Archive for October, 2012

Jump Smashing Gilmour

Before the start of this season the name of Kirsty Gilmour was not exactly a name that rolled off the tongue in term of top class international badminton stars. Two months into the new season and the young Scott has quickly established herself as one of the rising stars in European Badminton. A prolific winning streak of three International wins in four outings has singled out Gilmour as not only one to watch for the future but one that has settled immediately into the ranks of senior badminton . Our European reporter Mark Phelan recently caught up with Gilmour in a gap in her whistle stop European tournament schedule and put 20 questions to the Scot.

Name: Kirsty Gilmour

Date of Birth: 21/09/93

Hometown: Bothwell, Lanarkshire

Current Equipment Sponsor: Yonex

Current Club: Chambly, France

Badminton Achievements to date:  Polish Open Singles Winner 2012, Czech International Singles Winner 2012 / Czech Doubles Runner Up 2012, Swiss Open Winner 2012, Youth Commonwealth Games Singles Bronze Medal, Scottish Senior Nationals Singles Winner 2012

Q1: When did you first discover your love for badminton?

A1 Kirsty: Being dragged around every badminton hall in Scotland whilst my dad coached Junior national squads. I usually had a football with me but I started joining in when I was about 5 and loved it.

Q2: Who have been the people who have influenced you most in your career to date and who are your badminton heroes?

A2 Kirsty: My dad was a huge influence in getting me started. After that my uncle David started coaching me. In terms of sheer hard work and focus, he’s one of my idols.

Winner at Czech Intl 2012

Q3: What is a typical day for you on and off the court?

A3 Kirsty: A typical day would be 8.15 – 11 on court in the morning then 2-4 in the afternoon half physical, half skills. If I have University I try to do almost the same training but with a 3 hour lecture in there too.

Q4: How do you mix University with your badminton career?

A4 Kirsty: It’s hard. I’m having to change to part time because I can’t do one of my core modules. So my course will take a little longer but I don’t have to be constantly playing catch up. My University  is an hours drive away from my home so the travelling takes up a large part of my day.

Q5: What are you goals and objectives in badminton this year and for five years time?

A5 Kirsty: This year and maybe a couple more after that are all about experience. I just want to perform well against some good players and hopefully do enough to win a few titles along the way. In five years I hope to be higher ranked in the world and Europe and really challenging for GP and Gold Grand Prix titles. Then maybe Super Series after that.

Q6: Your ‘jump smash’ is a key and potent part of your game. Is this something that you feel gives you a big advantage over other girls and tell us what weights you lifting to get that power in those legs?

A6 Kirsty: I think of it more of a quirk in my game rather than a key component. It definitely helps in certain situations but I guess I could get away with a regular smash too. It difficult maintaining my weights programme during the tournament season as I usually leave on Thursdays so I can only fit in one weights session on a Monday and circuit on a Wednesday. But my weights consists of full body exercises like split jerk as well as specific ones like chin ups.

Q7: Outside of badminton what are your favourite things to do?

A7 Kirsty: Spending time with friends, watching films and TV programmes and generally sitting still.

Q8: It has been a bumper month for you winner both in Poland  and in Czech International and just this weekend pat the Swiss International but what do you attribute this success to?

A8 Kirsty: The start of the season is usually a good period for me after a full summer of training. I’m hoping to keep my results consistent throught the season.

On the way to victory in Poland

Q9: Do you have any superstitions or routines you always follow when you go to play a match or a tournament?

A9 Kirsty: I have little routines I go through in my warm up that are more like habits. Other than that I’m not very superstitious. I leave that to Jillie (Cooper).

Q10: This summer was all about the London Olympics and you had a small part to play in the celebrations. Can you explain your experience and what it meant to you?

