From Neil Riddell in Åland
There was joy of the sweetest kind for archer Billy Finnie as he won gold in the single men’s compound event at the Island Games in Åland on Tuesday afternoon, while team mate Sara Leith picked up a bronze in the corresponding women’s event, helping to secure a team bronze medal as well to more than double Team Shetland’s medal tally to date.
Despite setting three new Island Games records over the past two days’ shooting, Finnie’s gold came by the narrowest of possible margins after he wound up just a single point ahead of Faroe’s Jogvan Niclasen – an indicator of the fiercely high standard of this year’s competition at the Backeberg Sportsground.
Finnie had been 13 points clear of Niclasen overnight after setting records at the 90m and 70m distances on Monday but his rival pegged him back with a superlative effort and at one point it looked as if they had drawn level.
He ended on 1,336 points to Niclaesen’s 1,335, while the Faroese archer also set a games record at the 30m with a score of 354 to go along with Finnie’s standard-breaking efforts in the 90m and 70m distances on Monday morning.
A delighted Finnie said: “It was good, quite tough going today shooting the 50m and 30m but I won it by one point, so I was quite happy with that. I got three games records but still only won by one point so that shows that the competition is very stiff.”
Leith, meanwhile, had been sitting in second place after shooting excellent rounds of 317 and 313 on Monday, before being pegged back by Faroe’s Sigrid Kristianna Vang in the 50m and 30m distances. She finished on 1,259 points, five points behind Vang but comfortably ahead of fourth-placed Laura Le Page of Guernsey.
Sara’s husband Ryan Leith, meanwhile, shot well enough to come 11th in the compound event and his score was added to the medal winners’ tallies to give them a team bronze medal.
But it is not time to cut loose and celebrate just yet, as the individual head-to-head events get under way on Wednesday with the archers having an early 6am start as they seek to add to their trio of successes and further bolster the Shetland team’s overall standing in the medal table. The team head-to-head events will then bring the week’s shooting to a conclusion on Thursday afternoon.
The archery team, sporting black shirts sponsored by Jim’s Garage and Shetland Catch, had been caught unaware by the sapping heat having come to Åland expecting temperatures in the mid-to-high teens. Despite a slightly stronger breeze, temperatures on Tuesday were again comfortably above 25C and Finnie said they might choose different attire for the remaining days of competition.
A few miles south at the shooting range, meanwhile, Shetland pair Peter Davies and Ewen Johnson were just out of the medal placings, finishing fifth in the automatic ball trap team event. Their total of 138 points was only six short of Orcadian duo Brian Foreman and Magnus Norquoy, who took the bronze medal, while the pair from the tiny Channel Island of Sark won silver and Menorca cruised to victory with a 170-point haul.
There was a laudable achievement from Shetland’s young male swimmers in the pool on Tuesday evening, with the quartet of Felix Gifford, Callum MacGregor, Craig Nicolson and Tom Raikes managing sixth place in the final of the 4x50m freestyle relay as they smashed their collective personal best by some four seconds to outpace both Menorca and Gibraltar.
They recorded an excellent time of 1:40.92, only two seconds behind bronze medal winners the Isle of Man in what is an extremely high level of competition.
On the athletics track, the women’s 4x100m relay team of Allie Elphinstone, Emma Leask, Megan Smith and Inga Woods ran well to come in third place in their heat with a time of 52.49 seconds. But after an appeal they were cruelly denied a place in Friday’s final. In the men’s equivalent, a time of 44.98 seconds was not quick enough for Stuart Donald, Scott Lawson, Gareth Robertson and Lee Williamson, who came fourth in their heat.
Running in the 800m final, Joshua Morrison came fourth in a time of 1.58.17, just over three seconds behind the bronze medal winning athlete from Gotland.
Shetland’s lone golfer, 18-year-old Jordan Leask, teed off for the first time at the King’s Course on Tuesday morning and a very respectable round of 77 left him in joint 24th place from a field of 79.