Sports Review of the Year - Champions in the making serve up net gains for Scottish sport

1st January 2010 at 00:00
With some outstanding achievements throughout 2009, up-and-coming young hopefuls have shown that future prospects are looking good


Kirsty Gilmour - Glasgow School of Sport at Bellahouston Academy

Kirsty, 16, made a big impact at the UK School Games in Cardiff in the summer, when she won the girls' singles title.

She has come through the ranks and won Scottish national titles at under-13, under-15, under-17 and under-19 in singles and doubles. A member of the Glasgow School of Sport, she trains 12 hours a week and works under former Scotland international Craig Robertson at the school.

Kirsty took up the sport at the age of five, through the influence of her father Brian and her uncle David (Gilmour), who was a world-class badminton talent. She has also gained notable results on foreign courts, finishing runner-up at last year's Belgian Open and winning the Langenfeld Cup in Germany early this season. She is tipped as one of Scotland's main hopes at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.


Erin McGarrachan - St Maurice's High, North Lanarkshire

The 17-year-old Scotland junior international will take up a scholarship with an American first division college, University of Texas El Paso, next year. A Central Scotland Institute of Sport athlete, she has been a member of basketballscotland's elite programme for over 18 months.

Erin took up the sport less than five years ago, after playing volleyball and showing promise as an 800m runner. She plays club basketball with Glasgow Rocks at junior and senior level and has ambitions to play in the women's NBA in America. She takes up a four-year scholarship next August and hopes to include French and economics as part of her course.

Donna Finnie, coach to the Scotland junior team, says: "The work that has been done with the institute has proved invaluable, as Erin has really developed her strength on court and made a big impact when we toured the US with the Scotland junior squad last summer."


Alex Dickenson - Kelvinside Academy, Glasgow

Sixteen-year-old Alex took up volleyball with East Lothian Falcons junior club before moving to Glasgow with her family. She made her Scottish League debut this year with the highly successful Su Ragazzi club, which expects to be challenging for the league title this season, and quickly established herself in the starting six.

Alex played for West of Scotland at the UK School Games in Cardiff last summer, where she was also in the starting six, and has since been promoted to the Scotland junior team.

"She is a very good prospect," says Tommy Dowens, the Scottish Volleyball Association's director of coaching. "She is bright, has a natural talent for understanding hitting tactics, is fiercely competitive, and extremely committed to the process of development. I think she can make the grade at the highest level, and in a year's time, when she gets stronger, she will be one of the top players in the country."


Emma Atkinson - Inverness Royal Academy

Emma has been competing seriously for less than two years. In her first season, she finished second in the Scottish Championships and has been working closely with Chris Ball, Scottish Cycling's downhill coach, to improve further.

The 17-year-old was chosen for the Highland Institute of Sport, which has provided back-up for her training programme. This proved invaluable when she broke her left arm in practice earlier this year, after representing Great Britain at a World Cup race in Slovenia, and had to spend six months in rehabilitation.

"They gave me a physio who does a lot of cycling himself, so he knew all about the range of movement I needed," she explains.

Emma returned to competitive racing in November in Slovenia, where she qualified for the finals in 15th place and went on to finish a respectable 19th overall. Had there been a junior age category, she would have finished second.


Stephen Tonge - Denny High, Falkirk

Stephen, 12, won a bronze medal at the British Championships earlier this year on the high bar and finished 15th overall at the event in his age group. Coached by Andrew Webb at the Falkirk Club, he was one of the youngest members of the Central Scotland Institute of Sport when he joined at the age of 11 last January.

He helped the Scottish team win gold at the Celtic Cup under-13 event in Perth (against Wales, Ireland and Northern Ireland) last April, as well as winning an individual gold medal. He is one of 26 gymnasts in the British Performance squad, where he has earned the nickname "the terrier" for his attitude to his sport.

"I began gymnastics when I was in nursery as a four-year-old," he says. "I enjoyed it from the start and have been doing it ever since. I train six days a week, for three to seven hours a day."


Scott Barton - Knightswood Secondary, Glasgow

A member of British League champions Drumchapel, Scott has played for the club in the West of Scotland and British leagues. Still 14, he has been Scottish number one at under-15 level for the past two seasons and is a member of the Scotland national squad. Now ranked top at cadet level in Scotland (under-14), he is also ranked number five at junior level and number 16 at senior level.

