Page 1

From Mann to Wight - Island Games 2011 Published from the blog based on the Isle of Man athletics team as they prepare for and compete in the 2011 NatWest Island Games on the Isle of Wight

All Rights Reserved David Griffiths Š 2011


Thursday, 14 April 2011

The Isle of Wight 28! The long wait is finally over, and a slightly bigger than expected team of 28 athletes was selected on Tuesday night to represent the Isle of Man this summer. Congratulations to all! The selected team is as follows, together with nominated events (although I would imagine some of these may be interchangeable in some cases depending on circumstances):

Men *Andy Barron (800m, 1500m) *Richard Bell (Hammer, Discus, Shot) Ben Brand (400m) *Lee Corlett (Shot, Discus) Ryan Fairclough (800m) Keith Gerrard (1500m, 5000m) Ed Gumbley (Half Marathon) Michael Haslett (400m hurdles) Kevin Loundes (Half Marathon, 10,000m) *Martin Malone (Half Marathon, 10,000m) *Harry Pugh (Javelin) Tom Riley (100m, 200m) *Daniel Stewart-Clague (High Jump, Triple Jump)

Women Gemma Astin (1500m, 5000m) *Sarah Astin (800m) Charlotte Christian (Hammer, Shot) *Andrea de Bruin (Discus) *Reagan Dee (High Jump) Rachael Franklin (800m, 1500m) Gail Griffiths (Half Marathon, 10,000m) Sarah Halligan (100m, 200m) *Hannah Howard (Half Marathon, 10,000m) *Sinead Kaneen (High Jump, Long Jump) Louise Kneen (Shot, Discus) Ciara McDonnell (100m, 400m) *Bethan Pilley (Long Jump) Harriet Pryke (200m, 400m) Hannah Riley (100m hurdles, 400m hurdles)

* = Island Games debutant


If everyone is fit and performing well at the end of June, this is about as strong a team as we could wish for. It‟s a team that looks well equipped to achieve success with a good blend of youth, experience and quality. Of the 28 team members, 12 are Island Games debutants, but several of these newcomers are athletes with plenty of experience of big athletics events. Eight members of the squad have previously won a total of 19 medals between them in individual events (3 gold, 11 silver, 5 bronze), and another four have relay medals. So there is plenty of experience of Island Games success in the team. The majority of events are covered by this team, including all the relays and the Half Marathon team events. It‟s a shame there isn‟t a women‟s pole vault event (like race walking there aren‟t enough entries). Top IOM gymnast Olivia Curran took up pole vaulting last year and I believe she is doing well at it. Over the next ten weeks leading up to the Games, all 28 team members will be featured on the blog (at least that‟s the present plan), so I‟d better get researching and writing! I‟ll close this entry by sparing a thought for the athletes who were hoping to be selected but didn‟t make it this time. A great example in recent years was set by long distance runner and steeplechaser Darren Gray. After competing in the 2003 and 2005 Games, Darren had a dip in form over the following two years and missed out on selection for 2007. Such was his determination after this disappointment that he not only got back into the team in 2009 but won a bronze medal in the steeplechase. That‟s the way to react to a setback!


Thursday, 21 April 2011

The debutants There are twelve Island Games debutants among the team of 28, with an even split of six men and six women. I think it is a very positive thing for the future of Manx athletics that no less than eight of these newcomers are field event athletes, an area where we have struggled for numbers in recent years. Most of them are very young with plenty of scope to improve further in the future. The event distribution amongst the debutants really is remarkably similar, with the male and female contingents each being made up of four field eventers, one middle distance runner and one long distance runner.

Sarah Astin

A familiar sight - Sarah with another gold medal! photo http://www.iomaa.info/)

Sarah may be an Island Games debutant, but at the age of 17 she is already a hugely experienced athlete who has been competing at a very high level for a number of years. She is probably best known as an outstanding cross country runner, but she is also extremely good on the track in the middle distance events and I think she has plenty more to come in this area. She was very unfortunate to miss out on the 2009 Games in Aland as her recovery from a long-term injury came just too late. As a young cross country runner, Sarah has twice finished in the top ten in her age group in the Inter Counties and once in the English National championships – these performances rank amongst the best cross country results ever recorded by Manx athletes in these championships. She also has five Lancashire cross country titles to her name across three age groups. Sarah hasnâ€&#x;t always had the best of luck on the track, missing the whole of the 2007 summer season and the first part of 2009 through injury. In the summer of 2010, she really kicked on as a middle distance track runner and smashed her pbs for 800m, 1500m and 3000m in very impressive style. She has high quality opposition pushing her, not only when she goes away to compete but also in the


Isle of Man – her races against her sister Gemma and Rachael Franklin in both the 800m and 1500m in last year‟s IOM Championships were two of the best track races seen on the island for years. Sarah is entered in the 800m event in the Isle of Wight, and she has every chance of doing well. Her pb, set last year, stands at 2.16.4 and if her training is good between now and the end of June I am sure she will lower that in 2011. Julie Harrison‟s IOM record of 2.13 isn‟t too far away, but of course Gemma and Rachael are both chasing that mark as well. I wonder who will get there first! Sarah has already achieved so much in athletics, and I hope her Island Games debut adds another chapter to the success story.

Richard Bell

Photo courtesy of Richard Bell

My first memory of seeing Richard in athletics competition was as a young race walker about five years ago. Not exactly the traditional introduction to athletics for a thrower perhaps, but he wasn‟t a bad walker and was keen to improve. His main talent was always as a thrower though, and he has steadily developed over the past five years to the point that he is now entered in three events on his Island Games debut. His first recorded distance in his main event, the hammer, was 21.61m back in 2006 when he was in the Under 15 age group and throwing a 4kg implement. In 2007 he moved into the U17 age group throwing a 5kg hammer, and set a pb of 25.04m which he upped massively to 34.85m in the following year‟s Lancashire Championships. His steady improvement continued in 2009, when in his first year in the U20 age group and now throwing a 6kg implement, he recorded a best throw of 38.71m. 2010 was a transitional year for Richard. He began the season still throwing the 6kg hammer and upped his pb to an impressive 41.83m. With Island Games selection in mind he then switched to throwing the full weight 7.26kg implement, and recorded a throw of 34.89m in a Northern League match, respectably close to the Games Development Guideline of 38 metres. His hard work over this past winter paid off immediately at the start of 2011. He recorded a throw of 40.91m at the Blackpool Open Meeting in mid-March, which he then upped to 41.29m the following week in the Western AC Throws Meeting at the NSC – not far away from the Main Guideline of 42 metres. He recently returned from an excellent week‟s training in Portugal along with teammate


Charlotte Christian and coach Roseanne Hutchinson, where he recorded throws in excess of his pb in training. Richard, who will celebrate his 19th birthday the week before the Games, will be busy in the Isle of Wight as he is also entered in the discus and shot putt events – it‟s a good job there‟s no race walking! If he continues to improve at his current rate he can look forward to a long and rewarding Island Games career.

Reagan Dee

Reagan is one of several athletes supported by Isle of Man Sport Aid, and this is her current profile picture on their website www.sportsaid.im

Few young athletes in recent years have made such a stunning impact on Manx athletics as 16 year old high jumper Reagan Dee. She first announced herself at the age of 11 in 2006, when she jumped 1.40m in a UK Young Athletes match. The following year she improved to 1.48m in the Lancashire Championships at Blackpool, smashing the age-group championship record in the process. Reagan's performances that day were captured for posterity by her uncle on his website at http://www.rickspage.co.uk/Reagan/index.html - there are links to videos there too! In 2008 her performances were even more spectacular. Still aged only 13, she jumped 1.62m in the IOM Inter Schools Championships to break the outright Isle of Man women‟s high jump record – surely making her the youngest-ever holder of an outright Manx athletics record! She was too young to be considered for the Island Games in 2009, but her consistent performances throughout that year, peaking at 1.67m, suggested that she would have been good enough to challenge for the silver medal at least had she been able to compete. 2010 was a year of consolidation for Reagan, during which she added a further 1cm to her pb, twice jumping 1.68m, and clearing 1.65m on numerous occasions. She again cleared 1.65m in her first meeting of this season, and has been training well both at home and recently during two weeks in Tenerife. Whilst there she had the opportunity to train alongside the recently-crowned European Indoor champion Antonietta di Martino.


Reagan has been consistently ranked in the top ten in the UK in her age group in recent years and is a prodigiously talented athlete. She has the classic high jumper‟s physique – tall, long-legged and with a natural spring. Let‟s hope this is the year she breaks through the 1.70m barrier and beyond – firstly in the Isle of Wight, and then back in the Isle of Man at the Commonwealth Youth Games in September!

