TUESDAY proved to be a hugely successful day for Team Shetland down in Jersey. Claire Wilson scooped a gold medal in the steeplechase, there were silvers for runner Emma Leask and swimmer Andrea Strachan, and a thumping 5-0 win over the Falklands took the men’s football side through to the semi-finals.
Wilson, who now lives in Jersey, was only drafted in to compete in the 3000-metre steeplechase at short notice to ensure the event could take place.
She’d never competed in the event before, but a time of 11:16.74 outpaced second-placed Faroese athlete Bjork Herup Olsen.
There was more NatWest Island Games track success, too, for Leask as she won silver in the women’s 400 metres.
And as temperatures in the Channel Islands soared above 30C, the footballers continued their terrific form with a hat-trick from Shane Jamieson inspiring a five-goal triumph over their South Atlantic opponents.
The other goals came from captain Leighton Flaws – his fourth in two games – and Erik Thomson. With group rivals the Isle of Wight only winning 3-1 over Hitra, it means Shetland topped Group C on goal difference.
After a rest day on Wednesday, the blues will face another of the group winners, the Isle of Man, in a semi final at the Springfield Stadium on Thursday, with kick-off at 6pm. The other semi final sees Guernsey take on Menorca ahead of the final on Friday.
Speaking about her success, Wilson said: “It feels great to be a part of the first ever ladies’ steeplechase and run so well. I knew I had to listen to my body and run my own race, as it was my first time running a chase race.
“I planned to make my move at four laps, as I felt strong, and just focused on maintaining my speed. I did fall at the fifth waterjump but didn’t let it affect me. It was very special running for Shetland again.”
Wilson paid special thanks to Ian Williamson, who has coached several of the athletes competing in Jersey, adding: “We all miss him down here.”
Swimmer Strachan added a silver to her 50m breaststroke gold, a time of 2:17.43 in the 200m individual medley just over a second faster than Faroe’s Sara Nysted and not too far off gold medallist Charlotte Atkinson of the Isle of Man.
On Tuesday afternoon, shooter John Magnus Laurenson claimed his second medal of the week, a bronze in the individual Olympic skeet event.
It takes Shetland’s overall medal tally for the week to three gold, four silver and six bronze, leaving them nicely placed in ninth out of the 24 islands taking part in Jersey.
Team Shetland secretary Bob Kerr said that, with “stifling” temperatures of 32 degrees on Tuesday, it was possibly as hot as Jersey has been in two decades. It is hoped temperatures will drop to the low/mid 20s for the remainder of the week.
“We’ve been here since Thursday so the guys have had five or six days to acclimatise, which is good,” he said. “It takes about a week for your body to start to adjust and adapt to the heat, but it is just stifling.
“Our cyclists were in the road race this morning and found it really hard going, and the badminton players have been basically playing in an oven with searing temperatures indoors and very limited airflow.”
Speaking to Shetland News as he left the athletics track at sunset, Kerr said he had just seen Claire Wilson departing on her moped with a Shetland top and a gold medal around her neck.
“She’s had a fantastic night and she’s just delighted about things,” he said.
Kerr said Claire’s teammate Emma Leask was “very pleased” with her 400 metres silver – and she still has the 800 metres to defend, an event in which she is defending the gold medal she won at consecutive games in Aland, the Isle of Wight and Bermuda.
He said the footballers had also enjoyed a “fantastic” result, adding to yesterday’s fine win over Hitra and Sunday’s draw with the Isle of Wight.
Organisationally, Kerr said all of the events had been run very well and Team Shetland was “really happy with the organisation and everything Jersey are doing”.
“The one thing no-one can do anything about is the heat,” he said. “It’s welcome after the summer, in inverted commas, that we’ve had in Shetland, but it’s really hard work for a lot of the islands from the north, and it obviously favours perhaps some of the Meditteranean and Caribbean islands more used to these temperatures.”
While the athletes, footballers and golfers were competing in the blazing sun, Kerr said you also “have to spare a thought for our badminton guys – apparently it was 40 degrees in the badminton hall and there wasn’t much they could do to air condition it because the drafts have an effect on the shuttlecocks”.
There are three more days of competition prior to Friday evening’s closing ceremony.