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Badminton: Van Rietvelde quick to dismiss talk of an anti-Scottish bias

All recent stories regarding Scottish players and the Great Britain badminton programme have involved their departure from the training headquarters at Milton Keynes.

Robert Blair led the way and Imogen Bankier followed suit as Scotland's top players struggled to adapt to relocation down south. There is, one success story, though. Paul Van Rietvelde has been based in England for more than 18 months and has emerged as Scotland's leading men's doubles player.

At the Scottish International Championships in Glasgow's sparkling new Emirates Arena, he continues his fledgling partnership with the Englishman, Marcus Ellis, and the pair are showing considerable promise. At only a year old, the partnership is still fairly new; but after a stuttering start, they appear to be gelling well.

Van Rietvelde, 21, has long been touted as a player with potential but is only now beginning to realise it. "I think that I'm still going through the transition from junior to senior," he said. "When I started playing with Marcus, I really felt that I was the junior player in the partnership but now it's becoming a bit more equal."

Van Rietvelde and Ellis, the No.4 seeds, opened their campaign at the Emirates Arena with a win against Van Rietvelde's compatriots Martin Campbell and Patrick MacHugh but will face a much stiffer test tonight in a rematch against Polish pair Adam Cwalina and Premyslaw Wacha, who beat them in the Dutch Open last month.

Van Rietvelde's Milton Keynes experience has, thus far, been almost entirely positive. "I really enjoy training there; there's a really strong group of players and I feel that the depth in the quality of players is pushing me to improve," he said.

Since the inception of the GB programme, there has been murmurings of anti-Scottish bias but Van Rietvelde has seen no evidence of it. "I feel I'm treated exactly the same as all the English players; I've never felt that there has been any bias against me. I definitely think that they want the best for me."

This may be, in part, because Van Rietvelde has improved to a level whereby he has put himself outwith the reach of any discrimination. He is one of the best young men's doubles players in Britain and has been rewarded with a first trip to Asia in January for the top-tier Korean and Malaysian Super Series tournaments. While it may be optimistic to expect him to make any significant impact at that level yet, it is an important step in his long-term development.

With Ellis, Van Rietvelde's sights are firmly set on qualification for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio but, before that, there is the small matter of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014. Van Rietvelde will split with Ellis for that event, and team up with a Scottish partner, although who that will be has still to be determined.

This, however, does not concern Van Rietvelde. "I'm just focusing on improving as a player," he said. "All I can concentrate on is my development and let the partnerships sort themselves out. I'd like to think that, by 2014, I'll be at a level where I'd be looking to compete for medals."

Van Rietvelde acknowledges with a refreshing air how lucky he is to be a full-time athlete. The pressures of being a professional athlete can result in a loss of appreciation of your situation, but the young Scot's enthusiasm hasn't dulled in the slightest. "It's so important to enjoy it and I really do. I know that I'm so lucky to have this opportunity."

It's an attitude that could take Van Rietvelde a long way.

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