Badminton: Neighbours spell out their Glasgow 2014 hopes

The Scotland badminton team with Robert Blair left and Paul Van Rietvelde right. Jillie Cooper is third left and Martin Campbell is next to Van Rietvelde. Pic: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire.
The Scotland badminton team with Robert Blair left and Paul Van Rietvelde right. Jillie Cooper is third left and Martin Campbell is next to Van Rietvelde. Pic: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire.
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Robert Blair and Paul Van Rietvelde’s families live just streets apart in Longniddry. In two months’ time, the East Lothian badminton pair will be playing together for Team Scotland in the men’s doubles at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

There’s another odd coincidence. They were both born on August 7 – Blair in 1981 and Van Rietvelde ten years later.

“It is amazing,” admitted Van Rietvelde. “Robert’s Mum, Irene, was my original coach and so I always looked up to him.

“It was also quite funny at times. Whenever I won a trophy and proudly came back and showed it off to Irene she would point out that Robert’s name was on it before me. It’s going to be great to play alongside him at this year’s Games. He has so much experience.

“And the fact that we both come from Longniddry and lived just three streets apart does make it extra special.”

Van Rietvelde played as a teenager at the Delhi Games in 2010 – but he is a far different man today. He is now a member of the GB programme based in Milton Keynes and at the selection launch in Glasgow he was sporting today’s in fashion of a full beard.

By contrast, 32-year-old Blair has no facial hair and is shaven headed. But they make a great duo and will be a key member in Scotland’s quest for a team medal.

Blair recalls first becoming aware of Van Retvelde. “He was a promsing little, lad,” remembered the 2014 Olympian. “To see him go on and do so well is really great.

“It is strange how a little place like Longniddry has got two players in the team.”

Blair and Van Rietvelde are joined by another two Lothian players – Jillie Cooper and Martin Campbell – in the squad of ten that will be gunning for medals in both the team and individual events.

Cooper was in the 2010 squad, while Campbell is one of the team newcomer and will partner Kinross youngster Patrick MacHugh in the men’s doubles. Kirsty Gilmour will be the main singles medal hope, and the world No.18 has just two Indian players ahead of her in the rankings.

Blair and Imogen Bankier, the 2012 Olympian, will also figure in the medal hunt in the mixed. They have climbed into the world’s top 15 and can hold their own with the very best in the world.