Martin Malone

Martin (centre) is flanked by Ed Gumbley (left) and Mike Garrett (right) after winning the 2011 Manx Harriers Open 10k race at the NSC (photo Murray Lambden)

Few if any members of the 2011 Isle of Man athletics squad have such a varied sporting background as 37-year-old distance runner Martin Malone. Originally from Ireland before moving to the Isle of Man in the late 1990s, he is a former international competitor in kick-boxing (he once fought for a European title) and clay pigeon shooting. He has done several „ultra‟ style events over recent years including the 85-mile Parish Walk which he completed in 2008. That same year he was chairman of the Commonwealth Games Appeals Committee, and came up with the idea of the Six Bay swimming challenge. Just a few weeks after completing the Parish Walk, he and three others swam a total of 10.3 km across six bays (Castletown, Gansey, Port Erin, Peel, Laxey and Douglas), running 16.8k and cycling 64k in between them. In the process they raised a large sum of money for the IOM Commonwealth Youth Games team who competed in India later that year. Having recovered from his 2008 efforts and having competed in triathlons for a few years, Martin decided to turn his attentions exclusively to distance running and joined Andy Fox‟s training group. As might be expected from someone who relishes pushing himself to the limit, his main problem at first (by his own admission) was resisting the urge to overtrain! He wasn‟t too far away from getting to the 2009 Island Games, but his progress over the past two years has been consistent and his selection for the 2011 event in the Isle of Wight was never in doubt. Martin is a totally committed athlete who explores the science of physical and mental preparation, diet, lifestyle etc. in meticulous detail. In his debut Island Games he competes in the Half Marathon (in which he is part of what looks like a very strong Isle of Man team alongside Kevin Loundes and Ed Gumbley) and the 10,000m event on the track. He should go well in both, and I think there is every chance he will be back for more in Bermuda in 2013!


Sinead Kaneen Coming from such a sporting family, Sinead had little choice but to be involved in athletics virtually from the day she could first walk. Her parents Peter and Bridget have both been top race walkers and very useful runners, and her elder sisters Ciara and Bronwen have both had plenty of success as junior athletes too in a range of events. However, what perhaps sets Sinead apart from the rest of the family is being such a fine all-round athlete across such a wide range of disciplines. Sinead was a terrific race walker from a very young age, showing excellent technique and regularly competing in big off-island events with plenty of success. Only in the last year has she moved away from race walking to concentrate exclusively on track & field. Such is Sinead‟s versatility as an athlete that she has entries on the Power of 10 website (which requires a pre-set standard for performances to be included) in race walking, 100m, 200m, 300m, 800m, 1500m, hurdles, high jump, long jump, shot and javelin. It comes as no surprise that she tried a pentathlon in the UK last year and did well! At 15 years of age, Sinead is the youngest member of the Isle of Man athletics team at this year‟s Games, and will be competing in the high jump and long jump events in which she is coached by John Whitlow and her dad Peter Kaneen respectively. She has real talent in both events and is an extremely stylish performer. The experience of competing in such a high-profile international event is sure to play a big part in her continuing development as a top athlete. Sinead has also been working with Di Shimell‟s sprinting group, and will be part of the women‟s 4x400m relay squad at the Games. If Sinead continues to enjoy her athletics and remains motivated, I am sure that 2011 will be the start of a long and successful Island Games career for her.

Daniel Stewart-Clague Having come close to selection for the past two Island Games, 2011 is a case of third time lucky for 22-year-old Daniel. Actually that choice of words is inappropriate, as his selection comes as a result of talent and hard work, not luck. Rather like Sinead Kaneen, Daniel is multi-talented when it comes to athletics, competing to a very good standard in a variety of sprinting, throwing and jumping events. He is also a very useful footballer and has scored plenty of goals for Douglas and District FC in the IOM second division this season! Daniel‟s variety of talents make him a pivotal member of the Manx Harriers team when they travel away to compete in the Northern League Track & Field matches – he is often to be seen sprinting from the long jump pit to the throwing circle and then to the track to fit all his events in! Few if any athletes have scored more points for Manx Harriers in these matches over recent seasons. For his Island Games debut, Daniel is entered in the high jump and triple jump events, and is part of the 4x100m relay squad. He was probably also considered for the javelin event, having thrown over the development guideline distance. He is a fine all-round athlete, and the experience of competing in his debut Island Games should inspire him to improve still further in the future.


Andrea de Bruin

Like several other members of this year's Island Games athletics team, Andrea has made a big impression on the local athletics scene in a very short space of time. South African born, she moved to the Isle of Man with her family at the age of six in the summer of 2001. She made her first athletics appearance in 2007, when she competed in the under 13 age group in the Manx Harriers Track & Field league. During that season she tried several events including high jump, shot and javelin, and showed plenty of promise. She only reappeared as recently as the summer of 2010 when, having shown some natural talent as a discus thrower during PE lessons at school, she was referred to Athletics Development Officer Trevor Christian by her Dad who works at the NSC. In May last year Andrea linked up with coach Michael Callow, who has guided her since with spectacular results. Within the space of three months she had already exceeded the Island Games development guideline distance of 29 metres for the discus, an amazing achievement! Andrea has worked hard over the winter, not only on her technique but also on general fitness, strength and conditioning. This immediately paid off when she upped her pb to a most impressive 31.65 metres in the Manx Harriers Open Meeting in March. Not only is this very close to the main guideline for the Island Games of 32 metres, it is also tantalisingly close to the guideline of 32.80 metres for the Commonwealth Youth Games on the Isle of Man in September. It would be brilliant both for Andrea and for Isle of Man athletics if she were to gain selection for that event, and she has every chance. Andrea is also a decent javelin thrower and shot putter, with plenty of scope for development in both these events. She is still only 15 years of age (she will be 16 shortly before the Island Games), and if her achievements in her first year of serious athletics are anything to go by I am sure she will continue to make her mark on Isle of Man athletics for a long time to come!


Andy Barron

Andy pictured by Murray Lambden at the 2011 Isle of Man cross country championships at Crossags Farm, Ramsey

25 year old middle distance specialist Andy is another relatively recent arrival on the local athletics scene. He had no previous athletics background, and by his own admission was fairly average when he competed on the track during his schooldays. He only got seriously involved in athletics about two years ago when he started attending Chris Quineâ€&#x;s weekly middle distance training sessions at the NSC. Although these group sessions no longer take place, Chris quickly spotted Andyâ€&#x;s raw potential and has since coached him on a one-to-one basis. It wasn't long before Chris' confidence was justified, and Andy immediately demonstrated his promise with an excellent 35.18 clocking in the Bushy's Great South 10k road race in August 2009. His first cross country season in the winter of 2009/10 was aimed mainly at building strength and fitness and gaining valuable race experience, but by the second half of that season he had broken into the top three in the Manx Gas cross country league races and was regularly beating established cross country specialists. Andy's serious track career began in the summer of 2010, when once again he immediately displayed his great natural talent. As well as competing in local events including the Isle of Man championships, he travelled away to several Northern League matches and Trafford Open meetings. The latter meetings at Stretford are designed for athletes to run fast times against competitors of a similar standard, and it is no coincidence that Andy's current pbs of 2.00.32 for the 800m and 4.07.54 for the 1500m were both set in these meetings. He has plenty of natural speed, something that is essential for good middle distance runners. Another excellent cross country season followed last winter including a fine 21st place in the Lancashire championships, and Andy has also worked very hard on strength and conditioning throughout the winter months. He is one of the most committed, determined and ambitious athletes on the island, and I think his achievements to date are just the start. Andy will benefit hugely from the experience of competing in such a big event as the Island Games, especially having an athlete of the calibre of Keith Gerrard as his teammate in the 1500 metres. I think he will continue to make a big impact on Manx athletics in the years ahead.


Bethan Pilley

The theme of athletes who have achieved a lot in a short space of time continues, as 16 year old long jumper Bethan Pilley fits that description very nicely. Bethan showed a lot of natural talent during school athletics competitions, setting several age group records for both the 100m and long jump. Her introduction to serious athletics only came fairly recently though, when her younger sister began training with Peter Kaneen's group. Peter agreed to arrange another session to accommodate Bethan and some of her friends, but it was only in the summer of 2010 that the specialist long jump coaching with Peter started in earnest. In the meantime Bethan had been keeping up her general fitness by attending Andy Fox's weekly circuit training sessions at St Ninian's School. The results were immediate. In July last year she jumped 4.98 metres in a Northern League match at Stretford to comfortably exceed the Island Games development guideline of 4.80m. After a winter of hard work during which she benefitted from the Strength and Conditioning sessions at the IOM Sports Institute, Bethan jumped 5.09 metres in the early season Manx Harriers Open Meeting in March. This is just one centimetre short of the main guideline for the Island Games, and not so very far away from the Commonwealth Youth Games guideline of 5.30m. If she can achieve that perfect jump when she gets everything absolutely spot-on, this is definitely a realistic target. Bethan is a real sporting all-rounder, playing netball and rounders at school and also being a very keen horse rider. Like all good long jumpers she has real sprinting speed, as a result of which she is part of the 4x100m relay squad at the Island Games. In the long jump event she competes alongside her training partner Sinead Kaneen. 2011 is going to be an exciting year for Bethan and I hope the Isle of Wight event is the first of many Island Games for her.


