KIRSTY Gilmour is in a very rare position for a Scottish athlete in Olympic year; with more than five months to go until the Games begin, the 22-year-old’s seat on the plane to Rio is guaranteed. Well, almost.

Gilmour, from Bothwell, is Britain’s top-ranked women’s singles badminton player by a country mile – she is currently No 9 in the world, a whopping 68 places above her nearest British rival. So while there is only one women’s singles spot available in Team GB this summer, barring any disasters, Gilmour will be making her Olympic debut come August.

The race for a place in Team GB can often be far more nerve-shredding than the Games themselves and so Gilmour is appreciative of just how fortunate she is to not be in such a situation.

“It’s great to have a decent gap in the world rankings – other people are constantly counting ranking points so it’s really nice not to have to stress about that,” she says. “Of course I want to have as high a ranking as possible for the Games but having such a big gap lets me concentrate only on playing. I don’t have to worry about other stuff.”

Gilmour made her first real mark on the international scene when she won silver at Glasgow 2014 and since then, she has consolidated her place in the world’s top 20.

Next week, she will play the German Open before competing in the All England Championships, the badminton calendar’s second-most prestigious tournament of the year. Gilmour has a tough draw in Birmingham – she will be up against Japan’s world No 11, Akane Yamaguchi, who won their only previous meeting.

But the Scot feels that she has improved since they played last June. “It’s a tough draw but the All England is always a hard tournament, whoever you’re up against,” she says. “I’m looking forward to the challenge though – it’s nice to play in such a big arena and it’s got a bit of a home-tournament feel for me.”

It is not an uncommon occurrence for Scotland’s top athletes to move south of the Border to further their career but Gilmour has not followed the trend. She is the only player in the GB programme who is not based at the British training HQ in Milton Keynes but with a support system up in Scotland that is second to none, she is content with her decision to have remained based at the National Badminton Academy in Glasgow.

“GB were pretty keen for me to move down south,” she says. “But I have a lot of reasons for staying up here – the training in Scotland is just as good and I have my coach here.

“I’m very happy with the choice I made to stay in Scotland but I have to say GB have been really accommodating. It’s great they trust my choice to stay up here and I think the results I’m getting are justifying my decision. I like being in Scotland and having a life outside badminton – I think it keeps you sane.”

The one drawback in Scotland for Gilmour is the lack of strength in depth within the female game. Earlier this month, she won her fifth national singles title at a canter and the lack of competition forces Gilmour to do all of her training with men. “I find it quite hard sometimes,” she admits. “The ladies game is becoming more and more like the men’s but it’s still not the same. I feel like what I’m doing is working at the moment, though.”

Gilmour would be delighted to see some of the younger players narrow the gap. With Scotland not even fielding a women’s team at the recent European Team Championships, there is still a distance to go. “It is a little bit concerning that there’s not much depth,” Gilmour says. “There are some glimmers of potential but it’s up to the younger girls to make the decision to really commit to the sport. It is a pity that there’s no women’s team. I got my first cap in that competition six years ago and now we’re not even sending a team.”

Gilmour has a hectic few months ahead with trips to Malaysia, India, Indonesia and Australia. Her schedule offers some distraction from the Olympics but she admits she is unable to prevent herself from focusing on Rio.

“After my run of tournaments is done, most of June and all of July will be for training which I’m looking forward to because I can’t remember the last six-week training block I had,” she says. “Everyone always asks me how I cope with the jet lag but I seem to be OK. And if I keep it in perspective and look at other people’s jobs – this isn’t a bad one. It’s going to be a hectic few months but I’m going to enjoy it.”