Western Isles return on high with medal haul from international games

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The 2019 Western Isles Island Games Association (WIIGA) squad were celebrating this week after flying back to Stornoway following a successful and thoroughly enjoyable week of high-level international competition at the NatWest International Island Games XVIII Gibraltar 2019.

They returned with four gold medals; two silver medals; and two bronze medals, finishing 12th in the medal table and ahead of the two other Scottish Islands for the third Games running. Another incredible experience for an immensely proud group of top athletes representing the Western Isles.

A total squad of 43, including coaches, management team and physios accompanied by 16 enthusiastic supporters, represented the Western Isles at the biennial event, with 34 participants competing in five different sports – athletics, badminton, cycling (road), shooting (ABT, OT and Olympic Skeet) and swimming. Twenty-one of the participants were under 23 years of age.

For the second games in a row, all eight medals were won by females.

The medallists were as follows:

Swimming

Kara Hanlon – 50m Breaststroke, Gold (Games Record); 200m Breaststroke, Gold (Games Record); 100m Breaststroke, Gold (Games Record); 100m Individual Medley, Gold; 200m Individual Medley, Silver.

Isla Budge – 400m Freestyle, Bronze.

Athletics

Mary Macleod – Triple Jump, Silver.

Heather Mackinnon – Triple Jump, Bronze.

WIIGA’s membership of the International Island Games Association (IIGA) provides islands sportspeople with access to one of the biggest international multi-sport events in the world, and is the highest level many of them will have the opportunity to compete at. They come face to face with Olympians, Commonwealth Games athletes, UEFA/FIFA recognised football teams, professional cyclists and more, and they learn that with hard work they have the talent to compete at or near this level.

The team produced many highlights through the week, with the stand out performance again coming from Kara Hanlon, who won four gold medals, one silver and three Games records. Among many personal bests and quality displays were Kevin Smith’s epic 5km cycle up the Rock at the end of the Time Trial; 14-year-old Sophie Smith’s PB in the 50m breaststroke in the first day of the swimming competition, which kick-started a fantastic week of PB’s and medals in the pool; Mary Macleod’s fantastic set of jumps in the Triple Jump earning her a well-deserved silver medal; and another sterling effort from shooters in overcoming every form of weather except the gales and rain they are used to.

Another highlight was the overall performance of WIIGA’s first badminton team, surpassing expectations and winning 14 games and five matches during a very busy week.

Star of the show was the youngest competitor at the Games, Beth Macphail, who was involved in three match wins, including the first win in a singles match.

Prior to leaving for Gibraltar, WIIGA’s main sponsor, The Scottish Salmon Company, presented the WIIGA squad with their official kit and hosted the final team briefing at the Harris and Lewis Smokehouse in Stornoway.

With total costs approaching £150,000, the support of a main sponsor is invaluable and contributes towards WIIGA’s efforts to make attending the Games as affordable as possible to the talented island athletes, who take such pride from representing the Western Isles.

Iain GG Campbell, general team manager, said: ‘Our partnership with The Scottish Salmon Company has been invaluable to WIIGA over the last five years. The relationship has developed over the years and we hope we have been able to positively contribute to the aims of the company. I know the staff look forward to seeing the images and stories coming back from the Games and take pride in sharing our story.’

Craig Anderson, chief executive of The Scottish Salmon Company, said: ‘A huge congratulations to the Western Isles team on their fantastic achievements at the International Island Games XVIII in Gibraltar.

‘We are very proud to support the squad and hope the athletes go from strength to strength at the next island gathering in Guernsey in 2021.’

A spokesperson for WIIGA said: ‘As well as the tremendous support WIIGA receives from its main sponsor, many of the sports teams have received financial support from local businesses, organisations and individuals, and our sincere thanks are due to them. To date the following have given support – Lewis Builders; Harris Tweed Hebrides; R Doig (Optometrist); Engebret Ltd; Ishga; MG ALBA; Engebret Ltd; Horshader Community Development; Galson Motors; Comhairle nan Eilean Siar; U&B Sports Council; L&H Sports Council. With sincere apologies for any missed out, your support is truly valued.’