Harry Pugh

A great action shot of Harry competing in the 2010 Isle of Man Track & Field Championships at the NSC (photo kindly supplied by Harry)

28 year old Harry was first introduced to javelin throwing at the age of 14 when, as a young cricketer at Birkenhead School, he demonstrated a powerful throwing arm when fielding on the boundary. He was referred to Wirral Athletic Club, and within a year he was competing at county level and had won the Merseyside Championships for his age group. Harry then moved on to Liverpool Harriers, where he was taken under the wing of GB coach Dean Williams with immediate success. As an Under 17 he was one of the youngest competitors in the British Men‟s League, as well as competing in the Northern Men‟s League. He also received occasional coaching from John Trower (coach to Steve Backley) and the late Wilf Paish (Mick Hill‟s coach). He became North of England Champion and competed again for his county and for the North West of England in the Under 17 and Under 20 age groups, before heading to University. Football is another of Harry's talents, and he played for the University football team in his first year while athletics took a back seat. In his second year he took up the javelin again, and came third in the BUSA Championship (throwing a pb of 54.40m) and was invited to throw internationally in a competition between Scotland, Wales, England and a Great Britain select team. Unfortunately he was unable to take up his selection as he suffered a serious elbow injury which put paid to his javelin throwing for several years. In the meantime he went back to football, and for four years played professionally for Northwich Victoria, Southport and Tranmere Rovers. In 2007 Harry moved to the Isle of Man to live, as his mother was Manx born and her family still live on the island. In 2010, having realised that his competitive instinct was still there and with his elbow


recovered, he decided to take take up the javelin again. He competed for Manx Harriers in both the Northern League and the IOM Championships, and comfortably exceeded the Island Games main guideline. Harry has been very much part of the squad activities over the winter, and having a sportsman of his talent and experience on board is a great boost to the team. I hope he has an enjoyable and successful Island Games debut.

Hannah Howard

Happy Hannah! All smiles after her impressive victory in the 2010 Isle of Man Half Marathon race at Ramsey (photo Adrian Cowin)

26-year-old distance runner Hannah is probably the least-known member of the team to her teammates. Manx-born, she lived on the island until going to University at the age of 18. She started doing some jogging with friends to keep fit whilst there, but had no thoughts at all of competitive running at that time. After finishing University she moved to Southampton to take up a post as a chemical engineer at the Fawley Oil Refinery (where she still works), and shortly afterwards she joined the nearby Eastleigh Running Club - primarily to meet new people and as a means to get to know the area. The rest, as they say, is history! Hannah competed in her first race as recently as 2009, and immediately showed great ability as a distance runner. However it was only in early 2010 that she started training really seriously, having linked up with a good coach. She is now a prolific competitor over the longer distances and has already achieved a lot in a short running career to date. It is remarkable how high a standard she reached in her first season of competition, and she has continued to improve steadily since. Hannah still visits the Isle of Man regularly to see her parents, and last August she won the Ramsey Half Marathon with a confident and very assured run. It was at that time that she made enquiries about the Island Games, and has since kept in regular touch with team manager Anthony Brand. Her Half Marathon pb currently stands at 83.24, set in Gosport last November, and if she can perform to


that standard in the Games she will challenge strongly in both the individual and team events. She is entered in the 10,000m race on the track as well, and should go well in this race also. Hannah has previously competed in road races on the Isle of Wight, and living just over the water from the island she has recently taken the opportunity to go over and have a run round the Island Games Half Marathon course. She has reported back in detail to her Half Marathon teammates, information which is much appreciated by them all! Hannah will also be coming over to the Isle of Man to attend the squad training day on 1st June, when she is looking forward to meeting her teammates ahead of the Games. I am sure that Hannah will thoroughly enjoy her first taste of the Island Games experience, and will be inspired to reach an even higher level in two years time.

Lee Corlett A member of Western AC, 19 year old Lee has been a regular competitor in throwing events over the past few years since he was in the Under 15 age group. As well as competing on home turf, he has regularly taken part in off-island events such as the Northern League and Lancashire Championships over the past three seasons. After showing a lot of promise in his first year as an Under 17 in 2007, he really kicked on the following year, improving his shot pb from 10.81m to 11.99m, and his discus pb from 29.62m to 34.84m. During his first year in the Under 20 age group in the 2009 season he consolidated his performances throwing the junior weight implements, and also competed several times throwing the full senior weights. By the end of that season his pbs throwing the full weights were 31.42m for the discus and 10.50m for the shot, both of which were not too far short of the Island Games development guidelines. 2010 was the year when Lee really made the breakthrough towards Island Games consideration. His discus and shot pbs improved to 38.46m and 11.26m respectively, both comfortably over the development guidelines and in the case of the discus very close to the main guideline. After a winter of hard work Lee has started the 2011 season in good form, and fully deserves his selection for his debut Island Games. He will compete in both the discus and shot putt events in the Isle of Wight. Lee's sporting talents don't stop at athletics either - he is also a very good downhill mountain biker, and has enjoyed a lot of success in that sport over the last few years. It is great to see some really good young talent emerging in the throwing events, an area where we have struggled a bit in recent years, and Lee has enjoyed excellent coaching support from Michael Callow and Island Games teammate Louise Kneen. Lee is one of the bright prospects of local athletics and I hope he has a very enjoyable Island Games debut.


Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Back for seconds! Rather surprisingly, only two members of the 28-strong athletics team are making their second Island Games appearances, as the vast majority of the team are either debutants or experienced Games athletes. The two athletes in question are sprinter Ciara McDonnell and middle-distance runner Ryan Fairclough, both of whom debuted in Aland in 2009.

Ciara McDonnell

Two years ago, sprinter Ciara was the youngest member of the Isle of Man athletics team on her Island Games debut in Aland. Aged just 15 at the time, she performed with great maturity, showing no outward sign of any nerves, and clearly revelling in being part of the Island Games for the first time. She reached the semi-final of the 100 metres event, having recorded a very impressive time of 12.83 in her heat. However the highlights of Ciaraâ€&#x;s week in Aland were surely her performances in both the relay finals. She ran a magnificent third leg in the 4x100m relay to help the team to both the gold medal and a new Isle of Man record. An hour later, she demonstrated her great promise as a 400m runner by getting the team off to a flying start with a very classy first leg run to set the team up for another IOM record and a silver medal. Ciaraâ€&#x;s talent as an athlete has been obvious ever since she took the sport up seriously several years ago, and in both 2007 and 2008 she was ranked inside the top 15 in the UK for the 300 metres event in the under 15 age group. Her performances over the 300m distance in both the under 15 and under 17 age groups, as well as her relay exploits in Aland, pointed strongly towards the 400 metres probably being her best event on moving up to that distance in the under 20 age group this year.


Already she has dipped under the magical 60 second barrier with a cracking 59.8 clocking in the Wigan Open meeting in April, and given good conditions I am sure she will lower that mark considerably this year, hopefully in the Isle of Wight! As well as the 400 metres, Ciara is also contesting the 100 metres event at the Games, and can look forward with confidence to them both. She will once again be a key member of the 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams, both of which are again very strong. Unfortunately, Ciara has an injury concern at the moment that will restrict her training for the next couple of weeks, but she can take heart from the fact that she came back strongly from a worse injury two years ago and ran superbly at the Games. She never stopped smiling in Aland two years ago, and I hope she will be equally happy at the end of her week in the Isle of Wight!

Ryan Fairclough

21-year-old middle distance runner Ryan made his Island Games debut in Aland in 2009, having only narrowly missed out on selection for Rhodes two years earlier. Ryan has been involved in athletics since a very young age, and has competed in every age group from under-13 upwards both on the track and at cross country. After an excellent season in 2008 and a very strong start to 2009 during which he set his 1500m pb of 4.12, Ryan was unfortunate to suffer an injury a month before the Island Games in Aland that prevented him from running right up to the day of his 800m heat. As a result he was not at his best, and narrowly missed out on getting to the final with a third place finish in his heat. He was a reserve for the 4x400m relay team, and was drafted into the team for the heat in which he ran a strong first leg to help the team into the final. Although Ryan was replaced by Tom Riley for the final, he picked up a silver medal as part of the squad. By the end of the 2009 season Ryan was right back up to speed, setting his 800m pb of 1.56.62 in the Trafford Open Meeting at Stretford. He didnâ€&#x;t compete on the track during the summer of 2010, but after a winter of hard training which included some speedy performances in the short course cross


country races, he is now almost back to his best. He clinched his selection for the Games with a clocking of precisely 2 minutes in the Manx Harriers Open Meeting in March, and his performances at a very windy Blackpool in last weekend‟s Lancashire Track & Field Championships should set him up nicely for a serious crack at lowering his pbs in both the 800m and 1500m this season. Ryan, who is coached by Andy Fox, is a very good technical runner with an easy and relaxed style that sometimes disguises how fast he is actually moving! His speed over 400 metres has again earned him a place in the 4x400m relay squad as well as the 800m individual event. I think that there is every chance that 2011 could be the year when Ryan‟s athletics career really takes off, and the Isle of Wight would be good place to start!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Medal history

