THE travelling athlete has always had a lot to contend with beyond the sphere of competition itself.
Whether they would be allowed to return home after their event, however, was never an issue they had to consider. Until now.
Life under lockdown has presented difficulties for people from all walks of life and Adam Hall, one of Scotland’s leading badminton players, is savvy enough to appreciate he is one of the fortunate ones still able to train daily and live a quasi-normal working life.
The Paisley-based athlete is currently in Finland, part of a 10-strong Scotland squad set to take part in this week’s European Mixed Teams championship.
Confusion over the new hotel quarantine guidelines and whether professional badminton players qualify for the same elite exemption status as those in football and rugby upon their return to the country meant Hall did not know if he was packing for a week-long stay or a month.
Speaking just prior to his departure, the doubles specialist was working along the guidelines that they would be allowed back home but acknowledged it was a very fluid situation.
“We’ve had a stressful few days with the new restrictions coming in,” admitted the 25 year-old. “Badminton Scotland wouldn’t be able to afford a £28,000 hotel bill at the end of the trip. So for a while we were wondering if we were going to have to stay on the road for a month or longer because we potentially have tournaments coming up in Switzerland, Germany and England after this one and, if we couldn’t afford to quarantine, we would just have to go from one to the next.
“But I think it’s just about being very careful when you’re away and not abusing that privilege. Badminton Scotland hasn’t recorded a single coronavirus case since the pandemic began so we’ve been doing a good job with our protocols.
“Hopefully that shows the government we can be trusted to behave when we’re away competing. It’s not like we’re not going to Dubai for a jolly!”
Scotland emerged from a qualification group in December that included Spain, Ukraine and Latvia to book their place in the eight-team finals.
And even without leading light Kirsty Gilmour and Hall’s men’s doubles partner, Alex Dunn – both injured – Hall is hoping for a decent showing.
“This is the first time we’ve qualified for the finals since we’ve had to qualify,” he added. “It used to be in the past that it was 16 or 20 teams but now it’s been condensed down to eight. The fact that we’re now one of the top eight teams in Europe is a really positive development.
“Kirsty is a big loss, in particular, with all her experience and she’s our best player. So it will be interesting to see how the younger girls step up. But we’re not going there just to make up the numbers. We’ll go there looking to cause an upset.”
Hall gained a new-found appreciation for his sport during early lockdown. Unable to train initially, a situation exacerbated by injury, the chance to move at a slower pace and spend some time back at the family home in Mauchline came as a much-needed tonic.
But it also made him realise how much he missed playing badminton.
“Last year I played in five tournaments in total, probably the lowest amount since I was nine,” he said. “But it was good to get a break. I’ve been on the international circuit for seven years now so it gave me the chance to reset a little. We are so used to being away so to get a chance to relax at home rather than travelling every other week was nice.
“There isn’t really an off-season in badminton so it’s usually pretty full-on. So if there’s been any benefit to all of this it’s been that chance to go at a bit of a slower pace.
“Initially I was just in my flat doing a lot of baking! And then I went back to my parents for the summer, spent some time with the dog and just relaxed.
“But the break made me realise how much I missed it. I think everyone came back to training in July with a new sense of perspective.”
Even then there was one major difficulty for a doubles specialist to have to deal with over the summer.
“We got back in when the rules were still really strict. We could only have six in the hall and two to a court. So we couldn’t play doubles for the first few months.
“That was a bit of a nightmare. We were happy to be back in but the novelty did wear off after a while for us doubles guys. It did remind me why I don’t play singles!
“But now we are getting to train almost as much as we could pre-Covid. I know a lot of other athletes who have not been able to compete or train for almost a year so we have to appreciate what we have.”