A10 Kirsty: I was on the Olympic Ambition Programme along with Alex Langley and Marcus Ellis (Chris, Imo and Gabby were on it 4 years ago). We had two days of seminars in Loughborough covering all aspect of the Games; the venues, the village, looking forward to Rio and Sochi (Winter Olympics), the kitting out process where we got a few items ourselves.

Then we attended the games for 3 days getting to see badminton and diving. We also got to go more behind the scenes of the Games into the village where we had dinner in the main dining hall with some of team GB. Jess Ennis, Mo Farrah and Louis Smith were all at the next table, it was pretty cool. We got to go to Team GB House where we saw Bradley Wiggins win his medal and we met, David Walliams, Mark Foster and a few other folk. The whole experience was amazing! It’s given me a real sense of where I want to be in 4 years+ time.

 

Q11: The 2014 commonwealth games are coming to Scotland. What are your goals for the tournament and what will the games mean to you as Scot?

A11 Kirsty: After the Olympics, everyone is desperate for some more World Class sport and the Commonwealth Games will definitely deliver. All the venues look amazing and everyone seems genuinely excited. Personally, the home crowd will make a difference and I’m aiming to medal but that will require me beating some top players.

Q12: What music do you like to listen to and right now what are the most played songs on your IPod?

A12 Kirsty: I’ve gone a bit 90’s recently and gone back to listening to Alanis Morrisette mixed in with some of my dads 70’s Hall and Oats and Steely Dan. Newer music I listen to tends to be things like The XX, The Maccabee and Of Monsters and Men.

Q13: What is your favourite food?

A13 Kirsty: Free food. No.. I have a sweet tooth so probably desserts. And I feel awful if I go a day without a cup of tea.

Q14: If you were given the choice to choose any music concert to go to for free what would it be and in what city?

A14 Kirsty: Probably seeing someone like Alanis Morrisette or bringing back Fleetwood Mac in a tiny venue in New York somewhere seems insanely cool.

Q15: The European Juniors in Finland in 2011 appeared to be a watershed for you. You achieved a fourth round there falling at the hands of Voytesekh of Ukraine. Many expected you to go further. Was this as it seemed a wake up call for you?

First Senior Title in Poland

A15: Kirsty: Not necessarily a wake up  call but I had played well in the team event I was so disappointed to lose in that round. But Voytesekh is a good player, I never underestimated her, I just didn’t play well enough.

Q16: What has been the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

A16 Kirsty: Probably, ‘come out of a session better than you went in’.

Q17: If you had 1 million Euro what would you buy?

A17 Kirsty: A nice car, the most extensive DVD collection in the world and a ticket to travel the world.

Q18: What has been the scariest thing you have ever done?

A18 Kirsty: Maybe when I was in a car crash a couple of years ago. It was snowing and we were on a country road at midnight. We spun 180 degrees and slid down a ditch. A little bit of whiplash but no one was hurt.. and no, I wasn’t the one driving.

Q19: Do you use social media such as Twitter and Facebook? If so what is your Twitter name? 

A19 Kirsty: A few more followers would be nice! Just Kirsty Gilmour on facebook but I tend not to accept people I dont really know.. but on twitter I’m @kirstygilmourr (with 2 R’s)

Q20: Finally do you have a favourite joke that you like to tell and if so what is it?

A20 Kirsty: I’m awful at punchline jokes! But ehhhm… what do you call an Italian with a fake foot? Roberto (Rubberto)  See.. that’s so bad! S**t (<– You dont have to put that bit in! haha)

Follow Mark Phelan on twitter: @markphelanGPM

That winning feeling is the same no matter where you are from!

The badminton tour, be it in Europe, Asia or globally, is somewhat akin to a travelling circus where everyone knows everyone and most people are involved purely for the love of the game.

What makes Badminton even more special is that very unique sense of family and togetherness you feel when attending an International tournament. As a media person there is that sense of meeting old friends and kindred spirits when you step into a media centre or the tournament hall for the first time and when leaving there is a distinct sense of looking forward to the next time.