It would be nice to see a few of these coming home to the Isle of Man in early July! (photo Anthony Brand)

I thought it might be of interest to have a look back at previous performances by the Isle of Man athletics team in terms of medals won, and with this in mind I have compiled two tables. The first shows all medals won including relays and the half marathon team event. The second shows individual medals only. It should be noted that figures for the early years of the Games cannot be compared to recent ones as it was a very different event back then. In the first two or three Games, the athletics competition took place over just two days rather than over five or six days as happens now. There were fewer competitors taking part and not as much strength in depth amongst the other islands in those early days. These days the medals are spread much more widely amongst different islands and the depth of competition is generally stronger. In the past few games, a figure of 12 medals in total has been pretty much the norm for the Isle of Man‟s athletics team. The tally went up to 22 in our home Games in 2001, and dropped to 5 in our least successful Games in terms of medals in Rhodes in 2007. However, the low medal tally in Rhodes can be explained by the fact that it was very much a new, young and inexperienced team that


year who were developing and building for the future. They confirmed that by more than doubling the medal tally in Aland two years ago. In my opinion the 2007 Games was the most significant one in recent times for our athletics team, because many of the good things that happen now were put in place in the two years leading up to that event. The figures for 1993 and 1995 are rather bizarre. Only one gold medal was won in 1993 in a relay (although there were many silvers and bronzes), and then 19 golds were won in 1995 - amazing! Perhaps someone who was involved in that era can come up with a theory as to why the medal hauls from those two Games contrasted so much! The following table shows total medals won in each Games to date by the Isle of Man athletics team: Year

Venue

Gold

Silver

Bronze

Total

1985

Isle of Man

16

1987

Guernsey

9

11

6

33

12

11

32

1989

Faroes

15

9

9

33

1991

Aland

7

7

7

21

1993 1995

Isle of Wight

1

11

7

19

Gibraltar

19

6

4

29

1997

Jersey

6

12

4

22

1999

Gotland

2

4

6

12

2001

Isle of Man

11

7

4

22

2003

Guernsey

4

3

5

12

2005

Shetland

2

7

3

12

2007

Rhodes

1

2

2

5

2009

Aland

2 95

6 97

4 72

264

TOTAL

12

And the table below shows the number of individual medals won (i.e. not including relays or the Half Marathon team event): Year

Venue

Gold

Silver

Bronze

Total

1985

Isle of Man

14

11

6

31

1987

Guernsey

8

8

10

26

1989

Faroes

12

7

9

28

1991

Aland

5

6

6

17

1993

Isle of Wight

0

11

4

15

1995

Gibraltar

13

6

4

23

1997

Jersey

3

10

4

17

1999

Gotland

1

4

5

10

2001

Isle of Man

10

5

4

19

2003

Guernsey

3

2

4

9

2005

Shetland

2

5

3

10

2007

Rhodes

1

2

0

3

2009

Aland

1 73

3 80

4 63

8

TOTAL

216


I have my own ideas as to how many medals the 2011 team might bring home. Without being specific or naming names, I am confident that we will achieve our best overall haul since 2001, and possibly our best gold medal tally since then too. I hope I'm right!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Third time lucky Nine members of the 2011 team have previously competed in two Island Games. The first three to be featured all made their debuts in Rhodes in 2007, and were selected for their second Games in Aland two years ago. Between the three of them, these athletes have every distance from 60 metres to the marathon covered, and one of them is very good over hurdles too!

Michael Haslett

Photo thanks to Mikey

Mikey first really made his mark on the local athletics scene in 2005 when, competing for Manx Harriers in a Young Athletes match at the age of 15, he recorded a highly impressive time of 60.5 for the 400m hurdles. The following season, he ran 56.9 twice in consecutive days at the AAA under 17 Championships in Birmingham, performances that ranked him in the top 10 in the UK that year. With an eye on the following yearâ€&#x;s Island Games in Rhodes, he also competed over the senior height hurdles in a Northern League match and immediately recorded a time of 58.8, inside the main guideline for the Games. Mikey made a tremendous Island Games debut in Rhodes in 2007. In the 400 metres hurdles, he won his heat in a time of 56.86, and in a high quality final he finished in fifth place in 56.87. He was a key


member of both relay teams, winning a bronze medal as part of the 4x100m team and being part of a very young 4x400m team who finished fourth. By the end of the season his pb in the 400m hurdles was down to 56.2, and the following year he improved still further to 55.5. In the autumn of 2008 he began studying at the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff, where he has been based since. South Wales is a real hotbed of hurdles talent, and Mikey has had the chance to train regularly with GB international Rhys Williams and other top athletes. In his second Games in Aland in 2009 he improved to fourth place in the 400m hurdles, and picked up two silver medals in the relays. He was part of the team that set a new Isle of Man record in the 4x400m event. 2010 was the year when Mikey dipped under 55 seconds for the first time, setting a new pb of 54.30 in taking the bronze medal in the Welsh Senior Championships. Things have started well this year too, and already Mikey has lowered his pb to 54.17 in the recent BUCS championships. As well as being an excellent sprinter and hurdler Mikey is also a very good 800m runner, running 1.57 indoors last year. He is also a very decent triple jumper! In the Isle of Wight he will be concentrating on his specialist event the 400m hurdles, before once again being a pivotal member of both relay teams.

Stylish hurdling from Mikey during an event in Cardiff, his base for the past three years (photo thanks to Mikey)

Mikey suffered a family tragedy last winter when he lost his younger brother Jamie in a tragic accident, and I know it would mean a great deal to the whole Haslett family if Mikey could win his first individual Games medal in the Isle of Wight. Mikey is a hugely popular member of the team, always full of fun, and if he can land that medal I suspect it may well get the biggest cheer of the week from the rest of the Isle of Man team!


Gemma Astin

(photo Murray Lambden)

Like her younger sister Sarah, 19 year old Gemma‟s introduction to athletics came through the Manx Youth Games several years ago. It was around 2005 that she first really showed what a talented athlete she is at both cross country and middle distance track running. Since then, her running ability has taken her to Rhodes for the Island Games in 2007, Pune in India for the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2008, and Aland for the Island Games in 2009. She has also competed with a lot of success in all the major UK Cross Country and Track and Field Championships such as the English Schools on many occasions, and has earned many Lancashire selections. Gemma‟s Island Games debut came at the age of 15 in Rhodes in 2007, where she ran with great maturity for such a young athlete. She was a little unlucky that her Games debut coincided with a huge improvement in the standard of women‟s middle distance events at the Games, as her performances would have been good enough to have won medals in most previous Games. She was sixth in the 1500 metres, and in her first ever 5000 metres track race she recorded an outstanding time of 18.00 to finish fifth. She continued to perform brilliantly both at cross country and on the track, winning several age group titles in the Lancashire Cross Country Championships, and in 2008 she finished fifth in the 3000m final at the English Track & Field Championships. She suffered in the th intense heat of Pune in the CYG 3000m final, but ran with a lot of determination to finish 13 . Prior to the 2009 Island Games in Aland, Gemma had a few problems that prevented her from training hard until a few weeks before the Games, but she produced two superb performances in the circumstances. She finished fifth in a very fast 1500m final, before landing her first Games medal with an extremely courageous performance in the 5000m in which she lowered her pb to 17.51 to finish third. The twin highlights of her 2009/10 cross country season were victory in the Junior Women‟s race at the Lancashire Championships when she also finished ahead of all the seniors on a snow-covered course, and a magnificent sixth place finish in the English Schools Championships at Heaton Park in


Manchester. Gemma has just completed her first year at St Maryâ€&#x;s College in Twickenham, where she is studying Strength and Conditioning. Over the past few months things have not gone quite as she would have hoped as a recurrence of the problems she had in 2009 have prevented her from training to full capacity, but as she has showed in the past it doesnâ€&#x;t take her long to get race-fit. She is once again entered in the 1500m and 5000m events, and if she is able to get a good block of training under her belt between now and the end of June she will go well in both.

