Nominee 5 is Diana Koleva who was nominated by Badminton Scotland. Koleva was born in Bulgaria, on 24th October 1959. Koleva is a three-time Olympian who represented her native country, specialising in women’s singles and women’s doubles. She has a Master’s degree in badminton from Sofia University and coached in Switzerland and Cyprus prior to securing the post of National Junior High-Performance Coach for Scotland in 2004. She is currently the National Junior Development Coach in Scotland.

Diana Koleva (second from right) coaching at the European U17 Championships in Prague.

There had been a trend, prior to Koleva´s arrival, for girls to drift away from junior performance programmes, usually saying that they didn’t feel they were really wanted, felt isolated and didn’t enjoy the sessions but Koleva single-handedly, reversed that trend.

Girls did not leave her programme. They grew in confidence as they spent more time in the squad, lost their sense of inferiority to the boys and as a result, they quickly developed their badminton ability.

Anne Smilie, CEO at Badminton Scotland says

-She showed great strength of character in overcoming initial resistance from older coaches and from parents, especially those of girls. She used her own experience as an Olympic athlete to convince parents that a career in elite sport demands a huge amount of work and a carefully managed lifestyle and that this discipline had to be instilled at an early age.

In any organisation, it takes courage and conviction to propose a programme that embraces positive discrimination but Koleva did just that and the athletes justified both her judgement and her belief in them. The athletes in question were Imogen Bankier and Emma Mason, both of whom went on to become members of the British Olympic Programme, the Scottish Team and the Commonwealth Games Team.

Imogen Bankier became the first athlete representing Scotland to reach the final of the World Championships while Kirsty Gilmour also came through the programme and is a double European silver medal winner and recently won the 2017 Scottish Open. All these players have gone through Koleva´s programme.

Throughout her time in Scotland, Koleva has challenged conventional methods and traditional thinking with innovative programmes and structures that she believed would benefit the players and Scotland. Her innovative visions for a new era of Scottish badminton has been realised: she has surpassed the targets set for her.

When asked, how Diana Koleva can be a role model for women in badminton? Anne Smilie added,

- She is a role model for both women and men in the way she approaches her work. She brings energy and enthusiasm to every session, motivating her athletes to see the hard-repetitive work of daily training as something of value, something to be enjoyed and something that brings tangible results in the long term.

- The way in which Diana has stood up for what she believes in and has refused to accept that male counterparts always know better and must be deferred to has been an inspiration to women in badminton and beyond. She is respected by athletes, coaches and officials and she is also admired by the mothers of the girls who have passed through her programmes over the years

The shortlisted nominees from the ‘Badminton for Women’ initiative will automatically be the nominees for the 2017 BEC Badminton for Women Award, which will be awarded at the 6th BEC Awards Gala Night in Dubrovnik, Croatia next year. The award winner is decided from the shortlisted nominees by the BEC Award Panel in cooperation with the Women in Badminton Commission.

For more information, visit our Badminton for Women webpage here