AFTER assuming a new role as an ambassador for badminton’s World Championships, Judy Murray wasted no time in getting to work yesterday by calling for increased backing for the host nation’s leading player.
The competition will take place in Glasgow in August when Commonwealth and European women’s singles silver medalist Kirsty Gilmour will be back in action at The Emirates Arena, scene of her proudest moment when she reached the final at Glasgow 2014 in front of friends, family and home support.
In spite of her successes in the international arena Gilmour, who returned after a six month post-Olympic, injury-enforced lay-off to win last month’s Austrian Open, recently lost her main source of funding as a result of the GB Badminton elite programme’s removal from the list of sports backed by UK Sport. However, the woman who has raised two world number one tennis players wants the Scottish sport community to rally round and support Gilmour.
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“She is world-class and a potential top-five player,” Murray said of the 23-year-old, who last year reached number 14 in the world rankings.
“Funding needs to come from private sponsors, governing bodies, even the sport itself could organise a lot of fundraising events. There would be a lot of badminton players in Scotland who would be happy to do their own bit of fundraising to help one of our own athletes to have the chance to become the best in the world.
“We have to be ambitious and we have to give the backing where it’s required and I think in this situation it is totally and utterly justified, so I hope that somebody will step forward and give Kirsty the support she needs to get her where she’s destined to go to.”
Murray drew upon her own experience, noting that whereas Andy and Jamie are now two of the hottest properties in sport, it was rather different when they were initially seeking to establish themselves in what was then considered a minority sport in Scotland.
“I certainly found when the boys were going through and I was asking for more help in terms of finance and resources, it was very difficult to get firms to invest in potential because it was a risk when we had no track record in tennis and at that stage you’ve got nothing to give in return,” she said.
“It would be nice to see more Scottish firms stepping up and putting some backing behind our top sports people. I do believe that what Jamie and Andy have done in getting to number one in a global sport like tennis is absolute evidence that anything is possible. If you can do it in tennis in Scotland, surely we can do it in badminton.”
The best evidence of Gilmour’s potential was provided three years ago when, shortly before Carolina Marin became world No 1 for the first time, she defeated the Spaniard in the final of her home tournament, the Spanish Open.
“We have to be ambitious for Kirsty. She is No 14 in the world and she is so close. She has everything you would need,” said Murray. “I would go out on a limb and say OK, so maybe we haven’t had an Olympic gold medalist in badminton or world No 1, but why shouldn’t we?”