This summer the 2017 Island Games takes place in Gotland, Sweden. We caught up with Martin Goodall, chair of the Isle of Wight Island Games Association, for a chat about this unique sporting competition.
KUDOS: Can you tell us a bit about the Games’ origins and Team Isle of Wight’s / your involvement in it today?
Martin Goodall: The Island Games began in 1985 in the Isle of Man when, as part of their ‘year of sport”, they invited similar islands from across the UK and Europe to compete in a week of friendly competition. By the Wednesday of that week all the Islands thought it was such a great event that they should do it again. The International Island Games Association was formed and Guernsey agreed to host a similar event 2 years later and the games have happened every 2 years since.
The Isle of Wight have taken part in every games and lie 6th in the all time medal table with a total of 504 medals including 160 Golds.
I was first involved in the games in 1993 when the Isle of Wight hosted them for the first time. At that time I competed in Athletics and came away with a Silver medal from Triple Jump and Bronze medal in the High Jump. I had been aware of the games from the start but had been unable to compete. The games require someone to have been born on an Island or to have lived there for the year prior to the opening ceremony. This is to ensure that those taking part are really connected to their Island. I had grown up on the Island but moved away and only returned in 1991.
I became involved again in 2007 when the games went to Rhodes when I managed the IOW Golf Team. I became the IOW general team manager for the 2011 games when again they were hosted by the Isle of Wight. I then became chairman of the IOW IGA in 2013 a role which I have held since then.
KUDOS: How does it differ from the more mainstream international multi-sport events?
MG: The Island Games involve 24 Islands from across the UK, Europe and the Atlantic. They have been dubbed “The Small Island Olympics” by several media sources. The games expect in the region of 3,000 competitors from those islands which makes them similar in terms of competitor numbers to The Winter Olympics but the budget to run the games is a small fraction of that with many competitors having to pay their own way to get to the games. In all other respects the Island Games retain many of those other aspects from major multi sport events.
KUDOS: This year’s event is hosted in Gotland. Logistically how difficult is it for teams like Team Isle of Wight to get to remote places like Gotland? It must be one hell of an operation.
MG: Gotland has been a tricky logistical project. There is no direct flight there from the UK so we had to weigh up the various travel options and balance costs involved with the time it would take to travel there and the affect that may have on performance at the event. We decided to copy something the Isle of Man have done before and have chartered a plane for the first time. It was a bit more costly per head but it has cut travel time by 12 hours so is worth it. At the end of the day there is no point in getting there cheaply if we would be too tired to compete at our best.
KUDOS: Team GB has made amazing strides in recent years – does any of that success filter down…whether in terms of inspiration and morale or something more tangible like funding?
MG: Getting the costs down has been the biggest challenge and we undertook a crowdfunding appeal last year which drew in local company ICRTouch as a sponsor who have provided all our team tracksuits and uniforms. Red Funnel are giving us complimentary ferry travel and we received a grant from the IW Foundation to help younger competitors who were struggling financially to attend. We had many small donations as well and this year we can really say we are powered by the Island as we head to Gotland
KUDOS: Who should we look out for from Team IoW this year – any good bets for medals?
MG: At the last games in Jersey we did very well in the shooting events and our team are confident of hitting the target again. Andy Frost will be going for Hammer title number 9 having won his first in Gotland at the 1999 games this will be a very special moment if he can do it. We have several other capable of winning medals if things go their way during the week but it is difficult to gauge without knowing what new competitors might be there from other islands.
We have a much smaller team going to Gotland compared to Jersey last time. This is mainly due to the higher cost of attending but we hope to do well this summer. It is certainly a games we are looking forward to and with the great kit sponsored by ICRTouch and supplied by KUDOS we are ready for action.
KUDOS: Has there been anybody from Team Isle of Wight go on to greater things?
MG: At the Rio Olympics we had one former TeamIOW member in Team GB when Jess Andrews (now Jess Martin) took her place in the 10,000m Athletics event. As a youngster she had placed 7th in the 2011 Island Games 1500m. One of our most famous Isle of Wight Sports Personalities is Kelly Sotherton who made her Island Games debut in Jersey 1997 winning 6 gold medals in Athletics. She subsequently won 3 Olympic Bronze Medals in Heptathlon and Relay. Darren Mew swam for Team GB at 2 Olympics and won medals at World, Commonwealth and European Level. Richard Wilson won silver medals at the Commonwealth games for Shooting and Andy Frost who has won the Island Games Hammer Throw on 8 different occasions has represented both England and Scotland at the Commonwealths.
We have a number of golfers who have turned professional following games appearances, 2 of our former sailors are doing well on Olympic development programmes and former Long Jumper and still Island Games record Holder Kimberley Murray is now on the Olympic Skeleton development programme and doing very well so we hope there will be more Isle of Wight names to add to the role of high sporting honours in the near future.
The great thing about the Island Games is that they are an achievable target for any sports person from the Isle of Wight. Whilst the Olympics are only for a few elite competitors this is a chance for many people to achieve their “Games Moment” and get a feel for what it may be like in those elite echelons. The opportunity to compete at a games can inspire young people to work hard at their sport and to represent their home Island against others is a big deal. Who knows where it may lead them in their future but it is an opportunity I hope to preserve for future generations.
KUDOS is delighted to be associated with the Island Games, with Team Isle of Wight and to have supplied their kit. We’d like to thank Martin for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat with us, and to wish everybody connected to Team Isle of Wight an enjoyable and successful Games. We will be following it with interest.
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