Kirsty Gilmour: Want to challenge the best players in Tokyo 2020

Kirsty Gilmour is a near certainty to make it to the Tokyo 2020 Games, for which the badminton qualification period ends on April 26.

A regular in the Premier Badminton League (PBL), Kirsty Gilmour, 26, is set to feature for the Chennai Superstarz this year in the tournament, which begins on January 20.

A regular in the Premier Badminton League (PBL), Kirsty Gilmour, 26, is set to feature for the Chennai Superstarz this year in the tournament, which begins on January 20.   -  Twitter/@KirstyGilmourr

Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour is chasing a dream. The starting point to make it to Tokyo 2020 Olympics is in the grasp of the top Scottish badminton player, but the competition thereon, with hundreds sharing the same dream as Gilmour's, will be fierce.

Gilmour, world number 31, is a near certainty to make it to Tokyo 2020, for which the badminton qualification period ends on April 26.

A regular in the Premier Badminton League (PBL), Gilmour, 26, is set to feature for the Chennai Superstarz this year in the tournament, which begins on January 20. She has played for Bengaluru Blasters and Ahmedabad Smash Masters earlier.

Gilmour, who reached a career-best ranking of 14 in 2016, won the Spanish Open in 2014, beating the game's superstar Carolina Marin. She also won the Dutch Open, and bagged medals at the Commonwealth Games and European Games. At the 2016 Malaysian Masters, she lost to India’s P.V. Sindhu in the final.

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Gilmour, who is playing the Indonesia Masters, opened up in an interview with Sportstar.

Coming from Scotland, where Badminton is not a major sport, how hard has your journey has been?

My journey has been difficult. As you say, Badminton is not a major sport in Scotland despite gaining new players all the time. Often, there is a tight budget when it comes to the performance side. This means I often travel alone to tournaments without a coach. So, I become my own coach, team manager and sometimes physio. But we have some players in the squad who are gaining momentum. Hopefully, we can travel together as a small team to the bigger tournaments soon.

How do you rate your performance in 2019?

The start of the (Olympic) Qualification year hasn't been my best. I have been trying to change a few things in my game which has led to indecision. I'm starting fresh in 2020 and getting back to using my instincts. I'm looking to finish the qualification period strong.

Your goals ahead of the Tokyo Olympics?

I am hoping to put myself in a seeding position. I think this will be a tough task as the quality in women's singles is very high right now. But I want to go to Tokyo to compete and challenge the best players, not for fun.

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Who are the favourites to win the Olympic gold according to you?

I think anyone would be crazy to bet against Carolina Marin. Her ability to target and perform at big events is crazy. Her record speaks for itself. I also think An Se Young could be dangerous and P.V. Sindhu also shows good form at major events. But the field is so strong, it's anyone's guess.

What do you think about PBL? Your favourite teammates so far?

I've enjoyed being in the same team as Viktor Axelsen in the last few years. He's fun to be around with but also super professional and focused. I've also been in the same team as Sikki Reddy both times. She's like the mum of the team; always looking out for everyone and making sure things are taken care of.

Your thoughts on being picked by the Chennai Superstarz for PBL 2020?

I'm excited to be a part of Chennai Superstarz... Lots of new faces and a mixed team. Getting back-to- back matches against top players is a huge part of why I play the league. I'm looking forward to the challenge.

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Who is your idol in the sport? Any other role models?

I don't have any specific idols in the sport. I admire a lot of small things in a lot of different players and try to use them as inspiration for my own game. In other sports, I've always said that Andy Murray is a big role model — professional, loves the game and also has fun.

Have you planned for life post-retirement?

Oh, I haven't started thinking about that yet really. I have a couple of ideas. Maybe something more down the line of media as I have a degree in film-making and screenwriting. So, something in that area. Hopefully, I'll be on the court for a few more years. That's the plan anyway.

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