team GB, so it is nice to play as Scotland and that tends to be the normal except when you get to a Europeans when it is Team GB or an Olympics.
“So it is great to play with Scotland on your back and it is great to come together as a team once again as I love a team tournament.
“Recently more of the individual tournaments feel like a team tournament as we all travel together now whereas before it would have just been me by myself. So hopefully we can progress from Scotstoun to make the finals in France next year.
“But this week we just want everyone to buy their tickets and come along and support us as it is not often you see a Scotland team out there competing on home soil as when you come for the Scottish Open you are at the mercy of the schedule.
“For this it will be five Scotland games back-to-back featuring faces you know, so there will be plenty to get behind and the players really value that and building that connection with our home support could make all the difference.
“It is just so nice when you can hear specific people in the crowd, of course it’s great to have almost like a wave of support from a crowd but to be able to hear your mum and dad shouting for you really brings it home and makes you extra concentrated.
“For me, and I have to be honest here, I guess personally I quite like showing off in front of people who actually know me, so it is a great chance to just let them see really what you can do.
“Ordinarily we train at home and then we go off and play in competition so to be able to show why you do all this training and hard work and have my family there and seeing what all that commitment is for will be just great and very special.”
When it came to the opposition Kirsty admitted she is quietly confident we can make the grade at the National Academy: “I have no doubt that our coaching team of Ingo (Kindervater) David (Gilmour) and Bob (Blair) have done their homework on Luxembourg and the Czech Republic and they will decide on players, the way we want to play things and give us all the information we need on the strengths and weaknesses of our opposition,” said the World No.17.
Kirsty continued: “Really I feel pretty confident that we can progress from our group as our team is strong no matter what you throw at us and I believe Scotland can handle it and I am quietly confident we can make the play-off final on Sunday.
“We have rough ideas who we will play but not specifically. So I will just prepare like a normal tournament with video analysis a couple of days in advance, sharpen up on the things we have picked up on training and just gear up to produce my best badminton from Thursday on.
“If I can bring my A-game then I would feel pretty confident against any of the girls from these countries.”
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