Ed Gumbley

After several years of running to keep fit and entering the occasional race, Ed started training seriously in the winter of 2005, attending the weekly sessions run by Graham Davies and Chris Quine. By the following summer, he had reduced his 10k road pb to 35.45 and was approaching the point where Island Games selection was a possibility. His progress continued throughout the following year, during which he upped his training mileage with an eye on the Island Games Half Marathon guideline. This he achieved with an excellent run in Blackpool in February 2007. Ed had to contend with horrendous conditions on his Games debut in Rhodes, both the Half Marathon and the 10,000 metres races being run in the full heat of the morning sun. He ran with great courage and determination to finish 18th in the Half Marathon and 12th in the 10,000m. By this stage Ed was establishing himself in the big off-island cross country races and achieving some very creditable placings in the Lancashire and English National Championships, events which he competes in each year. Ed has always enjoyed long training runs, and in 2008 he decided to target the Berlin Marathon in late September. He made a terrific debut at the distance, recording a time of 2.36.53 which ranked him highly on the all-time list of fastest Manx marathon times. He took a little while to recover from this race, but by early 2009 he was back in good form and preparing for his second Island Games in Aland. He again encountered stifling heat in the 10,000m race in which he finished in a creditable


tenth place, and was part of a strong-looking Half Marathon team. Unfortunately, circumstances conspired against the team on the day, but Ed ran with his usual total commitment to lead the Manx team home in tenth place. In the early part of 2010 Ed turned his attentions to the London Marathon, and as part of his preparation he set a Half Marathon pb of 73.24 at Wilmslow. In London, he recorded a time of 2.35.14 to finish just inside the top 100. This was the fastest time recorded by a Manx runner in the London Marathon since 1993, a really fantastic run. I think Ed, who celebrates his 35th birthday this weekend, has more to come over the full marathon distance. In the early part of 2011 Ed has been in fine form, helped by a friendly rivalry with his team mate and training partner Martin Malone with whom he has had some epic tussles recently. Their battle during the Manx Harriers Open in February helped Ed to a new 10k pb of 33.59. In the Isle of Wight he contests the Half Marathon event and will be looking to achieve his highest placing to date. The team of Ed, Kevin Loundes and Martin Malone has a real chance of medalling in the team race, and I would be delighted for Ed if that happens.

The next athletes featured each specialise in different disciplines, but share a common love of athletics and a strong desire to be the best they possibly can be in their sport.

Tom Riley

(photo Anthony Brand)

25 year old sprinter Tom was unfortunate to miss out on selection for the 2005 Island Games in Shetland, but he used this disappointment to spur him on to bigger things over the following two years. In 2006 he dipped under 11 seconds for the 100 metres for the first time, already firmly establishing him as one of the best sprinters the Isle of Man has produced.


Tom started 2007 in superb form, running sub-11 in nearly every 100m race and also getting under 22 seconds for the 200m. This set him up for a cracking Island Games debut in Rhodes, and his performances in the 100 metres event must rank among the best performances by an Isle of Man athlete at the Games in recent times. He ran 10.76 in the semi-final, and topped that later in the day when he recorded a superb 10.73 clocking to clinch the silver medal, just 0.01 of a second behind the winner. He finished fifth in the 200m final and was part of the 4x100m relay squad that won the bronze medal although Tom didnâ€&#x;t run in the final. 2008 continued in similar vein, and a series of fine performances in both the 100m and 200m kept Tom on course for his target of Commonwealth Games selection in 2010. He began 2009 by recording an excellent 10.8 for the 100m in the Lancashire Championships, which was a real confidence-booster going into the Island Games in Aland. He had another fine Games in Aland despite suffering from a tight hamstring throughout the week. He became the fastest Manx competitor in the history of the Games in the 200m with a time of 21.95 in the semi final, and finished fourth in the final. He was fifth in the 100m final and was part of both the silver medal winning relay teams. He ran an extremely impressive leg in the 4x400m relay, showing he is also very good over the longer distance and he was part of the team that set a new Isle of Man record. Tomâ€&#x;s 2010 season was disrupted by injury problems, which frustratingly put paid to his Commonwealth Games ambitions, but after a strong winterâ€&#x;s training he has started 2011 in encouraging form. He is entered in the 100m and 200m events in the Isle of Wight, but a highly impressive recent debut in the 110m hurdles event may force a rethink of his plans. He will again be a key member of both relay teams. Surprisingly, 2011 will be the first time that Tom and his sister Hannah will both compete in the same Island Games. Hannah competed in every event between 1999 and 2005 winning many medals, and Tom has competed in the 2007 and 2009 Games which Hannah missed through injury. Tom is a completely dedicated athlete who lives and breathes the sport, and is inspired by competing against and training with top athletes. He sets an excellent example to the many talented young sprinters on the island at present and is a very important member of the team.

Tom looking strong and relaxed during the 100 metres semi -final in Aland in 2009 (photo Anthony Brand)


Kevin Loundes

(photo Murray Lambden)

When Kevin made his Island Games debut in Rhodes in 2007, he was a relatively recent arrival on the local athletics scene. He had no athletics background, but after competing in the IOM cross country league in the winter of 2005/06 and demonstrating promise as a distance runner, he joined Andy Foxâ€&#x;s training group. He continued to improve rapidly over the following 12 months, and by the early part of 2007 was an obvious selection for his Games debut. The Half Marathon on the first morning of competition was run in severe heat, and after running strongly for the first nine miles Kevin really suffered towards the end. He courageously battled on to finish 13th, still well inside the top half of the field. The 5000m track race later in the week was held in cooler evening conditions, and it was in this race that Kevin showed his real talent with a fine sixth place finish after a blistering last lap sprint. This race highlighted the fact that he has a lot of ability over shorter track races as well as over the Half Marathon distance. Over the following two years Kevinâ€&#x;s progress was truly spectacular, and he lowered his pbs countless times over all his racing distances. In the early part of 2009 he achieved a 62nd place finish in the English National Cross Country Championships (Keith Gerrard is the only Manx athlete ever to finish higher in the Senior Menâ€&#x;s race), and reduced his 10k pb to a very impressive 31.49. He appeared to be all set for a very successful Island Games in Aland, but unfortunately the fates conspired against him. After suffering illness a couple of months before the Games, Kevin was still hopeful of doing well in Aland and started the 10,000m race very well, but found himself short of energy in the second half of the race. His fourth place finish was a fine performance in the circumstances but not the result all his hard work had deserved. He did well to complete the Half Marathon on the final day but was running on empty by that stage. Happily he hit top form again over the following winter and produced an outstanding run in the Manx Harriers Open 10k road race in March 2010, setting a new pb of 30.55.


This is one of the fastest times ever recorded by a Manx athlete at the distance. He spent the summer of 2010 focussing on shorter track races, and produced some cracking performances over 800m and 1500m. A strong winter season in 2010/11 followed, and we all hope that Kevin will finally get the rewards in the Island Games this year that he so richly deserves. He will have very strong opposition in both the Half Marathon and 10,000m races, but will expect to break into the medal positions in both. Kevin is one of the most dedicated athletes around, and will surely achieve a lot more success in the years ahead.

Rachael Franklin

By the time she made her Island Games debut in Rhodes at the age of 15 four years ago, Rachael was already well-established on the local athletics scene. She achieved lots of success as a youngster, not only on the track but also at cross country and in junior fell races. In 2005 she won a bronze medal in the Lancashire Cross Country Championships in the under 13 age group, and on each of the four occasions that she ran in the championships between 2005 and 2008 she was part of silver medal winning Manx Harriers teams. She has won many Lancashire age group medals on the track. Rachael made a brilliant Island Games debut in Rhodes, defying the heat to finish seventh in the 1500 metres and fourth in the 800 metres in times that would have won medals in most previous Games. Seeing the standard that was by now required to get into the medals only made Rachael even more determined, and under the guidance of her new coach Di Shimell her progress over the following two years was relentless. In 2008 she reduced her pbs for both her specialist events by a couple of seconds, and improved still further in the early part of 2009. Rachael travelled to the 2009 Island Games in Aland in confident mood, which was immediately justified when she produced a stunning performance in the 1500m final. Running with great strength


and style throughout, she took an amazing ten seconds off her pb to take the silver medal in a superb time of 4.36.99. In my opinion this was one of the performances of the Games in 2009. She was not quite able to replicate this form in the 800m final, but still finished fifth in the fastest time ever run by a Manx athlete at the Games. She finished the week in style by helping the 4x400m relay team to the silver medal and a new Isle of Man record. After missing some training when she went travelling early in 2010 Rachael was a little off the pace at the start of last season, but by July she was right back up to speed. She has worked extremely hard over the past winter, and her indoor performances earlier this year at both 800m and 1500m should set her up nicely for another successful Games in the Isle of Wight. As well as being a very fine athlete, Rachael is an excellent role model for others and takes a keen interest in the performances of her fellow athletes. She sets a great example to the younger members of her training group with her passion for the sport and her desire to keep improving, and her attitude helps to make even the toughest training sessions very enjoyable for everyone. Rachael deserves all the success she gets and I hope she is part of the Manx athletics scene for many years to come.

