Eleanor Tips Scots For More Medal Glory At Europeans

By RJ Mitchell

FORMER Scotland international Eleanor O’Donnell is confident that the strong Scotland entry competing in the European Championships in Saarbrucken this week have real medal potential.

Having competed in two previous European Championships herself Eleanor, who recently had to retire from the international squad due to illness, is well qualified to assess her former team-mates prospects and also to qualify just how important this week’s tournament is in the grand scheme of the competitive calendar.

There is a nice spread of experience in the 12 player squad in Germany this week from the experience of former medallists Kirsty Gilmour, Adam Hall and Alex Dunn to debutantes Rachel Sugden, Rachel Andrew and Adam Pringle.

Taking stock of all that and just how important a strong showing in Saarbrucken will be Eleanor shared: “There is no doubt that the Europeans is one of the biggest tournaments and just behind the World Championships and Olympics – you are competing against the very best in Europe and have to qualify for that honour.

“If you have spoken to the guys who have won medals before at a Europeans, like Kirsty, Adam and Alex, then it means an awful lot to them, so it’s a big tournament and I know there has been a lot of hard work put in and plenty of preparation done for the week ahead.

“Personally I think we have medal potential for sure with Kirsty, Adam and Alex who have European medals already and then you have Rachel and Adam who are at their first Europeans so there is such a spread of expectation and experience.

“So I think if the players meet their own individual goals then that would be a successful week.”

Women’s Singles:

Starting with the Women’s Singles, Kirsty Gilmour is seeded No.4 and the three-time silver medallist will face Spain’s experienced world ranked No. 63 Clara Azurmendi in the opening round.

With the winner likely to face France’s Qi Xuefei, with whom the Scot played a marathon 80-minute plus encounter in the recent Yonex German Open, in wait, it is a tough draw for Kirsty.

Considering this Eleanor said: “Kirsty’s draw the whole way through is tough with Clara first and then Qi Xuefei next. So it is tough but we all know what Kirsty can do and she has shown in the last couple of months, including beating Carolina (Marin) at the Women’s Team Championships, she still has that level.

“So I think she should take a bit of confidence from that and although she is seeded No.4 I think she can do it in terms of another medal. I always back Kirsty.”

For Scottish Champion Rachel Sugden there is a daunting draw against newly crowned All England Champion Carolina Marin and Eleanor said: “So the tournaments that Rachel is competing in just now she doesn’t get the chance to play against the Carolina Marin’s of this world so it is a huge thing for her.

“Basically she just needs to go out there and enjoy it and really make the most of the experience.”

Women’s Doubles:

Sixth seeded Julie MacPherson and Ciara Torrance have drawn Estonian opposition in the form of Catlyn Kruus and Ramona Uprus and Eleanor is confident of a Scottish victory: “I think the first round against the Estonians gives the girls the chance to play their way in and get their confidence to hopefully make the later rounds.

“They are in the same quarter as the No.2 seeded French pair of Lambert and Tran, who are a really good partnership and recently they have been pretty dominating, and that will be a toughie for Julie and Caira, but they have had close games with them before and there is no reason they can’t do it if they meet this time.

“They just need to go for it, the French are strong but being the underdogs is no bad thing at a Europeans and the girls definitely have a chance.”

Men’s Doubles: 

In the Men’s Doubles No.5 seeded Alex Dunn and Adam Hall have drawn the Norwegian pairing of Flaatten and Rickheim but are in the same quarter as top seeds and World Championship runners- up Astrup and Rasmussen.

Reflecting on this Eleanor said: “I would be quite confident for Adam and Alex in the opening round against the Norwegians. Obviously there will be no easy games, as you have to qualify for the Europeans with it being the best 32 pairs in Europe, but although it won’t be a walk in the park it’s a nice opener.”

For the Grimley twins, who open against the Czech pair of Kraal and Mendrek the withdrawal of Germany’s fourth-seeded Lamsfuss and Seidel has created an opportunity as Eleanor explained: “As soon as one of the seeds pulls out it does open up the draw so the twins have a chance here to really progress through the rounds.

“Not having to play Mark and Marvin, who would have been at a home Europeans and among the favourites, has really opened things up for Chris and Matthew and they should give it their best shot.

“If they can play the way they have been then there is no reason why they can’t go very deep. There is the French pair of the Popovs in there and it won’t be easy but this is a chance for the twins.”

Mixed Doubles: 

Debutantes Rachel Andrew and Adam Pringle have the Bulgarian duo of Stoynov and Popovska and Eleanor is optimistic about a Scottish win: “I think Adam and Rachel have beaten them twice so another good opener at their first Europeans to gain some confidence.

“The fact you have beaten the opposition is a big plus although their next round is Robin (Tabeling) and Selena (Piek) the No.3 seeded Dutch and that will be tough.

“But to get that first win at their first Europeans would be massive for Rachel and Adam.”

The other Scots pairing of Adam Hall and Julie MacPherson have drawn the eighth seeded English pairing Jenny and Gregory Mairs in a tasty All Brit battle.

For Eleanor this one was a tough call to make and she admitted: “The Mairs are just a solid pair and have been playing really well and I think it will be a close one. They are both left-handed and that is awkward and throws you a little bit.

“But if Adam and Julie play their best they have an opportunity. With the Mairs seeded No.8 if they can beat them it would definitely give them an opportunity to go far.”

Meanwhile in last week’s Malta International Scottish champion Callum Smith lost an epic first round singles to the Swiss Nicolas A. Mueller 21-12, 20-22,19-21.