The rattle of table tennis balls came echoing down the school corridor as Shetland’s international band of players practiced their top spin at Sandwick Junior High School.
Coach and former medal winner Chris Graham now splits his time between the isles and Thailand, and was keeping a keen eye on “Robbie” the robotic feeder spitting out serves at speed for the games hopefuls.
Training sessions have been held three times a week, as well as travelling south to sharpen up in Aberdeen and Drumchapel.
Graham visited Gotland with Team Shetland back in 1999, and looking ahead said there were a lot of games to be played.
“One of the things is that you’ve maybe never played these players before.
“You only get a short period of time to assess them,” he said. “You’re on the table and you’re trying to figure out tactics against that player.”
For Dawid Niesciur it is a dream come true to be representing Shetland.
His love of table tennis began in Poland and this will be his first island games.
“It’s been a rollercoaster,” he laughed.
“I used to play when I was a kid, over 15, 17 years ago. It’s been a long journey and playing for Shetland just means the world to me.
“I’ve been looking forward to it for months and we’ve been preparing hard for quite some time, so it’s definitely something we’re all looking forward to.”
Sauna-like heat and points on a knife edge summed up Jersey in 2015.
And Niesciur is well aware of how quickly games can change.
“There’s only so much you can do about your opponent. It’s more important about what you can do yourself,” he said.
“With serves and returns, this is something you can practise and master so that’s something we’ve been trying to do and accomplish, and then after that it’s just a fluid situation; it can change all the time.”
Group and team events will be battled out over the course of the week, and Niesciur said the games gives a chance for players to grab vital experience.
“We’ve got some experienced players and we’ve got some young players. For Louis Duncan , it’s going to be a huge learning curve for him, to gain some new skills and to see a new environment and against new opponents so he can benefit for the future…
“I think it’s going to be great and a successful event…
“Chris is a great coach and its definitely a great asset to have him in our team.”
Island games veteran Joan Smith and newcomer Kay Adamson make up the women’s part of the team, and there are strong hopes for when they join forces in the doubles.
Adamson said: “I’m actually from Yorkshire and I went to a high school down there and that’s where I picked up the sport.
“I played for my county, loved it and then it just dwindled and I stopped playing.
“I came up to Shetland and maybe played a little bit with my husband and some of his family but it was actually Joan Smith, the PE teacher at the school I work with, she was playing against the kids and asked me to help – and realised I could play a bit.”
“It’s a bit like riding a bike,” she smiled. “When you’ve played, you pick it up again.”