Badminton: Rejuvenated Kirsty Gilmour targets summer success

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Badminton: Kirsty Gilmour sees benefits in coach Tat Meng Wong's approach

It's natural, surely, for someone aged 23 to be looking to the future.

Yet Hamilton's Kirsty Gilmour has packed so much into her badminton career already, she could be forgiven for poring over the past.

There have been 11 Scottish titles, numerous wins worldwide in International Challenge and Grand Prix events, representing Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi and Glasgow - winning silver in the latter - and donning British colours at the Rio Olympics in 2016, followed soon after by a career-high world ranking of 14.

It's an impressive CV for one so young, but Gilmour's sole focus is on what's to come - top-level tournaments in a hectic summer.

She has a bounce in her step again after an impressive return from knee surgery last October.

Last weekend, she picked up a silver medal at the European Championships in Kolding, Denmark. A 21-14 21-12 defeat by her Spanish rival Carolina Marin in the final for the second year running followed tournament wins at the Austrian Open and the Orleans International.

European runner-up Kirsty Gilmour was mistakenly given the bronze medal at the European Championships in Denmark
European runner-up Kirsty Gilmour was mistakenly given the bronze medal at the European Championships in Denmark

Before that, in February, she marked her comeback by winning the singles and mixed doubles, with Patrick MacHugh, at the Scottish finals in Perth, having completed her rehabilitation with the utmost attention to detail. "I did not miss a session," she points out.

"I am satisfied with how the Europeans went because it was one of the tournaments I wanted to peak for this year," Gilmour tells BBC Scotland.

"Knowing how I felt after the final last year, when I also got silver, I wanted that gold even more.

"It was always going to be a tough task. Carolina Marin is the Olympic champion, a two-time world champion, All England champion and now three-time European champion. Playing against her can be a hellish ordeal for anyone.

"However, I felt it was a better performance from me. I like to think I stood up and gave her a good fight."

Kirsty Gilmour's 2017 European Championship run
Last 32: Beat Alesia Zaitsava (Belarus) 21-15, 21-14
Last 16: Beat Fabienne Deprez (Germany) 21-11, 19-21, 21-18
Quarter-final: Beat Line Kjaersfeldt (Denmark) 21-9, 21-17
Semi-final: Beat Sabrina Jaquet (Switzerland) 22-20, 21-10
Final: Lost to Carolina Marin (Spain) 21-14, 21-12

Gilmour feels her knee is "just about perfect" after the operation to repair a torn meniscus and, with her Malayasian coach Tat Meng Wong tweaking her playing style, she is approaching her profession with renewed enthusiasm.

"I feel really confident about how it is going," says Gilmour, currently ranked 44th in the world.

"Having had that little taste again at the Europeans, I have a real plan and I'm excited about what's to come later in the season. I don't have anything lower than a Grand Prix-level tournament so it will be against these top players.

"There's a good opportunity for me to gain a lot of points because of the level of tournament that I'm playing."

Gilmour is especially looking forward to playing in the Sudirman Cup in Australia's Gold Coast later this month, partly because it is being held in the same hall as the Commonwealth Games competition next year, but also since it gives her a rare opportunity to be part of a team.

"It's the World Mixed Team Championships. I love a team event!" she exclaims.

Gilmour returns to Bulgaria's Linda Zetchiri during their women's singles qualifying match at the Rio Olympics
Gilmour returns to Bulgaria's Linda Zetchiri during their women's singles qualifying match at the Rio Olympics

"If I don't lose my voice shouting for the team I've not done my job properly. I get so few opportunities to compete as part of a team, being a singles player.

"Being alone on the court, coming off and people saying 'well done', it feels good, but when that game you've won goes towards the team it's such a nice feeling for me."

England are not entering the Sudirman Cup this year, pointing to a funding cut by UK Sport in February.

That funding decision stung Gilmour and she has spent a lot of time and effort trying to attract a commercial sponsor to supplement her income from Badminton Scotland in order to meet the cost of flights, hotels and food while competing around the world.

Her efforts, with a friend, to make a promo video to appeal to sponsors has in part paid off, and she will soon become a brand ambassador for a company in the building trade.

Her schedule in the coming weeks suggests she will need a financial backer. After the Gold Coast, it's home for three weeks, then Indonesia, Australia again, back home for a spell and then Canada and the United States before the World Championships come to Glasgow in August.

"There's a lot to do before the World Championships but I'm excited to be back playing these top tournaments," she says.

"I didn't take it for granted before but I am actively excited now. It's such a nice feeling to have that to look forward to now."

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