Keith Gerrard

Keith pictured during a fund-raising evening for the Island Games team in September 2010 To list all Keithâ€&#x;s achievements in athletics to date is impossible in a few short paragraphs. Suffice to say that in the space of a little over ten years he has gone from being a promising young footballer with Peel juniors to become (in my opinion) the finest athlete the Isle of Man has ever produced. After showing obvious natural talent during school cross country races, Keith was taken under the wing of Andy Fox who coached him for several years until after he had gone away to University. It was in the under 17 age group that Keith first really showed his prodigious talent, and in 2001 he finished third in the 3000 metres final at the English Schools championships. The following year he took a brilliant second place in the English National Cross Country championships. By this stage his performances had earned national recognition, and over the next two years he earned his first three


Great Britain vests in the under 20 age group. He competed in the World Cross Country championships in 2004 and 2005, and in 2005 he was also part of the GB team that won the silver medal at the European Cross Country championships in Holland. In the autumn of 2005 Keith began university at St Mary‟s College in Twickenham, which was to be his base for the next four years. St Mary‟s is renowned as an excellent base for distance runners, and Keith continued his transition from outstanding junior to established senior during his time there. Earlier in 2005, he had become the first Manx athlete to win an English National Cross Country title with an epic victory in the Junior Men‟s race. On an unforgettable afternoon at Cofton Park in Birmingham he obliterated the opposition, beating his friend and fellow international Andy Vernon by over 30 seconds! Moving into the senior ranks Keith had a few initial setbacks, but overcame them to consolidate his status as an international athlete. In 2008 he finished in a fantastic seventh place in the European Cross Country championships in Brussels, and was part of the GB Senior Men‟s team that won the gold medal. In the spring of 2009 he was selected to represent GB in the World Cross Country championships in Jordan, run in unfamiliar conditions on a dirt track surrounding a golf course. Since moving to the UK in 2005 Keith had competed in club events for Newham & Essex Beagles, but kept up his second-claim membership of Manx Harriers for whom he continued to compete each year in the Lancashire Cross Country championships, winning several titles.

For the past two years Keith has been based in America, where he has represented the University of New Mexico with distinction in both cross country and on the track (photo http://www.runningwithus.com/)

In 2009, Keith moved across the Atlantic, taking up a two-year placement at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, for whom he has competed regularly in the Collegiate system at both cross country and on the track. His recent track performances have been superb, and his pbs currently stand at 28.27 for 10,000m, 13.58 for 5000m and 3.47.52 for 1500m, all Isle of Man records. He returns home from his second and final year in America just a week before the Island Games.


One thing presently missing from Keith‟s athletics c.v. is an Island Games gold medal, and he will be looking to put that right in the 1500m and 5000m events in the Isle of Wight. When he first competed in Guernsey in 2003, Keith was an inexperienced youngster who was not yet ready to challenge established senior athletes, but in the 2005 Games in Shetland he ran extremely well to pick up a pair of silver medals behind full GB international Lee Merrien. He was unable to compete in 2007 and 2009 due to other athletics commitments, and he also had to turn down selection for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi last year due to his commitments in the US. It will be great to see Keith back in an Isle of Man vest this summer, and having an athlete of his calibre in the team for this year‟s Games is a huge bonus for everyone. I hope Keith‟s dedication and love of the sport will rub off on the whole team. As a final comment I am sure that Keith, who is now 25 years of age, will soon up his racing distances to Half Marathons and Marathons, and I just wonder whether it might be in his mind to have a shot at selection for the Olympic Marathon in London next year? Wouldn‟t it be fantastic to see a Manxie in the Olympics!

Gail Griffiths

Gail shows the flag during the 2007 Island Games in Rhodes

Several members of this year‟s athletics team have achieved success in other sports, and distance runner Gail is no exception. She didn‟t start running seriously until she was past her 40th birthday, but over the previous 20 years she enjoyed plenty of success as a motorcycle racer. She competed on many short circuits in the UK before turning her attention to the roads in 1998. She has competed in 7 MGPs as well as the Southern 100, Jurby Road, and the North West 200 and Mid Antrim races in Northern Ireland. In the 2004 MGP she became the first (and to date the only) female competitor to lap the TT Course at over 100mph on a 125cc machine. Gail started running primarily to improve her fitness for racing the bike, and competed in her first race


in 2003. Her performances at that stage were modest, but a turning point came when she went to the 2005 Island Games in Shetland as a spectator and saw at first hand what was involved. Over the following winter she upped her training and started racing over the full cross country distances and up to 10k on the road. By the spring of 2006 she was within a couple of minutes of the Island Games development guideline time for 10k, and at this point she joined Andy Fox‟s training group.

Gail cranks her 125cc Honda into the Bungalow during the Ultra Lig htweight race at the 2005 Manx Grand Prix

Over the next two years Gail‟s progress was fantastic, and in August 2006 she made her half marathon debut at Ramsey, recording a time just four seconds outside the Island Games guideline. She achieved the required time in the Syd Quirk event that November, which clinched her selection for Rhodes in 2007. A combination of injury problems, a serious family worry and searing heat meant that Gail was nowhere near her best in Rhodes, finishing 11th in both the Half Marathon and 10,000m races, but this only made her even more determined to improve further by 2009. Gail‟s performances over the following two years on road, track and country continued to improve spectacularly, and she clinched selection for the 2009 Games in Aland with a clocking of 88.33 at the Brass Monkey Half Marathon at York, a huge pb at that stage. She expected to be competitive in Aland and she certainly was, finishing sixth in the 10,000m race and seventh in the Half Marathon. Her performance in the latter event was particularly good as many other competitors found the course very tough, but Gail was not far outside her pb. Still Gail‟s relentless improvement continued, and in March 2010, just after her 45th birthday, she finished in an incredible 20th place in the women‟s race out of over 6000 in the Berlin Half Marathon. She took over three minutes off her pb in this race with a clocking of 85.07. By this stage she was a regular Lancashire representative in the Inter Counties cross country championships, and to date is still reducing her pbs regularly at all her racing distances. Gail will be very competitive in both the 10,000m and Half Marathon races in the Isle of Wight, and she and her teammate Hannah Howard have a great medal chance in the Half Marathon team event. An Island Games medal would be a just reward for an extremely dedicated athlete!


Charlotte Christian

Charlotte pictured in Aland in 2009 (photo Anthony Brand) Charlotte made her Island Games debut as a 17 year old in Rhodes in 2007. As a promising young thrower she had been coached for a couple of years by Merrik Bousfield, who was a regular and greatly respected visitor to the Isle of Man to coach the field event athletes. Merrik was an important part of the management team for the 2005 Games in Shetland, but sadly he passed away very suddenly a few months before the Games in Rhodes in 2007. Charlotte made a promising debut in Rhodes, throwing 30.92 metres in her best event, the hammer, finishing in eighth place. She also finished 12th in the shot, her second-string event. In her final event of the 2007 season Charlotte improved her hammer pb to 34.38 metres, setting her up nicely for further improvement the following year. She started college in Ormskirk in the autumn of 2007, and joined Liverpool Pembroke & Sefton AC which had been Merrik‟s club. The following season she threw very consistently, upping her hammer pb to 36.73m and exceeding 35 metres regularly. In the early part of 2009 Charlotte‟s improvement continued relentlessly, and in the first few weeks of the season she upped her hammer pb first to 38.55m in late April and then to 38.99m in early May. On the same day as the latter performance she also set her shot pb with a throw of over nine metres. This set Charlotte up for her second Island Games in Aland with confidence and with an outside chance of a medal in the hammer. She had to settle for fourth place with a best throw of 37.44 metres, but this was a really fine performance in a high quality competition in which her teammate Marit Zahkna set a new Island Games record in winning the gold medal. Charlotte also finished in ninth place in the shot putt event. Charlotte‟s 2010 season started very promisingly, and in May she again improved her hammer pb with a throw of 39.02 metres in the Merseyside Championships, edging ever closer to that 40 metre mark. Unfortunately a knee injury then put paid to the rest of her 2010 season, and her injury required surgery. This past winter has been a time of rehabilitation for Charlotte, but in the early part of this season she has been able to get out and compete again. She is a little short of her best form at present but will give her all in the Games as she always does. I think Charlotte is definitely a future Island Games medallist although it may be unrealistic to expect it this year. She has recently taken up a temporary work placement in – of all places – the Isle of Wight, so will not have far to travel to compete! We are looking forward to seeing her there.


Thursday, 26 May 2011

Kelly on the Isle of Man

Dame Kelly Holmes addresses the Isle of Man athletics squad at the IOM Sports Institute this afternoon It was a really memorable day for the Isle of Man athletes, as they got to meet and train with one of the greatest Olympians of all time this afternoon. Dame Kelly Holmes has spent the day on the Isle of Man, where she is guest speaker at a black tie dinner organised by the IOM Children's Centre at the Mount Murray Hotel. This afternoon she spent an hour and a half with the Isle of Man athletics squad. She gave a motivational talk at the IOM Sports Institute which focussed on her career in athletics, especially her double Olympic success in 2004 when she won the 800m and 1500m events. At the end of this she passed her two Olympic gold medals round the room for everyone to see. Following an excellent question and answer session, it was then over to the NSC Sports Hall where she led a very enjoyable gym session for the squad.

It's not every day you get your h ands on an Olympic gold medal!! Like Roger Black and Steve Backley who visited the island a couple of weeks ago, Kelly has great charisma and is a fine motivational speaker. She also demonstrated during the gym session that she has lost little of her fitness and is still in fantastic shape at the age of 41!


