Just 16 years of age, and therefore still playing at junior level, Kirsty Gilmour from Bothwell in Lanarkshire has been identified as a member of badminton’s elite squad aiming for selection for Team Scotland at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. This, backed by a string of recent on-court achievements both at home and abroad, has seen her named as the Clydesdale Bank Athlete of the Month for November receiving £500 towards her training and competition costs.
The scheme is being run with Clydesdale Bank as part of their programme of support to Team Scotland and is open to athletes in any of the 17 participating sports who are eligible to represent Scotland at next year’s Games in Delhi. Athletes will be nominated by their respective sports and will have demonstrated outstanding performances during the build-up to the Games.
Collecting her award Kirsty said: “It is great to be recognised for what I have achieved after a lot of hard work and the £500 from Clydesdale Bank will be really useful, particularly to help with the cost of restringing rackets which is a big part of the budget.”
Given Kirsty’s family connections with the sport it is hardly surprising that she seems destined to follow in their successful footsteps. Her father Brian, who was the national junior coach, first put a racket in her hand when she was just four years of age and although she gave both gymnastics and football a go, it was to the badminton court that she returned. She is also spurred on by her uncle, David Gilmour, who was capped50 times for Scotland at badminton between 1989 and 2008.
A fiercely competitive young woman, Kirsty has elected to play singles where she feels firmly in control of her own destiny, with no one else to blame if things go wrong. But despite her keen desire to win, off court she feels the friendly nature of the sport is its biggest attraction.
Kirsty attends the Glasgow School of Sport at Bellahouston Academy, and is coached by Craig Robertson a Commonwealth Games bronze medallist from Manchester. She believes there are real benefits to training in this unique setting which offers a fully integrated programme of education and high performance sport training, with the added bonus for badminton that it is all one site.
“They are a lot more understanding about our needs to go training and getting time off for competitions, whilst still making sure we keep up with our work” said Kirsty. “My coach even makes me take my homework with me when I am away.”
Kirsty’s performances during season 2008/09 were consistently high: not only did she win the national u17 women’s singles title (playing in her own age group), but she also holds the national u19 women’s single title. At the end of the 2008/09 season, she was number one singles player in both u17 and u19 age groups nationally and 12 in the Scottish senior rankings. However despite domestic success Kirsty believes it was her unexpected appearance in the final of the Belgian Junior u19 tournament, where she lost in the final to the top seed, which was her great achievement.
The 2009/10 season which got underway in August, has seen Kirsty off to a flying start. At the highly regarded Langenfeld Junior tournament, held in Germany during August, she was women’s singles winner (Under 17), despite only being seeded to reach the quarter finals. This is a superb win as competition is of the highest standard and it is also the first time a Scottish junior has won at Langenfeld. In early September, Kirsty went on to win the UK Schools Games singles title against the best in Britain. Her first taste of a multi-sport Games was a positive one, and will be a good experience should Kirsty find herself in Delhi next October.
“The UK School Games was great with lots of people turning up from different places all in team kit. You go and compete with the badminton people and when you have finished you get to watch and mix with other sports.”
With the rest of the season focused on booking her place on the Team Scotland plane for Delhi, Kirsty is excited about the prospect and feels there is a great future ahead.
“It would a great opportunity to go to Delhi and get some experience which would stand me in good stead for Glasgow 2014 where I would love to get a medal. I am even hoping I might just make the team for London 2012.”
Clydesdale Bank’s support for this scheme will ensure that athletes training and competing at this level will benefit from extra financial support to help them achieve their goals. This competition is a great additional incentive to the athletes as they strive over the next ten months to book their place on the team.