While the sport continues to go from strength to strength and strives to adopt a more professional mindset there are many unsung heroes that are an integral part of the tour that for most part go unrecognised. We are all very aware of the band of volunteers that it takes to run even the most ‘professional’ of tournaments and as a group the lines people and umpires often spend countless hours sitting on their bums on chairs making matches happen. I can recall just recently one umpire presiding over 12 matches in one day at a Badminton Europe circuit tournament. Anyone who knows will know that this is akin to running a marathon in lay mans terms.

However for me there is another bunch of people who tend to go unnoticed and to me they are the reason we have the sport in the first place. Like the volunteers and umpires for most part their work goes unrewarded financially and their work is not solely confined to a few days at a tournament. The work of these special people is a continuous year round sacrifice, a constant struggle to be the best in what can be conservatively described as challenging circumstances. These band of special people I talk about are of course the players.

Yes of course there are the big stars of our sport that earn sizeable pay cheques for both on and off the court appearances but for every one star that makes a viable living there must be 100 that struggle. I have been involved in the sport now for a decade and it never fails to amaze me how dedicated these players are to the sport of badminton that for the most part gives them nothing but satisfaction in return.

Years of sacrifice to be the best

The financial struggle alone to be able to train and compete is a burden that any professional sports person should not have to endure. I often have to stand and bite my tongue when I am told that these players are not professional but knowing how the train and dedicate their lives to the sport they are as professional as the highest paid tennis player in everything they do, they just do not get the financial recognition for their efforts.

I even know players who struggle with their own families just because they have chosen to dedicate their lives to badminton, families who constantly remind them that the sport will give them nothing in return and they should concentrate on getting a real job or worse still a real sport. In some ways it is impossible to argue with them but it is when you talk to players and know what goes on inside their minds and know the pleasure they get from competing then you realise how important the sport of badminton  is to them.

There are also some fundamental organisational issues that make me sick to my core that take direct advantage of these players. This could land me in some hot water but it always amazes me how hotel prices seem to sky rocket for tournaments. An instance I have direct proof of is a tournament in continental Europe in 2011 where I rang for a room rate moonlighting as a tourist and got a rate that was 28% lower than players were paying for the same days.

Somebody is making money from the players in these instances and I have no idea whom it may be but surely this is an insult to the people that without their loyalty we would have no tour.

Maybe it is time for our players to stand together and be as professional off the court as they are on court as from talking to many players, mostly around Europe, I know that there is almost a feeling of worthlessness on their part when I believe passionately that every single one of them have a value to the sport and to the tour globally.

I have worked with players in the past on contract deals and educating them on their commercial value and I am starting to see a change in how our most prized assets value themselves but it is high time that our players formed some kind of meaningful off court alliance that represented their needs in a pro active manner.

One thing these great people of our sport have going for them is their intelligence and commitment to the sport and they should harness their collective power as a group and become a voice not only to be heard but a collective voice worth hearing.

Heroes in the making

There are so many players out there than cannot afford to even travel to tournaments let alone train and compete in a meaningful way and this is an issue that needs to be addresseda. Smaller nations need help to get their top players to international tournaments and a player’s foundation/Union/Alliance could achieve this. Having top players visible at tournaments is s key element to developing the sport in these smaller nations. This is one of the reasons I felt the omission of Michelle Chan Ky from the Olympics will do more to damage the sport in New Zealand than to develop it.

The Players are the real heroes of our sport, the players are the lifeblood and it is my opinion that the players need to start realising this and working with federations, continental confederations and commercial interests to give constructive input at this vital juncture in our sports history. And to be fair to all the major badminton federations I am sure they would welcome their input as the badminton world I feel, especially in Europe, is an inclusive world.

Maybe this is my real calling in life to work with players and it is always something I have enjoyed doing but the players also need to wake up and galvanise and become a voice in their own right and a be integral part of the development of the game. If they do not then they will always be the forgotten heroes of our sport.

