Glasgow 2014: Spirit of ’86 lifts badminton squad

Jillie Cooper is raring 'to go
Jillie Cooper is raring 'to go
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Lothians players Jillie Cooper, Martin Campbell, Robert Blair and Paul Van Rietvelde are hoping to resurrect memories of Edinburgh 1986 when they line up for Scotland in the badminton events at The Emirates Arena.

The shuttlecock sport was one of the standout attractions at Meadowbank – Dan Travers and Billy Gilliland won gold in the men’s doubles and Gilliland and Edinburgh’s Christine Heatly picked up a bronze in the mixed.

Scotland also came close to a team medal – only a crunching knee injury to Alison Fulton ended the dream. This time, Heatly is still involved as the team manager in what will be her third time in the role, she said: “It’s amazing and a great honour to be asked to be team manager again. To be in charge at a home Games will be slightly different and it should be a super event.”

Blair and his Glasgow partner, Imogen Bankier, will be the leading home hopes in the mixed doubles – and they will be aiming to repeat their victory in the Scottish International Championships at The Emirates Arena last November.

A former world top-ten couple, they are both former world championship medallists and have competed at Olympic Games so they have the ability, experience and talent to claim a medal.

For Blair, Glasgow will be extra special. Having moved to Loughborough University as a teenager, he switched to represent England on residential grounds – but came back in 2010.

Having earned three Scottish caps between 1999-2000, he finally added to the tally at last year’s Sudirman Cup. “The first time back playing for Scotland was just amazing,” he now reflects.

A silver medallist for England in Melbourne eight years ago, the Glasgow Games are going to be extra special for Blair. “When I played for England I was always wishing I was wearing a Scotland shirt.”

Edinburgh’s Campbell makes his Games debut alongside Patrick MacHugh in the men’s doubles, while Van Rietvelde and Blair, both from Longniddry, team up in the same event.

Van Rietvelde and Edinburgh’s Cooper are in the mixed. For Cooper, it is Games No.2 and she admits Glasgow 2014 is very different from Delhi in 2010.

“There’s been a much bigger build-up,” said the 26-year-old. “Last time I was quite young but this time I am more experienced and know what to expect.

“But it is also a bit weird having a home Games and not having to fly to get there. There are huge benefits in that we will be accustomed to the food, the weather and the majority of the crowd will be on our side.”

Immediately before the Delhi Games press coverage concentrated on the negatives, most notably the rush to make the competitors’ village habitable.

“This time has been completely different,” Cooper was quick to point out. “Everything is so positive and all the facilities are ready.”