“I think sport is one of the only things that is truly universally unifying. Nothing brings people together like it. Whether it’s supporting your national side or getting behind an unknown underdog, sport has such an emotional impact on people. And I think everyone could use a bit of excitement after a year of being stuck in the house.”

Kirsty Gilmour, Scotland’s top badminton player and double Commonwealth Games medallist, is taking part in her second Olympics. With only six days until the games begin, we got in a quick chat about how she is feeling in the lead up to Tokyo 2020. Two days after her birthday, the (then) 28 year old, from Bellshill will be representing Team GB in Badminton.

Like everything over the past couple of years, it’s been a long while coming. Qualification periods started back in April 2019. A year and a half later, the single biggest thing Kirsty has been dealing with has come to fruition. It’s been difficult for athletes and Olympians alike, but Kirsty has been able to practise in her home-gym and in the car park. Unfortunately, she sustained a pretty bad injury whilst competing in Portugal in December, which set back training for some time.

“I’ve managed to rehab that now and considering I was in crutches six months ago I’m in a very good place physically at this time.” This, on top of having to travel across the world in the middle of a global pandemic… Despite the daunting prospect of everything that comes along with travelling during Covid-19, Gilmour remains optimistic for what is to come: “Team GB think of absolutely everything so I’m confident everything will be taken care of. But to be a part of another Games is an amazing feeling. I always love the multi-sport element of it. Playing ‘what sport do you think they do’ in the athlete village is my favourite.”

Having already competed in Rio in 2016, where she struggled with a foot injury, this only made her even more determined when it came to the European Championships in which she took home Silver in 2016 and 2017, as well as the European Games in 2019 where she also won Silver.

You might remember a couple of weeks ago when I spoke to Dr Fiona Skillen about the history of women in the Olympics and we spoke about how even in recent games there has been a considerably less women competing in the sports. Well guess what? This year is the first ever that Team GB will have more female athletes in the team.

“This is the first time in history that women outnumber men on Team GB and I’m immensely proud to be a part of that. Young girls need to know that being an athlete is a very viable path for them, rather than only having male athlete role models to look up to. Representation is improving but we still have a long way to go financially and in terms of media coverage.” This can only be good news for a new generation of young girls and women who will be inspired and encouraged to get involved in sports and look to perform on the world stage.

To encourage more young people in her local area Kirsty, along with her uncle, David Gilmour and her friend Andrew Gallagher have set up a social enterprise – Badminton Academy Social Enterprise, to create a fun and professional environment for young people to get involved in the sports: “We want it to be a place that’s explicitly inclusive of age, badminton ability, gender, race, sexuality, financial situation. There is already a great interest and we’re inching closer everyday to achieving this plan.”

More information can be found here: https://badminton-base.org/social-mission

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