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Meet the homegrown Badminton stars

Team Scotland has announced the squad which will represent the home nation in badminton at Glasgow 2014.

Team Scotland badminton squad. Picture by Nick Ponty
Team Scotland badminton squad. Picture by Nick Ponty

Imogen Bankier, Kirsty Gilmour, Robert Blair, Paul van Rietvelde, Martin Campbell, Patrick MacHugh, Kieran Merrilees, Jillie Cooper, Caitlin Pringle and Rebekka Findlay will be roared on at the Emirates Arena as they hunt down the coveted gold medals across the disciplines from singles to mixed doubles.

Bankier and Gilmour will team up in the woman's doubles event, Blair and van Rietvelde will enter the men's doubles alongside Campbell and MacHugh, van Rietvelde and Cooper will play mixed doubles together, Merrilees and Gilmour will enter their respective singles competitions, and Pringle and Findlay will join the squad for the team event.

Bankier will also again team up with experienced campaigner Blair in Team Scotland's other mixed doubles partnership, and it is a combination which has an interesting story behind it.

From 2001 until 2010, the Edinburgh born-and-bred Blair played international badminton not for Scotland, but the focus of our last blog - England. Indeed, in 2006, he even won Commonwealth Games silver and bronze medals in Melbourne in 2006 for England, as well as a World Championship runner-up medal in the same year. At the time, newspaper speculation and experts' debate speculated upon the reasons for another controversial change of allegiance by Blair after his original decision to represent Scotland's neighbours caused a stir.

Blair attended university at the renowned Loughborough campus in Leicestershire, which influenced his original decision, and despite rising to a career high world number five ranking during his tenure south of the border, he had to start the qualifying process from scratch to make the final cut for Glasgow 2014, his first Games back in a Scotland jersey.

Bankier, like her playing partner for Glasgow 2014, learnt the game in England at the National Badminton Centre in Milton Keynes - the home of English badminton. Despite this, and unlike Blair, she has never represented England at any level, and holds an impressive record of Scottish titles at every age group from under-17s to professional.

On the court, Bankier and Blair, despite reuniting as an on-court partnership fairly recently, have propelled themselves into the world's top 20 with some impressive victories, including this year's Swedish Masters and French International titles and the 2013 Scottish Open Grand Prix, held on the very same court which will host this summer's Commonwealth action.

The pair complements each other well. Both are right handed, and Blair is a tactician on the court, and an excellent reader of the game. He appears to try to be one shot ahead of his opponents as much as possible, anticipating the shuttlecock's destination before it has even flew over the net.

Bankier, though also a fine anticipator of the game, is quick off the mark, constantly alert and relies more on pace to cover the court. She does have an excellent backhand flick serve, and is an accomplished technical player.

The combination of these two skill sets makes it easy to see why the partnership has reaped rewards, and both Bankier and Blair, the rest of Team Scotland, and the packed crowd which is sure to fill the Emirates Arena when any Scot is on court will hope it leads to a place on the podium at the Commonwealth Games.

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