About 130 members of Team Shetland are only days away from Gotland, ready and raring to go for this year’s NatWest Island Games.
Athletes from across the county will be arriving in Aberdeen on Thursday, meeting their Orkney counterparts on the boat south. Team Shetland then takes a chartered flight from Aberdeen to arrive in the Swedish island ahead of the opening ceremony on Saturday.
SIGA chairwoman Karen Woods said organisation for the games began in Jersey two years ago, “nailing as cheapest accommodation we could that would be suitable”.
And for some of the older members of the squad, their digs for the week won’t be unfamiliar – having stayed there for the games 18 years ago.
“Gustavsvik was really popular [for the games] in 1999 with the team because everybody enjoyed being together,” said SIGA secretary Bob Kerr.
“The open air in ’99 and the surroundings really helped people to catch up with each other and there were picnic benches outside each cabin where people came and chatted about their sport and their event.”
Woods said there was a range of youth and experience in the squad.
“We’ve got a range of ages and we’ve got a range of experience [in the team].
“We’ve got quite a young swimming team that’s going… for a lot of people it’s their first games which in itself is a new experience for them.
“They’ve been away to lots of competitions down on the mainland but to actually go to the games, which is a multisport event, I think will be a new experience.”
Plenty of stories will no doubt emerge throughout the games, and there are lots of family connections, be it the Aitken brothers in the triathlon and football or the Bain family to name a few.
Andrew Bain, 18, will be competing in the golf while his 16-year-old sister Katie is in the swimming team and Stuart, 15, is in the athletics team.
“It’s always been one of the strongest things; the breadth of sports that are included in the team and the opportunities that are presented to such a wide range of Shetlanders,” said Kerr.
Woods added: “I think there’s no doubt that the participation in sport is greatly enhanced by the island games and the island games is enhanced by the participation in sport, so they go hand in hand.”
There is a change of role for Woods after being an athletics team manager last time out.
This time she is looking forward to seeing some of the other athletes compete, having been so heavily involved in the busy athletics schedule.
“I think the formula for success at the games is impossible to predict,” said Kerr.
“It’s a mixture of personal abilities and preparation along with the resources and the support of your local sport.
“During the games week talents come to the fore and it becomes a really emotional week for everybody that’s involved.”
• Throughout this week The Shetland Times will be previewing the games with a series of interviews and videos. Our website will be updated daily and this week’s newspaper will include an eight-page souvenir island games feature.
Reporter Adam Guest will be in Gotland for the games with daily reports online and unrivalled coverage in the newspaper on 1st July and 7th July.