Badminton Life

Bankier Misses Out on Beijing

2008 has definitely been a bright year for Scottish badminton and there are definite reasons for fans of the sport to have great optimism for the future.

The return from retirement of Rita Yuan Gao has shown that it is possible to play entertaining and winning badminton at an advanced age and the emergence of Linda Sloan has given great hope for the future. A tremendous performance at the Uber Cup managed to raise the teams profile in international standings and there is a genuine belief that the standard of the game in Scotland is rising sharply.

Along any successful road there are always some detours and deviations and unfortunately, the partnership of Imogen Bankier and Robert Blair, from England, have just narrowly missed out on a place at the Olympic Games. The pair has only been playing together in the Mixed Doubles events for just under a year so their progress has been startling but there is definitely a feeling of what might have been when you come so close to achieving your ambitions.

In all likelihood it was going to be a hard slog for the duo as they needed to overhaul the established partnerships of Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms and Anthony Clark and Donna Kellogg to claim their place in Beijing. Given these two teams long standing relationships and world rankings, it was going to be a tricky proposition but to come so close to the intended goal of reaching the top 16 duos in the world will certainly give hope to the future of the partnership.

There are obviously a huge number of people in the United Kingdom looking forward to the Olympic Games taking place in London in 2012 and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 so there is a lot of forward thinking being placed on these events. The age and fitness levels of Bankier and Blair would suggest there is no reason why they could not aim for success in these events and bring home some gold in the future.

However, these events are a long way away and it is notoriously difficult to predict what will happen in badminton. This time last year there were genuine hopes for Scotland's Susan Hughes to be a contender at the games in Beijing but a disappointing year has put paid to that. The player has slipped to a world ranking of 41 and this has meant she has fallen well short of the requirement needed to make the cut. Even in the Uber Cup, Hughes looked to be below par and certainly not up to her previous levels and it can only be hoped that she regains her form and manages to challenge for honours again.

Even though the Great British team at the Beijing Olympics will be predominantly made up of English players, given the make-up of the population sizes of the countries, this is no surprise at all. With Gail Emms contemplating retirement after the Games, there will be a chance for another partnership to step up and be one of the major British Mixed Doubles pairs and this may offer further hope for Bankier and Blair.

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