For every highlight that professional athletes enjoy there have been many more hardships endured along the way.

Losing or falling short of expectations is the biggest disappointment but loss of form and injury are other aspects that test the resolve of even the toughest of competitors.

Perhaps the most mindless, but often most wounding, of blows comes in the shape of criticism. And in the social media era that usually means online trolls, anonymous cowards hiding behind a keyboard.

Kirsty Gilmour admits it often cuts her deep. Scotland’s leading badminton player revealed that checking her Instagram account in the aftermath of a defeat – when she is already beating herself up – can be a painful experience.

The abuse in the comments is rarely personal but comes from gamblers who have taken a punt on Gilmour to win and have been left out of pocket. The 29 year-old knows she should be able to brush it off and feel sorry for those with nothing better to do with their lives but, at a moment when her self worth is already low after a defeat, it can often exacerbate existing anguish.

“Sometimes you just read it at the perfectly wrong time and it really hits you square in the chest,” she admits. “And your visceral reaction is just to want to have a go back at them. And other times you read the comments and they are actually hilarious. One of my favourite ones was so short and sweet. The person just wrote “retire”!

“It’s just people who are betting. Maybe you’ve had a lead against someone who’s highly ranked and then they’ve come back and so the odds have gone up in your favour. So the abuse never comes from someone who is a fan of badminton and has watched the game. They’ve just put a bet on points-wise and not won their bet.

“When you’ve lost a game you’re usually already beating yourself up so you don’t need someone else piling in on top. You do a debrief with your coach and then you go on Instagram a few hours after you’re finished playing. And the comments sometimes hurt. It shouldn’t as I don’t know these people. It’s all just gambling and money-related.”

Gilmour has been openly out as a gay athlete for a few years now but says none of the online abuse has been homophobic in nature.

“It’s never anything like that. I’ve had death threats but I’ve never had any homophobic abuse which makes me think they have no idea about badminton or who they’re addressing.

“They’ve no idea about the person. It’s all about numbers on a screen. I can’t bring to mind any abuse that was from a woman, it’s all been men. It can cut you deep but after a while you see it objectively and often see the funny side. But it’s not something we as athletes should have to deal with.”

There has also been some physical pain to endure over the past year after scans diagnosed Gilmour with spondylosis, a type of arthritis affecting her back. Massages and physio have helped make it more manageable but it is likely to bother her for the rest of her life.

“I’m still doing core rehab around that area,” she adds. “It’s going to be longer term in terms of my life but in terms of my badminton I think I’m pretty much over it and back to normal now. Just a couple of bits of stiffness but a lot of that was just down to the cold. We’re keeping other things at bay, touch wood. We’re feeling alright.”

Among her many highlights of 2022, the chance to carry the Team Scotland flag ahead of her fourth Commonwealth Games appearance was right up there.

“That’s got to be a career highlight as it’s not something you can plan for,” she says. “You can’t put it on a list and hope to check it off. It just got sprung upon me and was really nice in terms of my journey with Team Scotland through the Commonwealth Games. That’s played a massive part in my career. It was voted on by the other athletes and just a lovely thing to get to do.”

After a short break over Christmas, Gilmour is preparing for another hectic year that starts with tournaments in Malaysia and then India. But she used her recent stay back home to lend her support to BASE (Badminton Academy Social Enterprise), the organisation she co-founded to grow the sport at grassroots level. Plans to make their base in East Kilbride remain in the pipeline.

“We’re at the super early stages with that but that would be a lovely little centre for us,” she added. “We want to be a totally integrated part of the community and are just looking to add badminton to the curriculum. There’s a long way to go with any Community Asset Transfer but we’re starting it just now and we’ll see how it goes. I’m trying to dip in as much as I can whenever I’m around.”