South American sabbatical is next for Jillie Cooper

Jillie Cooper says the 'atmosphere at Glasgow 2014 was very special
Jillie Cooper says the 'atmosphere at Glasgow 2014 was very special
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After seven years at the very top of badminton, Edinburgh’s Jillie Cooper has announced her retirement from the sport.

Instead of competing in next month’s Scottish Open Grand Prix in Glasgow, she will be in South America enjoying a well-earned break.

Holder of 39 caps, there were many career highlights for the 26-year-old. Two Commonwealth Games, a victory in women’s doubles in the 2008 Scottish Open and numerous Scottish National titles.

But the undoubted high spot was Glasgow 2014. “Playing in front of friends and family in the Commonwealth Games was the perfect end to my career,” she said. “Walking out at the opening ceremony at Celtic Park was something I will never forget and standing in the tunnel and then going out to the noise of the crowd at the Emirates Arena in every match was also very special.

“After Glasgow I took time to reflect and I came to the conclusion that I had done everything I possibly could in badminton. It’s too long to wait for the next Games and the Olympics is touch and go. I decided it was time to move on.

“I am really happy and proud of my record. I’ve won everything in Scotland and finishing fourth in the Uber Cup in 2008 and helping Scotland finish top of Group two in last year’s Sudirman Cup are among my proudest international achievements.”

Cooper, who went to Buckstone Primary and Boroughmuir High, is also thrilled to have attained a BSc degree from the Open University. “I graduated in July and I am the first person in my family to get a degree so that’s something else that makes me very proud,” she added.

“It is amazing when I think of my badminton career. I only started playing because I wanted to be better than my brothers. It was my mission to be beat them. We got lessons at Buckstone Primary from Susan Campbell [aunt of 2014 Games colleague Martin Campbell].”

So what next for Cooper? “I want to travel and I’m off to South America at the start of November. I hope to work out there and I also want to learn Spanish. Just something completely different.”

During recent times, she has also put something back into badminton. She worked with the Winning Scotland Foundation as part of the Champions in Schools project and also the schools related Game on Scotland scheme run in conjunction with the build-up to Glasgow 2014.

“I also was involved with the Dame Kelly Holmes Foundation working with underprivileged teenagers,” she continued. “She was one of my heroes so meeting her was very special.”

During her career, Cooper had to overcome two foot operations – the most recent in summer 2013 that put her Glasgow 2014 dream into jeopardy. So learning to overcome adversary is another legacy of her sporting career. “I’m sad to leave badminton behind, but we’ll see what happens in the future,” she said. “I’ve had a great time in the sport.”

Anne Smillie, the Chief Executive of BADMINTONscotland, paid tribute to the Capital star. “Jillie was always a player who gave 100 per cent,” she said. “I am sorry she as decided to retire at such a young age, but she can look back with great satisfaction.”