A hugely important year for Bothwell badminton star Kirsty Gilmour will see her begin a bid to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, writes Craig Goldthorp.
That campaign will start next month and Bellshill-born Gilmour (25) showed her game is in fine fettle by finishing runner-up at this week’s Orleans Masters in France.
After losing Sunday’s women’s singles final 21-8 18-21 21-16 to Japan’s Saena Kawakami, Gilmour told the Times and Speaker: “This is going to be a busy year, especially in the build-up to Tokyo.
“That is what everyone aims for.
“I qualified for the Olympics last time and was seeded 11th (she lost in the group stage at Rio 2016) and want to be seeded again.
“Just qualifying for Tokyo is not what I want.
“I want to push for the quarter-finals at least and maybe for the medals.
“It is a really big ask but you never know.
“I am aware I would be one of the underdogs, but it is always exciting to try and push to perform at an Olympics.”
If she does qualify to represent Great Britain at next summer’s showpiece, Gilmour said that Chinese and Japanese players would likely be her biggest hurdles to overcome for a tilt at an Olympic medal next year.
What may help the Scot’s chances is that Spaniard Carolina Marin – 2016 Olympic women’s singles champion – is currently out of competitive action after recently snapping her anterior cruciate ligament and faces a race to regain full fitness.
“Carolina is a two-time Olympic champ,” Gilmour added.
“But no-one is sure how she will be by Tokyo as her fitness is in question.”
Gilmour had reached Sunday’s Orleans final courtesy of wins over Canada’s Brittney Tam and Belgium’s Lianne Tan in the early rounds.
She then beat Swiss player Sabrina Jaquet 21-18 21-16 in the quarter-final and Turk Neslihan Yigit in the semi-final, coming from a game behind to win 23-25 21-17 21-12.
Kawakami proved a bridge too far in the final, although it was still Gilmour’s best competitive run of 2019 so far having previously lost two first rounders in higher level tournaments.
“It was good to get momentum and get on the podium again,” she added.
Gilmour is in action again at this week’s Malaysian Open, when she was due to face a Russian opponent in the women’s singles as we went to press on Tuesday.
“The Russian is a very strong player,” Kirsty said.
“But I’ve had pretty good results against her in the past and I’m looking to make a strong start.”
Motherwell badminton star Alex Dunn was also in action at the Orleans Masters.
He and men’s doubles partner Adam Hall won three rounds before bowing out at the semi-final stage in a loss to eventual champions Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin of South Korea.