"Focus on Performance & Embrace Culture" Urges Kirsty

February 20, 2015

With under 200 days to go until the 5th Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa, Glasgow 2014 Badminton Silver medallist Kirsty Gilmour looks back at her own Youth Games experience.

For many Team Scotland athletes at Glasgow 2014 the first step on their Commonwealth journey was participation in the Youth Games and, since 2000 when Scotland created the concept of the Youth Games and hosted the inaugural event in Edinburgh, 66 participants have gone on to represent Team Scotland at a senior Games.

Kirsty’s path was a little unusual in that she had already experienced a Commonwealth Games at senior level, competing at Delhi 2010, before she was selected for the You
th Games in 2011. However, she feels that the experience was a valuable one and left her better prepared for medal success at Glasgow 2014.

“I kind of went about the Games in a weird way,” she says. “I’d already been to Delhi the year before so I went from a full Games to a Youth Games. It was maybe the other way round to how most people do it. I was relatively experienced internationally by the time I got to the Youth Games but, saying that, it’s prepared me so well for what I’ve done since then.

“My memories of the Youth Games are all really positive. It was such a great atmosphere to be in, we had quite a small team compared to what I’d experienced at other team events and I just remember everyone getting on really well. Obviously I came out of it with a medal so that was just a bonus for me. I was in the Isle of Man Youth Games so it was kind of a home crowd, the Home Nations really got behind me. I could hear English players’ mums and dads, friends and family in the crowd so it was a really good close knit experience.

“You’re in a buzzing atmosphere. Badminton is an individual sport and there are other teams and they’re a bit louder than individual sports. I just learned to take care of myself first and not get carried away with everything that’s happening. There are dinners and events and everything going on at night and there were mini cinemas and things that we had going on but, if it’s not what you normally do, don’t do it because it’s going to affect you the next day.

“In Glasgow I felt really prepared and it wasn’t so much of a shock. When you go into the main dining hall for the first time and go ‘look at all this food,’ I’d already experienced that and I knew not to go crazy on the buffet! I felt very prepared by the time Glasgow came round and I think that was a huge part of the way I performed there. I’ve had some other medal successes but nothing compares to the pressure of a Youth Games or Commonwealth Games, it’s something special.”

That feeling of preparation took Kirsty to a Silver medal in Glasgow, the first time a Scottish woman has ever made a Commonwealth Games Badminton Singles final. With a wealth of sporting experience behind her, despite still being only 21 years old, her advice to the next generation who will compete in Samoa is simple and at the heart of the ethos of the Youth Games – focus on performance but also take the opportunity to experience different cultures.

“First things first just focus on competing,” she says. “If you can do that you know you’re well capable of putting in a good performance. If your good performance is worthy of a medal then you’ll get it and you’ll deserve it. It’s such a fun experience but don’t be distracted by all the fun that’s going on, just get knuckled down into the performance and that’s the thing you’ll remember when you’re old and grey!

“Embrace the culture. You won’t do anything wrong and it’s just such a holistic experience if you get out of the village and see things. I’ve seen the inside of a lot of hotels, badminton halls and airports but very rarely do you get to go out and experience the country you’re in. I think the Commonwealth Games and Youth Games are one of those times you can really experience a country.

“There are a lot of hard parts to being an athlete but it all comes down to that one moment where either you win or you lose. You either jump as far as you can or you hit the line with the shuttle perfectly. It comes down to tiny miniscule little things. You know that you’re the best prepared and you’re absolutely dedicated and concentrated on this exact moment. Hopefully it will go your way, obviously there’s that element of luck, but all you can do is be as prepared as you possibly can.”

She hopes that the Glasgow Games provided inspiration for those who will represent Youth Team Scotland in Samoa but being one of those who inspired is something that is taking a little getting used to.

“It’s very weird being considered a role model. I just try to go about my everyday life, training and tournaments. Being asked to talk to young kids, it’s the least I can do if it means Scotland get one more medal at the next Games or it could make a difference. That feels pretty special.”

The 5th edition of the Commonwealth Youth Games will be held in Samoa from 5-12 September 2015 with athletes from across the Commonwealth competing in nine sports: Archery; Athletics; Boxing; Lawn Bowls; Rugby 7s; Squash; Swimming; Tennis and Weightlifting. Scotland’s athletes will compete under the banner of Youth Team Scotland and selected athletes will be announced over the coming months.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Lee

Join the club

Subscribe to our newsletter