By RJ Mitchell
AHEAD of the 2024 European Men’s and Women’s Team Championship Qualification process, Badminton Scotland’s Head of Performance Ingo Kindervater has shared his hopes and ambitions for this week’s action.
In the first of a two part interview Ingo assesses the Scottish Women’s trip to Azerbaijan where they will attempt to qualify from Group 4 which includes hosts Azerbaijan, Estonia and Slovakia.
A seven-player selection features three singles representatives in Kirsty Gilmour, Rachel Sugden and Lauren Middleton while Julie MacPherson, Ciara Torrance, Eleanor O’Donnell and Rachel Andrew will fulfil the doubles quota.
With Scotland set to open their campaign at the Ashberon Olympic Complex against the hosts before facing Slovakia on Friday and Estonia on Saturday, Ingo was keen to highlight his belief that the Scots have the perfect blend of experience and youth to negotiate the perils of the qualification process.
He said: “We have a great blend throughout the whole squad and overall we are in a nice position especially with this intake of new young players and the experienced players we have already.
“For the women’s team the specific challenge is that it will take resilience. Some of them have travelled a lot but in terms of preparation for this event it is hard as Kirsty, Julie and Ciara are just back from China, so it is almost more about making sure that they have recovered in time and that we find the right mix.
“These girls all have more events coming so we have to fit the European qualifiers into their training and tournament plan which is incredibly busy anyway so it would have been nice if the travel aspect hadn’t been so challenging as it is with Azerbaijan.
“Ultimately the trip will be a bit of a mental challenge and how they perform in Azerbaijan will come down to their willingness to accept what happens on this trip.”
Ingo added: “If the event had been hosted somewhere closer than Azerbaijan then we could have sent more girls and as I have said before that is why we have only sent seven girls and 10 boys as it literally comes down to the budget.”
Ingo has no doubt about the benefits this trip will provide for players, Ingo shared: “So having the experience of the likes of Kirsty with now Julie and Ciara also growing more and more into lead player roles, for players to see how they conduct themselves and what it means to play and train under these tournament conditions is excellent.
“So it is not just the matches but the professionalism involved around the whole thing in terms of training and preparation, warm up, cool down and so many other things, in this respect the whole trip is just great exposure to this – 100%.”
“It is good for the young players that they do see them in training on a daily basis but they don’t get to see the older players at the tournaments when they are playing at the highest level so this is just a great opportunity to learn from all of this.”
As Ingo admitted Group 4 will provide a testing examination of the Scot’s grace under pressure as they look to qualify for next year’s finals in Łódź, Poland, from 14-18 February, in the Sport Arena Łódź.
He said: “The hosts Azerbaijan have some good badminton players and the top Azerbaijan girl, Keisha Fatimah Az Zahra beat the No.1 German Yvonne Li at the European Games this summer, and they have quite a few good players who are in there and they will be tough.
“That said it is the same with the other two teams in the group, Estonia and Slovakia, with Estonia’s team for example featuring the Scottish Open runner up Kristin Kuuba.”
Tomorrow Ingo will turn his attention to the Scottish Men’s team’s hopes of qualifying from Group 5, Subgroup 1 against Slovakia and Ukraine with the section winner facing the top team from Subgroup 2 comprising Israel, Belgium, Greenland.
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