GOTLAND GAMES – 26 medals from Sweden

The 17th Island Games were hosted this year in Gotland, Sweden, at the end of June. This was the second time that the island has hosted the games, the first being in 1999. The main venue was the Gutavallen stadium in Visby. A total of 23 islands took part in the games this year including Gibraltar and saw some 3000 athletes participating. When all the excitement was over and our athletes returned home, I had an opportunity to speak to two of them.

Ivan De Haro is a man of many talents; you might say he is an “Ace” when it comes to badminton.

He started playing badminton at the tender age of 13. He entered a tournament organised by the late Mario Mosquera and to his own surprise, reached the semi-finals. This motivated Ivan to take up the sport and he won his first tournament the following year.

Ivan competed in his first Island Games three years later in Guernsey and has competed eleven times since. His last Island Games as an official player were Bermuda 2013. Nowadays, he is the president of the GBA and Team Manager assisting the National Team Coach Robert Brooks.

The selection and training for the Gotland Island Games began as soon as the 2015 Jersey games finished. The team that represented Gibraltar in Gotland trained very hard for two years. They were on court at least four times a week training and playing and then there is the off the court work. Ivan praised Alison Jessen who had to work extra hard to get her fitness, speed and racket skills back to where they were last year after having baby Thomas.

Ivan said it was a pleasure to see the team training and the level of commitment that everyone put in. Robert worked the team hard in fitness and Ivan believes that this showed in their performances at the games. The team had a tough week, they had to play almost every day and players who reach the finals play every single day. As soon as the team got to Gotland, they had two training sessions; one late on Friday as soon as they managed to recover their luggage and one on Saturday afternoon before the opening ceremony, followed by two days of team competition on Sunday and Monday.

There were 14 teams competing. Our aim was to achieve as high a position as possible in order to get a better seeding for the next Games to be held in Gibraltar. The team beat their own expectations by aiming optimistically for 8th place. They were up against a tough Jersey team who had won a silver medal, but wins against Bermuda 4-1 and Menorca 3-1 pushed our side into a very respectable 7th place.

Individual events took place on Tuesday and Wednesday. In total they won ten matches and lost 13.

The players then managed to relax and enjoy the end of tour dinner and the closing ceremony party after two years of hard work. The squad has been enjoying a summer break but the process will start again in September. This time, the motivation should be higher as the Games take place in Gibraltar.

Next under the gun; Jonathan Patron is no stranger to gold when it comes to the Island Games.

Jon first became interested in pistol shooting when he was just 14 years old. By the time he was in his mid-20s, he had become quite the gunslinger and took part in his first Island Games in 2007 in Rhodes. Since then, he has taken six medals.

When asked how he felt about his own performance in Gotland, Jon said he performed well in some heats and not so well in others but was happy with his performance overall and happy to boost Gibraltar’s medal tally.

Jon shoots the ISSF discipline 10 metre, 25 metre and 50 metre ranges (ISSF stands for International Shooting Sports Federation) and did Gibraltar proud by taking gold on the 50 metre range.

I’m told that the 10 and 25 metre ranges we have in Gibraltar are state of the art and one of the things Jon is looking forward to, is showing these off when the Island Games are hosted in Gibraltar in 2019. However, we don’t have 50 metre range here. Jonathan was worried he won’t be able to defend his title on home soil unless a 50 metre range is built in time, although it is my understanding that there are plans to build a 50 metre range as part of the government’s commitment to sport in Gibraltar.

Jonathan said we had quite a large team this year with eleven people competing, no doubt a sign of the growing interest in shooting in Gibraltar.

On the ISSF side, the team comprised of: Daniel Payas a strong up and coming shooter, Louis Baglietto who has been a shooter for a long time, Jansen Olivero who shot rapid fire with Jon. For anyone who thinks pistol shooting isn’t for girls, think again. Shooting for the ladies were new shooter Bettina Manner and 16-year-old Sasha Alexdottir, taking part in just her second Island Games winning three medals this year.

Shooting on the IPSC side (International Pistol Shooting Confederation): Stephen Borge who took individual silver and team bronze medals, Mario Apap, John Holmes and Tony Desoto.

Jon also wanted to make sure the support team got a mention; Philip Payas, the team manager who Jon joked diverted all the stuff the team didn’t need to know about. Thanks also to the physio and to Steve Pengelly, the team GB coach who helped coach the Gib team while they were there.

Jon is looking forward to welcoming the friends they’ve made over the years to Gibraltar in 2019. I asked him; what downsides are there to playing at home? He said “you’ve always got your day to day life here which you can detach yourself from when playing away”.

With the current influx of people picking up the sport, the future of shooting in Gibraltar looks very good indeed.

words | Chris Peach