Mark

As always the views and opinions expressed in this article are solely that of the author.

New Badminton Gallery Website

Posted: October 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

One of my personal favs – Axelsen at Euro Teams.

For the past year I have been toying with the idea of putting all the Badminton related photos I have taken on my travels around Europe and the world on a dedicated gallery driven website.

Finally with some time on my hands at home I have managed to block out all distractions and knuckle down to sorting, editing and uploading images to my new website.

It was fun to delve back into the hoards of images I have accumulated over the past few years and, while hard work; it has been very rewarding visiting some of these lost images again.

The site itself is a simple gallery driven concept with no facility to download or right click to save. It is simply a site where I can upload and anyone who feels like visiting can view the images.

I have started with a few select galleries and I will add more over the next weeks. Feel free to use the share buttons to let others know about the site and I hope you enjoy the first instalment of galleries.

My special thanks to Badminton Europe, Badminton photo and Badzine for the opportunity to do what I love doing as without them none of these images would be available.

To view the site simply CLICK HERE

Mark

Over the course of the last 18 months the discipline that has interested me most has been women’s singles. The reasons for this are pretty simple to explain. There is a new wave of young and exciting talent starting to bubble to the top in Europe.

We are all fully aware of the emergence of players like Carolina Marin of Spain after she claimed the European Junior title back in 2011. Marin was winning senior tournaments as far back as 2009 when she lifted the Irish International and while Marin was winning easy in Finland there were a handful of players in that very same tournament that I believed failed to realise their own true potential.

I think that Marin’s attention to detail, work ethic and will to win may have served to spur the rest on as all of a sudden a handful of the class of 2011 have come out on tour with all guns blazing and are taking the European circuit by storm.

Let’s have a look at 5 of these players and examine their careers to date, their strengths and weaknesses and their prospects for the future.

Bow Before Yigit

NESLIHAN YIGIT (Turkey): The tall 18 year old Turk has blossomed over the course of the past 9 months and her world ranking of 37 hints to that progression having been outside the world’s top 100 less than 12 months ago.

If Yigit was a footballer she would be a central midfielder as one of her key strengths his her deceptively consistent engine that keeps her going point after point and set after set. Over the course of the last year many a player has been lured into a false sense of security thinking they had the Turk beaten after an easy first set win only to lose in three. Her reach and net play have also served the Turk well and mentally nothing fazes Yigit.

Her weakness is certainly her consistent failure to start games at the level needed to compete at the highest level. So many times I have seen her trail 11-3 or 11-2 in an opening game and we all know there are not many who can come back from that deficit in modern badminton. Much of this we can certainly attribute to her laid back attitude but I am sure she realises this is something she needs to improve to break into the top 10 in the world.

24 tournaments last year helped to qualify Yigit for the London Olympics but what was most impressive was her level of consistency. There is a bright future for the Young Turk who will be one of the favourites to lift the European Junior Championship in her home country in March 2013.

Jump Smashing Gilmour

KIRSTY GILMOUR (Scotland): Gilmour is without doubt one of the hardest working and most dedicated players currently on tour. Most coaches will tell you that this is a critical aspect in the development of any young female talent and having someone who wants it is half the battle.

Gilmour has one thing in her mind and that is the Olympics in Rio and right now she is a safe bet to represent GB in South America in 4 years time.

What has Gilmour got that others don’t…..Well how many female singles players have you seem with a powerful jump smash? Gilmour’s jump smash is so effective that most will do everything in their power to avoid lifting the shuttle. What her opponents tend to forget is that Gilmour has a well rounded game and can match the best on tour at the net as well as mentally and tactically. There are few on tour that have the physical conditioning of the young Scot so stringing five matches together in three days is pretty much a doddle for Glaswegian.

Putting 5 matches together in a row is something that Gilmour has become accustomed to of late. She has lifted two senior circuit tournaments in the past 7 weeks including the International Series rated Polish Open and her first International Challenge victory at the Czech Open in Brno.