Sunday, 12 June 2011

Harriet and Ben to the four! The two athletes featured in this entry will be making their fourth consecutive appearances at the Island Games. They were the two youngest members of the team in Shetland in 2005, and have gone on to compete in the 2007 and 2009 Games. Between them, they have already won a total of eight medals (two in individual events and six in relays), and will be expecting to add to this impressive tally in the Isle of Wight. Both specialise in the 400 metres event, but both are very versatile athletes who have a lot of talent in several athletics disciplines.

Harriet Pryke

Harriet's great natural talent as an athlete was obvious from an early age, and when she was just 14 she was selected to represent the Isle of Man in the Commonwealth Youth Games in Bendigo, Australia. The following year she made a very promising Island Games debut in Shetland, reaching the finals of both the 100 metres and 200 metres. She was part of the silver medal winning 4x100m relay team, getting the team off to an excellent start with a speedy first leg. Things didnâ€&#x;t go quite as Harriet would have liked in Rhodes in 2007, where she was eliminated in the heats of both the 200 metres and 400 metres, but she ran extremely well in both the relays. She was part of the bronze medal winning 4x100m relay team in a dramatic race, running a superb anchor leg despite having to hurdle a fallen athlete at the start of her leg! At this stage, Harrietâ€&#x;s progress as an athlete had stalled somewhat as she struggled to overcome


injury and illness problems, but the turning point came when she went to Brunel University in London in the autumn of 2008. Being in an athletics-orientated environment where she was able to mix with many very good athletes had an immediate effect, and in the early part of 2009 she dipped under 60 seconds for the 400 metres for the first time in the BUCS Indoor Championships. By the time the 2009 Island Games in Aland came round, Harriet had reduced her pbs in her specialist events to 25.7 for the 200m and 56.92 for the 400m, and she arrived in Aland full of confidence. Harriet performed superbly in all her events in Aland, looking every inch a class athlete, and picked up silver medals in both the 200m and 400m events. She set big pbs in both with clockings of 25.20 and 56.46 respectively. She anchored the 4x100m relay team to the gold medal and a new Isle of Man record time, and brought the 4x400m relay team home to the silver medal, also in a new IOM record time. Harriet continued her great form in 2010, only narrowly missing out on Commonwealth Games selection for the 400 metres having reduced her pb to 55.62 in the UK Championships. She also took her 200m pb down to 25.02. For two years Harriet had been strongly challenging Julie Harrisonâ€&#x;s Isle of Man 400 metres record of 55.07 set in 1995, and in May 2011 she exactly equalled it when winning the bronze medal in the BUCS championships. She finally claimed the record as her own in early June with a superb 54.9 clocking whilst running for Manx Harriers in a Northern League match at Salford. This time currently places her seventh in the UK Under 23 rankings for 2011.

Harriet competes regularly against the best, incl uding here at the 2010 UK Championships and European Trials where she featured on the big screen before the start. Behind her is the 2007 World Championship silver medallist Nicola Sanders (thanks to Harriet for the photo)

Harriet will have strong opposition in both the 200m and 400m events in the Isle of Wight, especially if Kelly Sotherton goes in the 200m event, but she must have a good chance of landing her first individual gold medal this year and challenging Julie Harrisonâ€&#x;s 400m Games record of 55.10. Harrietâ€&#x;s dedication, ambition and natural athleticism (she has the agility of a gymnast) will surely take her to greater heights in her athletics career, and I believe that Commonwealth Games selection in 2014 and future Great Britain representation are both realistic targets. I hope she achieves both and wins many more Island Games medals along the way!


Ben Brand

(photo Anthony Brand)

Ben's athletics career to date has followed several parallels to that of Harriet Pryke. A year older than Harriet, he was 15 years of age when he competed in the Commonwealth Youth Games in Australia, and 16 when he made his Island Games debut in Shetland. Both were coached by Graham Davies at that stage. Ben was focussing on the 400m and 800m events in that early part of his athletics career, and he ran superbly in less than ideal conditions in Shetland to finish fourth in the 400 metres final and fifth in the 800 metres final. These were exceptional performances from such a young athlete. During the 2006 season Benâ€&#x;s 800 metres performances were superb, and he beat Chris Quineâ€&#x;s long-standing Isle of Man age group record in taking his pb down to 1.56.63 in a BMC meeting at Stretford. He also took his 400 metres pb below 50 seconds for the first time with a 49.9 clocking at Bolton in a Northern League match. He had real medal prospects in his second Island Games in Rhodes in 2007, but unfortunately a calf injury sustained during a training session shortly after arrival in Rhodes ruled him out of all his events until the final day of competition. He ran an excellent anchor leg in the 4x400m relay final to help the team to fourth place in a very fast time, to at least salvage something from the week. After the Rhodes Games, Ben decided to abandon the 800 metres event in order to concentrate on the sprints, and soon showed his talent over the shorter distances. He also produced some really fine performances in all three jumping events, plenty good enough for Island Games selection had he decided to concentrate on those events. Benâ€&#x;s 2008 season was unfortunately cut short by injury after a very promising start at the Lancashire Championships. 2009 was Island Games year again, and after showing promising early season form Ben once again demonstrated his ability to peak at the right time for big events. The standard of competition in the 200m and 400m events was very high, and despite producing a pb of 22.67 he was eliminated in the semi finals of the 200 metres. It was a different story in the 400 metres though, and after cruising easily through his heat he produced a cracking run in the semi final to record a time of 49.97. He came agonisingly close to landing his first individual medal in the final, holding third place into the home straight before being narrowly pipped to the bronze medal. He finished the week by playing a


big part in both silver medal winning relays, anchoring the 4x400m team to a new Isle of Man record in the process. Since the 2009 Games, Benâ€&#x;s progress as an athlete has stalled a little due to a succession of injury problems, although he did set a new pb of 11.6 in the 100 metres during the 2010 season. By early 2011 his chances of making the Isle of Wight for his fourth Games looked quite slim, but to his great credit he has worked tremendously hard over the past few months to get himself back to full fitness. His performances in the recent Northern League match at Salford suggest that he is not too far away from his best form again. Ben looks set to play a full part in this yearâ€&#x;s Games where he contests the 400 metres event and both relays, and has a good chance of adding to his medal collection.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Hannah's High Five Hannah Riley

When Hannah steps onto the Sandown track in the Isle of Wight for her fifth Island Games, she will be taking her Games career into its third decade. She made her debut in Gotland in 1999 around the time of her 17th birthday, and had a magnificent week. After winning her heat in the 100 metres hurdles, she took the bronze medal in her first Island Games final. Things got even better from there, and she produced a fantastic performance in the 400 metres hurdles final to win the gold medal by a clear margin. This makes her one of the youngest individual gold medal winners for the Isle of Man at the Games. She was part of both the 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams who each finished fourth. In her home Games on the Isle of Man in 2001, Hannah missed out on the bronze medal in the 100m hurdles by the narrowest of margins, but in the 400m hurdles she again ran superbly. After winning her heat, she ran a second and a half quicker than she had done in 1999 but this time had to settle for


the silver medal behind Jerseyâ€&#x;s Claire Lidster, an athlete who was to become a regular rival. The 4x100m relay team again took fourth, but Hannah helped the 4x400m team to the silver medal with a typically determined run.

The Golden Girls! The gold medal winning 4x100m relay team in Guernsey in 2003, pictured by Graham Davies. Left to right - Hannah Riley, Hollie Bass, Sarah Dowling (now Halligan), Rachel Croft.

More success followed in Guernsey in 2003. Competing in her usual two individual events, Hannah took the silver medal in the 100m hurdles with a cracking time of 15.36, her fastest time in the Games to date, losing out to Lidster by just 0.06 of a second. She was a little off the pace by her standards in the 400m hurdles finishing in fourth place, but performed brilliantly as usual in the relays. She got the 4x400m team off to a fine start with a strong first leg, and the team came home in the silver medal position just edging out Shetland. The highlight of the week though was the 4x100m relay, in which Hannah anchored the team to a brilliant gold medal in a close and exciting race in which less than half a second separated the first three teams. By the time the 2005 Games in Shetland came round, Hannah was an experienced and successful athlete who was expected to bring back medals. Once again she delivered in style, and was involved in some of the most dramatic and memorable races I have witnessed at the Island Games. In the 100m hurdles final, run into a strong headwind, she appeared to have the race sewn up with ten metres to go only to be pipped on the line by her arch rival Lidster. Hannah was convinced she had won and couldnâ€&#x;t believe she had been edged out, but it was clear from the photo finish that the Jersey girl had got in a better dip at the line. Soon after the 2005 Games, Hannah suffered a serious knee injury which initially threatened her future in athletics. She was not in the frame for selection in 2007, and over the next year she was only able to make occasional competitive appearances. Happily she has made an excellent recovery, and after coming close to selection in 2009 she finally makes her long-awaited Island Games comeback this year, just reward for a lot of dedication. Hannahâ€&#x;s ability, allied to a fierce determination, love of athletics and bubbly personality have always made her an important member of the team who helps to bring the best out of other athletes. It is great to have Hannah back in the team, and she has every chance of adding to the ten Island Games medals she has already collected!


