Many, many congratulations to all of those who won medals and participated on behalf of Shetland in the Island Games in Åland last week. The overall tally may not have been as high as when the event was held in Shetland four years ago, but such comparisons are most likely invidious given the evident benefit of home advantage.
In particular, the success of Emma Leask in winning a gold medal in the 800m – pipping the silver medallist to the post despite only having been entered in the race at the 11th hour – was the stuff of sporting dreams, and will doubtless encouarge young athletic wannabes to put in all the hard work such a win requires
between now and the next games in the Isle of Wight in 2011.
The vast majority of the team and their supporters conducted themselves in exemplary fashion in the sun-baked island between Sweden and Finland. The small number of footballers who did not may now face sanctions from the Shetland Islands Games Association and Shetland Football Association.
The most intriguing aspect of the competition was the sudden success of overall winners Faroe, with swimming a particular strength. As the debate begins about the way forward now for sport in Shetland in the run-up to 2011, it is interesting to note that according to Faroese officials this was less to do with money being thrown at the sport than smarter use of existing resources in employing high-level coaches who were able to get the best out of the squad.
Shetland is, by all accounts, keen to see the games return here one day, which given the huge lift it gave to the community in 2005 would be fantastic. The size of the event now may make that a logistical nightmare. But one suggestion being mooted is for the football competition to be turned into an event in its own right. That may be no bad thing.