This season, Scott reached the final of two British international competitions, the British Six Nations in Wales and the British Schools International in Largs, where he eventually lost 3-1 to Zak Zilesnick, the top seed from England. He is the first Scottish player to achieve this since Gavin Rumgay, the current Scottish national number one, 10 years ago. He travelled to the Newcastle Grand Prix in October and lost narrowly to Frenchman Wilson Huart 3-2.

Scott trains with the national squad four or five times a week in Glasgow and has a strong chance of being in the Scotland squad for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.


Aidan Black - Glasgow School of Sport at Bellahouston Academy

Sixteen-year-old Aidan is a member of Clydesdale Hockey club and has competed for Scotland at the under-16 Home Nations and under-18 European Championships in 2009. His potential was evident when he was included in the Scotland under-21 squad for a trip to London last August.

His long-term target is to make Scotland's team for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, but before that he hopes to make the squad for next year's European under-21 Championships and the European under-18 Championships in 2011.

Scotland's under-18 men's coach Kevin McNab says: "Aidan is the rough diamond that could go all the way to the top. He is progressing steadily through the squads and his selection to go down to London with the under-21 squad in August showed his development is really pushing forward.

"His greatest strength is his willingness to give 100 per cent every time he gets onto the pitch, whether it be for training or for games. If he continues this rate of progress, he'll be in a senior strip in a few years' time."


Corrie Scott - Strathaven Academy, South Lanarkshire

Corrie was selected for the Great Britain team at this year's European Junior Championships in Prague and is one of a batch of promising young swimmers coming through in Scotland.

At the Scottish National Age Groups Championships, she took the title for the 100m breaststroke and 200m individual medley events (15 years category). She also broke the Scottish age-group records for 50m and 100m breaststroke (15 years). And she faces a big year in 2010.

"She has massive potential," says her coach, Andy Figgins. "The last year has been one of ups and downs, due to health issues, but she has come on really strongly in the last four weeks or so.

"Corrie has an unbelievable work ethic - she's a fantastic worker with a great attitude to her sport. Everything you ask of her she takes on board and she's a really good racer. You don't like to put any pressure on swimmers, but her main target in 2010 is to get on the Commonwealth Games squad."


Maia Lumsden - Bearsden Academy, East Dunbartonshire

At just 11, Maia is regarded as an outstanding future prospect.

She won the UK under-10 title in 2008, was ranked in the top 10 in her age group and has built on that success in 2009.

She is a GB international in her age group and reached the semi-finals of the girls' under-12 event at a tournament in Funchal, Madeira, back in March and the last eight of the prestigious Gradignan tournament in France in October, also at under-12 level.

In her first major European tournament in 2008, she reached the final of the Smrivka Bowl in Pula, Croatia, which is widely regarded as the top under-10 tournament in the world.

Maia comes from a strong tennis family, with brother Ewen, 9, and sister Eve, 8, both set to follow in her footsteps.

Coach Toby Smith, who works with her at the David Lloyd Tennis Academy, says: "Maia is looking like a very exciting talent for the future. Nothing seems to upset her. She has a lot of determination and focus."


Jack Leask - George Heriot's School, Edinburgh

Jack is part of the GB Pathways programme, having shown he has the physical ability and potential to compete at future Olympic Games and World Championships. The 16-year-old, who is 6ft 4in tall, took up rowing in third year at school after arthritis in his ankles forced him to give up rugby.

A member of the East Institute of Sport, he won a bronze medal at the National Schools' Regatta in single sculls in Nottingham last May and also "medalled" for Scotland at the Home Internationals, where he finished third in the double sculls and fourth in the eights.

The highlight of Jack's year was representing Great Britain at the under-16 international against France in Cardiff, where he won at single sculls and quads.

The fifth-year pupil has ambitions to compete one day at the Olympics, but knows it requires a huge commitment.

Every Saturday and Sunday, Jack has to wake up at 5am to travel to Glasgow for training on the River Clyde with the world-class programme.

The target for him in 2010 is to compete for GB at the World Junior Championships.

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