After assuming a new role as an ambassador for badminton’s World Championships Judy Murray wasted no time in getting to work yesterday by calling for increased backing for the host nation’s leading player.
The competition will take place in Glasgow in August when Commonwealth and European women’s singles silver medalist Kirsty Gilmour will be back in action at The Emirates Arena, scene of her proudest moment when she reached the final at Glasgow 2014 in front of friends, family and a home support.
In spite of her successes in the international arena Gilmour, who returned after a six month post-Olympic, injury enforced lay-off to win last month’s Austrian Open, recently lost her main source of funding as a result of the GB Badminton elite programme’s removal from the list of sports backed by UK Sport. However the woman who has raised two world number one tennis players wants the Scottish sport community to rally round and support Gilmour.
Loading article content
“She is world-class and a potential top-five player,” Murray said of the 23-year-old who last year reached a career high of number 14 in the world rankings.
“Funding needs to come from private sponsors, governing bodies, even the sport itself could organise a lot of fundraising events. There would be a lot of badminton players in Scotland who would be happy to do their own bit of fundraising to help one of our own athletes to have the chance to become the best in the world.
“We have to be ambitious and we have to give the backing where it’s required and I think in this situation it is totally and utterly justified, so I hope that somebody will step forward and give Kirsty the support she needs to get her where she’s destined to go to.”
Murray drew upon her own experience, noting that whereas Andy and Jamie are now two of the hottest properties in sport, it was rather different when they were initially seeking to establish themselves in what was then considered a minority sport in Scotland.
“I certainly found when the boys were going through and I was asking for more help in terms of finance and resources, it was very difficult to get firms to invest in potential because it was a risk when we had no track record in tennis and at that stage you’ve got nothing to give in return,” she observed.
“You’ve not got visibility, so you can’t wear patches on your sleeve, you’re not on television, you’re not on the back pages. So if women’s sport and badminton were covered much more in the media up here then Kirsty would have a much bigger profile than she has and more people would want to be involved. The whole thing is chicken and egg.
“It would be nice to see more Scottish firms stepping up and putting some backing behind our top sports people. I do believe that what Jamie and Andy have done in getting to number one in a global sport like tennis is absolute evidence that anything is possible. If you can do it in tennis in Scotland, surely we can do it in badminton.”
Murray, who joined with Gilmour in putting on a session for youngsters at The Peak in Stirling yesterday, clearly knows her way around a badminton court having played the sport as a youngster and has seen enough to be confident in the British number one’s capacity to take on the very best. However, as she and her sons also experienced, while talent and drive are vital so, too, is getting the right environment in which to develop skills.
Badminton Scotland recently appointed leading Malaysian coach Tat Meng Wong to run their national programme, but Murray suggested that Gilmour needs to look at every aspect of how she works on her game.
“Kirsty is a remarkable young lady,” she said.
“She is a great athlete and she has all the qualities that you need to get to the top in terms of attitude, work ethic, dedication and ambition. She should be encouraged every step of the way.
“Even if that means she has to spend significant training blocks in Asia, because you have to know what you’re up against. You want to play with the best, you want to train with the best and you want to be around the best in order for you to become the best.
“Where she has reached is enormous. For her to get to the next level, she’ll need financial backing and resources in terms of the right coach – a coach who has been there before and knows what she is up against.
“At this stage, you’re looking for the little things that could make a big difference. Those little things usually come in the form of physiologists, video analysts, top-level coaches.
“You can’t always find those things in Scotland. I found as Andy and Jamie progressed in tennis, you couldn’t find it here.”
The best evidence of Gilmour’s potential was provided three years ago when, shortly before Carolina Marin became world number one for the first time, she defeat the Spaniard in the final of her home tournament, the Spanish Open.
“We have to be ambitious for Kirsty. She is No 14 in the world and she is so close. She has everything you would need,” said Murray.
“I would go out on a limb and say okay, so maybe we haven’t had an Olympic gold medalist in badminton or world No 1, but why shouldn’t we?”