Double Take: Matthew & Christopher Grimley

July 24, 2022

When Matthew and Christopher Grimley first picked up a badminton racket at the grand old age of six, it seemed a long way to the international stage.  

But, 16 years later, the pair are on the verge of joining an extremely select group; twins who have represented Team Scotland side-by-side at the Commonwealth Games.  This moment has long been on the cards.  

Before the brothers had even reached high school, they were being touted as two of the most exciting prospects in the country.  From as young as nine years old, the tournament victories began clocking up.  But it was their first international sojourn that gave them the idea they might genuinely be good at this sport.  

“I remember we went to a tournament in Belgium, it was our first international event and our mum and dad said to us to not expect too much because we probably weren’t going to win a game,” said Chris.  “And then we went and won it.” 

“It was after that we started to think we might actually be pretty good. Because we’d just been playing in Scotland, it was hard to know if we were just good at home but, after doing that at our first international tournament, we started to think: ‘Actually, we might have something here.’”  

The one challenge with being the best two young players in Scotland was that, at almost every tournament, the pair would face off against each other in the final of the boys’ singles, meaning one or the other was forced to cope with the disappointment of not only losing out, but being beaten by his twin.   

It was not, they both admit, always the easiest of situations – but the fact they invariably had a doubles final to play together just minutes after the singles final concluded meant they didn’t have too long to dwell on the disappointment of a runners-up medal.  

“When we played against each other when we were younger, we didn’t take losing well, one of us would always end up crying,” said Matt, with Chris adding: “It always changed who won, one of us wasn’t better than the other, it was just who was best on the day.   

“The loser of the singles would have to snap out of their mood before the doubles but, in the car on the way home, there’d still be an atmosphere.”  

At the age of 11, they joined Glasgow’s School of Sport, which is a school dedicated to combining training and academia.   Even in these early years, the boys were highly competitive, with neither allowing the other to out-do them in training for fear of falling behind.  

Their success continued through their junior years but as, they approached the senior ranks, they began to veer towards the idea of specialising in doubles.  And the possibility of playing with anyone other than each other was, frankly, unfathomable to the pair.  

There are, clearly, pros and cons of partnering someone who you know almost better than you know yourself but, for the Grimleys, the positives far outweigh the negatives.  

“At one point, when we were about 15, there was some talk about splitting us up as doubles partners. Our coach wanted to try us with other partners to see how it went – but we weren’t very happy with that suggestion and so it ended up never happening,” revealed Matthew.  

“I feel like we can say anything at all to each other. When we play mixed, we’re a bit nicer to our partners but, when we’re playing together, we know we can say anything and the other one isn’t going to react.  

“We’re more likely to get snappy with each other in training; we never argue in a tournament because we know that if we do that, we won’t do well so it’s pointless.”  

The Commonwealth Games has long been a target for the twins. They were in the crowd for countless badminton sessions at Glasgow 2014 and watching the action from Gold Coast as 18-year-olds four years later, they vowed to be in Birmingham this summer.   Their international debut duly arrived and recent years have seen the pair travel regularly throughout European and to Asia for competitions.  

Having been named part of Team Scotland’s nine-strong squad for Birmingham 2022 and having spent so many years striving to reach this level, they admit it’s quite a moment, realising they’re now on the verge of fulfilling their lifelong dream.  

“I feel like this is what we’ve always wanted to do; we’ve always wanted to be professional badminton players,” said Matthew. “Even when we were really young, when people asked what we wanted to do when we grew up, we always said play badminton.  Most people disbelieved it’d happen but here we are.” 

Chris added: “Even before Gold Coast, Birmingham has been in our sights and when we get there, we feel like we can cause a few upsets.” 

The Commonwealth Games, with the multi-sport environment and the hectic nature of being part of an event that brings thousands upon thousands of athletes together will, predict the Grimleys, take some getting used to.  

But having each other and sharing a room together, as they usually do on trips away, means they will feel like their Games stay is something of a home away from home.  

“We’re expecting the Games to be so different from the normal badminton tournaments. It’d be good to see some table tennis, and gymnastics and squash – it’s a pity that Usain Bolt isn’t around anymore, that’d have been pretty amazing to have seen him, but there’ll be a lot of other athletes that it’ll be pretty cool to see,” said Matt.   

“Because we’ll be there together, it feels in some ways that we’re still at home,” added Chris, his brother interrupting to chip in: “We’re totally comfortable in complete silence, we can sit beside each other for an hour and not say and word and we’re both fine with that.   

“I think when you spend as much time together as we do, you need to have a relationship like that.”  

Article by Susan Egelstaff  

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