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BADMINTON: Bankier eager for the chance of redemption after an Olympics to forget

For most, London's Olympic Games were an occasion to embrace and savour.

Imogen Bankier celebrates her selection to represent Scotland   Photograph: Nick Ponty
Imogen Bankier celebrates her selection to represent Scotland Photograph: Nick Ponty

For Imogen Bankier, the experience proved so dissatisfying that she felt compelled to flee. Defeated in the opening round of badminton's mixed doubles, the Athletes Village was no place to nurse her wounds. Her native Glasgow provided safe refuge and rehabilitation after her long-held dreams turned to dust.

"I wanted to be proud of being an Olympian," Bankier says, two years on. "It was so difficult as I was so disappointed. I had a week back in Scotland trying to forget about it and carry on with my life."

Fortuitously, she says, there is always one more peak to climb. Confirmed last week in Scotland's team for the Commonwealth Games, the 26-year-old has a chance for redemption. Selected for the singles and both doubles competitions, she is among a select group with ambitions to secure a medal, having claimed two mixed titles this season with partner Robert Blair. Expectations from the public, she acknowledges, can already be felt. "But for a lot of the athletes the greatest pressure is what you put on yourself," she says. "Everyone is willing you to do well. I think that's what I've learned from London and I've tried to alleviate that pressure, tried to have a good season and focus on the milestones leading up to the Games, not just pinning everything on that one tournament."

Still, these Games will mean so much, she concedes, and to be in her home city, in familiar settings, brings a host's responsibility. "I want people to come and have a great experience and for them to be wowed by the venues," says Bankier, who has embraced her role as one of the faces of Glasgow, re-locating from British Badminton's base in Milton Keynes for the past 12 months so she might soak up the buzz and hubris.

"It's nice to be a part of the build-up," she says. "To be in the city as it's grown and been regenerated. I've really enjoyed seeing the venues come to life. I can see others might want to be separate from that and focus on the Games but I've enjoyed it. Being here has allowed me to practise with my Scottish partners and get a taste for the venue too."

Post-Commonwealths, Bankier may return south to prepare for Rio 2016. Nothing is set in stone. Better, she knows, to leave with her name immortalised by a triumph than to slip anonymously away. "This time round I feel we're in a better position," she says. "We have solid evidence we're competing at a level that could perhaps put us on the podium. The home crowd can never be underestimated so both things come into play."

Providing they have tickets, you'd add, if the gremlins in the system are ever banished. Bankier has her own list of must-sees, starting with hockey at Glasgow Green. "I've not been there yet. Hampden for the athletics, squash at Scotstoun. The cycling too because I've never seen it live."

Ideally there will only be time for badminton, she acknowledges, with no reason to abscond.

Mark Woods

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