Scottish international badminton player Rita Yuan Gao has been using her studies to help shape the future of the sport in Switzerland.
Yuan Gao combines part-time study of a Master of Philosophy in Sports Studies at the University of Stirling with a coaching role at Swiss Badminton.
The 36-year-old moved to Scotland in 1999 from Hubei in Central China and has gone on to win 13 Scottish national titles and compete at the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
Now based in Zurich, she was recently invited to the Swiss National Coaching Conference to discuss her comparative research into talent identification and player development between China and Great Britain.
This led to her being invited to the World Badminton Team Championships and a request to serve as a Women’s Ambassador for the World Badminton Federation.
Yuan Gao, one of nine badminton players to receive a national student sports scholarship from Winning Students, said: “I hope that my research can take into account the positives involved in badminton in both countries. I hope it benefits many countries around the world and helps them implement more systematic, progressive and structured talent identification and development.
“The World Badminton Federation were particularly interested in my study and an aspect of my job encouraging girls and women to play badminton. It is in its very early stages, but I hope they will be able to help me with my study. In turn, I can help the sport of badminton, which has given me so much as a player and as a coach.”
Yuan Gao retired from full-time badminton in 2006 to embark on a coaching career, but has since returned to playing action, mostly recently representing Scotland at the European Team Championships in February.
The student-athlete is set to compete in the European Senior Championships in September and before then she will finish her literature review whilst continuing to coach in Switzerland.
She credits the University and Winning Students for her ability to take on such diverse roles. “The scholarship programme has supported me, effectively paying most of my tuition fees and reducing the need to take on additional, part-time work. As a result, my studies are progressing much better.”
Winning Students currently supports more than 120 talented athletes across 31 Scottish colleges and universities, providing funding support and academic flexibility. Badminton players are nominated for selection by Badminton Scotland.
Winning Students Winning Students is Scotland’s national sports scholarship programme for student athletes. Managed by the University of Stirling as Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence and funded by the Scottish Funding Council, more than 120 high performance student athletes in member colleges and universities across the country are supported with scholarships of up to £5,500 each year.