Probably her biggest weakness is that her play can become somewhat predictable at times. She has three shots that she favours more than others and when she goes around the head what comes next is more often than not a cross court angled drop. Do your homework on Kristy’s game and you might have a chance but that is only a chance as right now this girl is proving the form player on the European Circuit.

The commonwealth games in Glasgow is the short term aim for the Scot with Rio in her mind every morning when she wakes up. Top 16 in the world is certainty achievable also and it will be interesting to see can she match the pace of the Asians over the next few years.

Tine’s Successor

LINE KJAERSFELDT (Denmark) Line is without doubt the future of Danish women’s singles. She has already been blooded at senior international level after representing Denmark’s ladies at the European qualification for the Uber cup and this year’s Uber Cup itself.

Kjaersfeldt is one of a bunch of talented singles players coming through from Denmark which includes Sandra Maria Jensen, Anna Thea Madsen and Natalia Koch Rhode to name but a few. What sets Kjaersfeldt apart from the rest is her speed on court and her ability to pull off the big shots under pressure.

Working against the tall Dane is the fact that she is so good that she excels not only at singles but at mixed and doubles also. This year I saw Kjaersfeldt come through qualification in singles and mixed while also playing in the main draw and all at one particular tournament. By day 3 she had just simply ran out of steam and went home empty handed. She has since cast adrift women’s doubles but still a demanding schedule of singles and mixed is a big ask for the young Dane as she continues to develop mentally and physically.

SORAYA DE VISH EIJBERGEN (The Netherlands) I first saw Soraya play at the European club championships two years ago in Zwolle, The Netherlands where she won every singles match she played as her club Duinwijck lifted the European title. What made this feat all the more remarkable was that the young Dutch girl played singles, mixed and doubles at that tournament.

She was a revelation that week and since then had developed physically to be worthy of a place of this list of ones to watch. Again much like Kjersefeldt, De Vish Eijbergen has suffered from being too good at more than just singles but this year it is clear the Dutch girl is concentrating more now on her singles with a small helping of mixed thrown in for good measure.

Consistency is the issue for Soraya at the moment as there is no doubting here natural talent; the big doubt is her ability to string a series of five matches together to win a tournament. Mentally there are always opportunities for opponents to break Soraya down but once she really finds that killer instinct she will be a real force for the Dutch in women’s singles for many years to come and time is on her side.

Bulgaria’s strength in Depth

STEFANI STOEVA (Bulgaria) While Bulgaria basks in the success of Petya Nedelcheva and Linda Zetchiri coming behind hot on their heels is the immense talent of Sisi Stoeva. What makes Stoeva special is that at the tender age of just 17 she is already a multiple winner on the senior European circuit in both singles and doubles (alongside her sister Gabi)

Stoeva plays without fear which befits her tender years and really when all things are considered should be hot favourite for the European Junior Championships next march in Turkey where the final should end up in a battle between the Bulgarian and Yigit. Stoeva is very much at home and comfortable mixing singles with doubles and wherever one sister goes the other is not very far behind.

The Bulgarian is extremely athletic and produces power that her slender build certainly disguises very well. Mentally she is unfazed and against Sisi the game is never won until that last shuttle hits the floor.

Her technique is something that sometimes lets her down but she is one of these rare breeds of extremely hard working athletes that listens and learns and works hard to improve.

Summary: One thing is certain the five young ladies listed above will have the weight of expectation weighing heavily on their shoulders over the coming years. As National players they will be heavily relied on to deliver victories under extreme pressure and as Europeans they will be sent out to try and match their Asian counterparts in an effort to close the gap between both continents.

One thing we can be assured of is that these five have the drive and determination to be the best they can be. They all posses a gritty determination to succeed and I for one look forward to monitoring their success over the coming years and success is something that they will all embrace as champions.