Letter from Edinburgh - Friday 7th July 2017

Political variety is the spice of life. The final week before the school holidays featured the island games in Gotland, an education debate at Holyrood and a mad rush for a flight connection at Stockholm Airport with an Orcadian athlete and the convener of the Shetland Islands Council! 

Stockholm Airport is lovely. The Scandinavians design these public buildings with skill. But our flight from Visby landed at a different terminal to the one which our connecting Edinburgh flight departed. Hence my woeful attempt to emulate Seamus MacKay’s epic 800m time in a dash between gates. Mercifully the plane had not departed so we all made it.

The NatWest Island Games are known as the friendly games. And so they are. Visby is a beautiful walled medieval city. Residents grow roses all over their homes so a walk through the cobbled streets is a delight.

Large ferries serve Gotland from Sweden and the island is a summer home to many Swedes. David and Karen Clubb are local, living in the south of Gotland. Karen’s craft shop, café and art gallery is stunning. There are lots of reasons to visit Gotland, and her emporium is reason enough.

It is many years since I stood on a touchline and watched football with David. The Shetland team served up a cracker, edging a very tough encounter 5-4. To come back from 3-2 down and win was testament to their spirit and desire.

A number of classy goals and brilliant link-up made it a thoroughly entertaining game. The Shetland supporters were with Niall Bristow, who at one point simply could not watch!

The Gotland games were very different from Jersey. These were of a smaller scale. There was less corporate money involved and some of the venues demonstrated that. The pool was limited in space and only had five lanes. But the venue created a magnificent atmosphere.

Felix Gifford’s gold in the 200m individual medley was hugely impressive. In a very tight race his freestyle power down the final stretch was notable as he overhauled the leader to win.

What too, of Faye Cox who proves that becoming a mum is no impediment to winning medals on the track.

Before I left for Gotland, the kids were telling me that I needed to watch Wonderwoman. Anyone who saw Faye run the 100m against a younger field and be competitive to the wire, knows that is the real definition of a wonderful athlete.

The bravest three women I witnessed were the triathletes. How Lynsey Henderson, Shelley Humphray and Wendy Hatrick braved the two-metre swell as they plunged into the Baltic is beyond me. Sheer guts. Theirs was the most deserved medal in an event that takes willpower beyond anything I can imagine.

To all the team, the coaches and the supporters; I say, #respect.

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