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A very different Kirsty Gilmour will take to the Olympic court in Tokyo in 2021 than Rio in 2016.

The Bellshill native admits she approached her Games debut with a certain naivety, taking a memorable victory over Sabrina Jacquet in her opening Olympic match.

Since then Kirsty has added another Commonwealth Games medal, two World Tour titles and five years of life experience to her locker.

“I’ve been taking of stock of how much older I am as a person and an athlete since Rio, and I’m so much more organised and thoughtful on both accounts,” she said.

“In 2016, I just took things as they came. The benefit of experience is that I can think ahead on things and be proactive on questions I ask and plans I make.

“You don’t realise when you’re having those learning experiences, but it comes through when you’re confronted by the same situation and you respond differently.

“I communicate a lot better with my coaches and the support staff around me now. I used to be a bit of a puppy, whereas now I am a lot more engaged in the process.

“This cycle has felt so much more tight-knit than the last one. We’ve all levelled up in our communication, in my communication and I feel so well taken care of.”

Kirsty was carrying a tear in the meniscus of her knee in the build-up to Rio and feared history repeating itself when she picked up a foot injury in December.

Six months ago she was on crutches after withdrawing from the European Mixed Team Championships, imperilling her Tokyo preparations for a brief moment.

“The injury was a scary one, it was almost a break,” she said.

“I allowed myself to think about the worst case scenario sitting in the corridor of a Portuguese hospital by myself!

“But I always had the confidence to let it heal and get back on track and that I would be at the Games regardless.

“Dare I say, I feel like I’m in the best shape of my career.”

Since the original slot for the Games in summer 2020, Kirsty enjoyed one of the best weeks of her career at the SaarLorLux Open in Germany.

She brought home the Super 100 title, beating world No.1 Carolina Marin in the semi-final and Yvonne Li in the final, and hopes to bottle that feeling for Tokyo.

“That week was a really good week, it was everything that badminton could be,” she said.

“It gave me huge confidence. I do refer back to the videos of my own performance there quite often.

“If I’m having any doubts, or in a bit of a funk, I will watch myself play in that tournament and knowing that kind of badminton can beat the best in the world.”

The best in the world is what Kirsty will face from very start at the Olympics with fourth seed Akane Yamaguchi for company in Group L, alongside Pakistan’s Mahoor Shahzad.

Kirsty hopes her experience of the Games environment, stretching back to the 2010 Commonwealth Games, can propel her to a long run in Japan.

“If I can manage to touch that top game of mine, I’ve got to see how far that can take me,” she said.

“The Games environment has stood me in pretty good stead in the past, so I’m going to look to utilise that and milk all of the advantages of that Village life.

“I don’t like to put a round or a specific label on it, but if I play my best, I’m definitely in with a shout.”

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