A group of 95 sports people will leave tomorrow for the week-long NatWest Island Games in the Isle of Wight, which begins with Saturday”s opening ceremony.
The squad includes 82 competitors and 13 officials, taking part in 10 sports – archery, athletics, badminton, cycling, golf, sailing, shooting, squash, swimming and table tennis.
The most obvious absence is football, with Shetland failing to send a men’s team for the second time since winning the competition at home in 2005, while no women’s team has been mustered at all since then.
Over 3,000 competitors from 24 islands are expected to take part in this year’s event, last hosted by the Isle of Wight in 1993.
The Shetland team includes two gold medallists from the 2009 games in the Finnish island of Åland – athlete Emma Leask who won in the women’s 800 metres and archer Billy Finnie who triumphed in the men’s compound section. The former will be Shetland’s water carrier, the games’ symbolic equivalent to the Olympic torch bearer.
The honour of bearing the Shetland flag has been given to badminton twins Graham and Gordon Keith from Yell, who have competed at the event six and seven times respectively. Graham will carry the flag at the opening ceremony and Gordon at the closing ceremony on Friday.
There are several other hardened veterans of the games in the Shetland squad, some of them former medallists, including archer Sara Leith, cyclist Carlos Riise, clay shooter Jim Work, golfer Loraine Anderson, pistol shooter David Lewis and table tennis player Lynda Flaws, while many of the team are newcomers, particularly in the young swimming and athletics squads.
The Shetland team has usually done well in target sports such as archery and shooting, with this year’s squad boasting medallists in the form of Finnie, Leith and Keith Lobban with the bow and Lewis, John Magnus Laurenson and Peter Davies with the gun.
Hopes will be high in the swimming events where many of the youngsters have done extremely well recently in various Scottish and UK events, with Felix Gifford, Amy Harper and Andrea Strachan among those to watch out for.
The 12-strong athletics team is the biggest in the overall squad, with Leask being accompanied by 2005 medallists in the shape of sprinter Faye Richardson and distance runner Michelle Sandison, while Katie Bristow, Haydn Thomason and Joshua Morrison have also recorded good times recently in their respective distances.
Others tipped to do well include cyclist Christine McLean, golfer Jordan Leask and squash player Joan Smith.
Shetland Island Games Association chairman Andrew Inkster said there were some strong competitors again this year, many of whom had positive experiences of the Finnish island of Åland two years ago.
“In particular, our swimmers and athletes are on top form at the moment with some notable successes recently,” he said. “After many months of preparation, we are looking forward to a superb week of competition in the Isle of Wight against some top-class opposition from islands around the world.”
General team manager Bob Kerr said it took a lot of preparation to get the whole team organised and he paid tribute to all the individual managers and coaches who had volunteered their time over the past few months.
“Their hard work and contributions ultimately benefit the competitors and improve our chances of medal success,” he said. “It is a real team effort all around and I think that has always been one of our greatest strengths.”
Kerr said the games association was very grateful to Bolts Car Hire for providing a van to transport essential sports kit to the Isle of Wight, driven by volunteers Lewis and Lobban. Also worthy of praise were the individual team sponsors, NorthLink Ferries and John Leask & Son for assistance with travel, Intersport Shetland for the help with the supply of clothing, and Shetland Islands Council for the grant assistance.
The majority of the team will leave aboard the NorthLink ferry to Aberdeen, and are due to take scheduled flights on Friday morning to Heathrow, followed by coach transfers to the Isle of Wight.
The opening ceremony will take place in the coastal town of Ryde when Lord Sebastian Coe of the London 2012 Olympic Committee will officially open the games. The ceremony will be preceded by a carnival parade through the streets of Ryde, involving 1,500 local performers.
The Shetland team will be staying in caravan accommodation near Sandown in the east side of the island, with the games organising committee responsible for providing bus transport to and from the venues each day.
The official games results website is at natwestiowresults2011.com where live results will be available for all sports and islands during the week.
Archery: Billy Finnie, Steven Gardiner, Martin Krusche, Ryan Leith, Keith Lobban, Dylan Murphy, David Williamson, Sara Leith, Suzanne Malcolmson, Rosaleen Williamson.
Athletics: Russell Gair, Joshua Morrison, Karl Simpson, Haydn Thomason, Alan Williamson, Charlotte Black, Katie Bristow, Allie Elphinstone, Karen Fraser, Sophie Kelman, Emma Leask, Sophie May Leyland, Elaine Park, Eilidh Peterson, Faye Richardson, Michelle Sandison, Megan Smith, Inga Woods, Karen Woods (manager).
Badminton: Brett Haining, Jason Jamieson, Gordon Keith, Graham Keith, Roy Wood, Shona Keith, Stephanie Keith, Audrey Leask, Sheena Pearson, Kirstin Sineath, Maurice Haining (manager), Anne Wood (coach).
Cycling: Robin Atkinson, Scott Jamieson, Stuart Pearson, Carlos Riise, Colin Smith, Christine McLean.
Golf: Jordan Leask, Loraine Anderson, Mildred Blance, Margie Pearson, Liz Simpson, Louise Anderson (caddy).
Sailing: David Thomson, Maggie Adamson, Kirsten Napier.
Clay shooting: Peter Davies, Ewen Johnson, John Magnus Laurenson, Alan Moar, Peter Ratter, Bryan Sutherland, Christopher Williamson, Jim Work, Ross Work.
Pistol shooting: David Lewis.
Squash: Ramsay Hogg, Alan Hunter, Billy Mycock, Kerry Pottinger, Joan Smith.
Swimming: Felix Gifford, Calum MacColl, Callum MacGregor, Craig Nicolson, Donnie Price, Jake Swanson, Amy Harper, Megan Petursdottir, Arwen Raikes, Andrea Strachan, Jessika Swanson, Sarah Williamson, Petur Petursson (coach), Lorraine Gifford (coach), Lesley Hutchison (manager).
Table tennis: Daniel Mainland, Gary Morgan, Lynda Flaws, Stuart Wallis (coach).
General officials: Andrew Inkster (Shetland Island Games Association chairman); Bob Kerr (overall team manager); Ian Manning (sports therapist); Emily Tait (physiotherapist); Kelly Thomson (team assistant).