Born in Longniddry, Robert Blair was too young to be left home alone when his Mum taught after school sport classes at the local Primary School. With Dad at work and despite being the youngest there, Robert went along and quickly become a star with the shuttlecock.
“I played Golf and Tennis in the summer months and Badminton during the winter with my sister and some school friends”, he said. “I ended up being that little bit better at Badminton and I just kept it going.”
Having swapped Longniddry for Loughborough University, Robert started to make money from the sport and after graduating, decided to take up Badminton full time: “I decided to give it a little go for a year before I got a job. Then suddenly 10-12 years later it is still going, I have outlasted all my peers at Loughborough and I definitely never imagined it would be like this.”
While south of the border, Robert made the decision to represent England and took silver in the Mixed Doubles at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games: “When I made that decision it was almost as if it was a short term thing because I never thought I would play for this long. I was happy and I was trying to do well for the country but I admit, it just wasn’t right when it’s not your own country. Of course I tried my hardest, but it will be nice playing here (Glasgow) as I’m actually from here.”
Aged 32 and now back in blue, Robert is reunited with good friend and Mixed Doubles partner Imogen Bankier. The two played together between 2007 and 2010 when they were both based at the Great Britain training centre in Milton Keynes but were reallocated partners when they recovered at different speeds from injury. Spending on average 20 hours together a week, the two lean on each other for support and have a very, “relaxed relationship”, which is tried and tested when travelling to all corners of the globe for various competitions.
With the white and red tracksuit being replaced with the blue and white next summer, Robert is enjoying being back on home soil and is looking forward to Glasgow 2014: “It’s going to be great, with the great demand for tickets I’m really looking forward to the atmosphere. Also, with playing abroad such a lot, my friends and family rarely get to see me play so it’s nice that they can come to a big event and be part of it. Hopefully we can pull it together on the day.”
Just a five minute walk from his doorstep the Emirates Arena hosted the 2013 Scottish Open Grand Prix last week. In the final of the Mixed Doubles, Robert partnered by Imogen defeated the top seeds from England in straight sets (21-16, 21-14), reclaiming the trophy the pair had previously won together back in 2007. Robert also reached the semi-finals of the Men’s Doubles and was subsequently awarded the Robert McCoig Memorial Award for the best performance by a Scot. Robert and Imogen will now aim to replicate their success next summer at Glasgow 2014.
Photo Credit: Badminton Scotland