THERE is a quiet confidence in Team Shetland as they prepare to fly to Gotland for this year’s NatWest Island Games.
A total of 129 competitors and staff begin their trip to the Swedish island on Wednesday ahead of the biennial games starting in earnest on Saturday (24 June).
Shetland will be represented in eleven sports at the week-long event, including archery, athletics, badminton, cycling, men’s football, golf, gymnastics, shooting, swimming, table tennis and triathlon.
At the last games in Jersey two years ago, Shetland came tenth out of 24 islands in the medal table with six golds, eight silvers and nine bronzes.
They are naturally hoping to better that tally this time around to cap off months of hard work and preparation.
Not part of the swimming team this year is local star Andrea Strachan, who retired from the sport after the 2015 games, where she took her Island Games medal tally to 17.
But the swimmers are one of the largest groups in the Shetland team and historically it has been one of the isles’ main medal hopes.
The smallest team going to Gotland will be the clay shooters, with Pete Davies, John Magnus Laurenson and Darren Leslie on board.
Davies said the low team numbers is partly due to the games only having two shooting events on this year.
He said Shetland, which won two bronzes in shooting in 2015, has a strong team for the skeet competition this year and is confident of landing at least one medal.
“The guys have been training as much as possible, for the last three or four weeks it’s been fairly consistent,” Davies said.
“This year, because of Swedish/Danish government environmental issues, they’re only allowing the use of steel shot, not lead,” he added.
“So that could have an impact, especially on the trap event. The Faroese have been using a steel shot for years, so I’d say they would be one of the contenders.”
Joan’s eighth games
The flag bearer for Shetland this year will be Joan Smith, who will be taking part in her eighth games after making her bow back in 1995.
The PE teacher, who will be competing in the table tennis events, said it will “such a honour” to carry the flag.
Smith hadn’t won any medals at the games until 2013 where she won silver and bronze playing squash in Bermuda.
“Normally in the opening ceremony, I just like to blend in and hide. This time I won’t be able to,” she laughed.
“I love the Island Games, and I love all sports, especially racket games. I want to get better, and I want the Shetland team to do the best that they possibly can. Now that I’m getting a bit older, sometimes I’m just in the team to help the others.”
Shetland Island Games Association secretary Bob Kerr says: “The games are taking place every two years, so it never really stops in terms of planning, it just slows down a little bit after one games has taken place.
“We have been planning our travel to Gotland for 18 months now. We have now reached the point where we are about to leave. It is a bit of a logistical challenges when you have a sports team travelling from one island to another.
“There is a massive commitment from everybody involved in Shetland, from parent and competitors, to everybody training the team and the clubs.
“Our fundraising is something that has been a big part over recent months in the clubs involved. Our overall cost run about to £130,000 to £140,000, that about just over £1,000 per person in terms of travel and accommodation to get to Gotland.”
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