Sunday, 19 June 2011

Six of the best for Sarah! Sarah Halligan

Sarah pictured in Aland in 2009 This time last year, the thought of competing in the 2011 Island Games was far from Sarah‟s mind. Following the 2009 Games in Aland and with her wedding to plan in the summer of 2010, she made the decision to retire from serious athletics competition after taking part in the previous five Island Games. Sarah took up football as a new challenge and as a means to keep her fitness up, but last winter after a lot of soul searching she made the very welcome decision to return to athletics - more of which later. Sarah (nee Dowling) came close to selection for the 1999 Games in Gotland, but had to wait until 2001 to make her debut in her home Games on the Isle of Man where she was seventh in the final of the 100 metres and ninth in the High Jump. She was part of the 4x100m relay team who narrowly missed out on a medal, finishing fourth. It was in Guernsey in 2003 that Sarah‟s Island Games career really took off, and she achieved probably the highlight of her athletics career in winning the gold medal in the 200 metres. She took a narrow and exciting victory over Gotland‟s Ida Gillerfors, an athlete who was to become a regular rival. She added the silver medal in the 100 metres, and capped her week by helping the 4x100m relay team to a famous gold medal. In Shetland in 2005, Sarah improved both her 100m and 200m times slightly from 2003, but there was a big advance in the overall standard of the women‟s sprints resulting in positions of seventh and fifth respectively in the finals. She played a big part as always in both relays, helping the 4x100m team to the silver medal with an excellent second leg. She ran a fine first leg in the 4x400m relay, but unfortunately the team was disqualified after finishing third. By this stage, Sarah was a popular captain of the women‟s team, taking a lot of trouble to look after her teammates especially the younger ones.


The 2007 Games in Rhodes again demonstrated the increased standards in many events in the Island Games, and Sarah was eliminated in the heats of the 200 metres by a fraction of a second after being unfortunate to be drawn in the same heat as the Cayman Islandsâ€&#x; Olympic finalist Cydonie Mothersill. She did well to reach the final of the 400 metres in her first attempt at the distance at the Games, and finished in a respectable sixth place in the final. She was part of two very young relay teams, and used her experience to help the 4x100 team to an excellent bronze medal. She ran a superb third leg in the 4x400m relay, in which the team just missed out on the bronze medal. After the 2007 Games, Sarah took stock of the standards by now required for success in the Island Games, and committed herself to the hardest two years training of her life in a bid to get back into the frame for individual medals. As always she set a great example to her training group, helping to encourage them to higher standards. In the early part of 2009 Sarah was in great shape and arrived in Aland in arguably the best form of her life. She went on to have an outstanding week, obliterating her pbs in both the 400m and 200m events. She ran the race of her life in the 400 metres final, taking the bronze medal in a photo finish with a time of 57.34, nearly two seconds faster than she had previously run! In my opinion this was a better performance than her gold medal winning run back in 2003. She then went on to set a massive pb of 25.62 in the 200m semi-final, before finishing fifth in a highquality final. That was far from the end of the week though, as on the final day Sarah ran a brilliant second leg to help the 4x100m relay team to the gold medal and a new IOM record. An hour later she summoned up one final big effort to run another great leg in the 4x400m relay to set up another new IOM record and help the team to the silver medal. The medals in Aland were beautiful, and Sarah was the envy of the team as she travelled home with the full set – gold, silver and bronze! Shortly after the 2009 Games, Sarah took the decision to retire from serious athletics, and in the summer of 2010 she married fellow Island Games gold medallist John Halligan. It seemed that we wouldnâ€&#x;t see Sarah at the Island Games again other than as a spectator, but to the delight of everyone involved with the Isle of Man team she committed last winter to another serious attempt at the Island Games. Having kept up her fitness playing football, Sarah, who is now 30 years of age, has recaptured her form in the early part of this season and will be very competitive in both the 100m and 200m events in her sixth successive Games. She has always been an outstanding relay runner and will again play a huge role in both relay teams. I am looking forward to seeing Sarah add to the eight Island Games medals she has already won in the Isle of Wight next week!

This was Sarah's only track race in the summer of 2010! With husband John Halligan (3000m steeplechase gold medallist in 2007) at the NSC on their wedding day. I never did find out who won this race! (thanks to Sarah for the photo)


Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Ten out of eleven Louise Kneen

Louise's profile picture on the official website of the 2005 Island Games in Shetland

By far the most experienced athlete in this year‟s Isle of Man team is thrower Louise Kneen. In the 2011 Island Games she will become only the third Isle of Man athlete to compete in ten or more Games, drawing level with Chris Quine and one behind Andy Fox. Having made her debut as a 16 year old in Aland in 1991, Louise has missed only one Island Games since - ironically that was the 2009 event which was also in Aland. During her long Island Games career Louise has competed in all four throwing disciplines, not to mention the high jump on her debut in 1991! In that Aland event twenty years ago Louise had a busy week, finishing tenth in the shot and high jump and eleventh in the javelin. She is the only member of this year‟s Isle of Man team to have competed the last time the Isle of Wight hosted the Games in 1993, and she showed that she was a rapidly improving athlete with an excellent sixth place in the discus. By the time the 1995 Games in Gibraltar came round, Louise was a well established member of the team who was in a position to challenge for medals, and she did just that in three different events. She was fifth in the javelin, and fourth in both the shot and the discus. In the latter event she missed out on the bronze medal by just a few centimetres in an exciting competition. In Jersey in 1997, the women‟s hammer event was introduced to the Island Games for the first time, and this meant that Louise was even busier than usual as she contested all four throwing events. Her best performance was again in the discus, in which she took another fourth place finish less than a


metre behind the bronze medallist. She threw 34.80 metres, which remains the best discus throw of her Island Games career to date. It was the same story in Gotland in 1999, where Louise completed a hat-trick of fourth places in the discus, this time finishing less than half a metre behind the bronze medallist. She also recorded her first throw of over ten metres in the shot, finishing in sixth place but not too far behind the bronze medallist in a very close contest. Having come so close to a coveted medal so many times, Louise‟s time finally came in the 2001 Games, and - like London buses - after waiting so long for one, two arrived together! Louise produced two terrific performances to land bronze medals in both the shot and the discus, and to achieve this in her home Games made it even sweeter for a proud Manxie. Her throw of 11.68m in the shot is the best of her Games career so far. She also finished in a respectable sixth place in the hammer. Onto 2003 in Guernsey, and Louise added two more fourth places to her growing collection. Her performances in both the shot and the discus were excellent, and again she was very close to the bronze medal in the latter event. By this stage of her career Louise was a highly experienced and consistent performer, and in a cold and damp Games in Shetland in 2005 she produced perhaps the best set of throws of her Island Games career. She added two more fourth places in the discus and hammer, but the highlight of her week was her performance in the shot which earned her the first silver medal of her career to add to the two bronzes she won in 2001. Conditions in Rhodes for Louise‟s ninth successive Games were the polar opposite of those in Shetland, and she put in three more fine performances to finish fifth in the discus and seventh in the shot and hammer. Louise‟s run of consecutive Island Games ended in 2009 when she missed out on a return to Aland due to injury. It must have been galling for her to see from the results that had she been fit she would have had a great chance of winning the gold medal in the shot, in which the standard dropped in comparison with the previous few Games. Louise returns to the team in 2011 for her tenth Games, and despite an injury scare a few weeks ago she will be looking to add to her proud Island Games record in the shot and discus events. As well as being a quality athlete, Louise puts a huge amount back into the sport. She is a long-time Committee member of Western AC and works tremendously hard in coaching young athletes, organising club trips to compete off-island, and generally playing a big part in every type of event organised by the club. Her experience and coaching skills have been invaluable to the other throwers in the team in the build up to this year‟s Games, and her return to the team is most welcome. I hope she has an enjoyable and successful week in the Isle of Wight.


Thursday, 23 June 2011

Introducing the Isle of Wight

To some of the female members of our 2009 team in Aland, the Isle of Wight will always be the land of chocolate puddings - a private in-joke among the team, completely inoffensive I hasten to add! The island has plenty more to offer than choccy puds though, and I for one am really looking forward to spending eight or nine days there this summer. I must admit that my previous knowledge of the island was limited at best, although Iâ€&#x;ve had mail delivered there a few times in the past which has eventually made its way to the right island. Quite a few times in my life, I have been asked whether the Isle of Man is the island off the coast of Portsmouth – apparently some of the posties think that too! It had to be said that Wikipedia is a fantastic source of information, and I used the site to find out as much as possible about Shetland, Rhodes and Aland before visiting those islands for the last three Games. So most of the following information about the Isle of Wight is shamelessly taken from there as well!


A panoramic view of Sandown Bay, close to where the athletics team will be staying and competing. Not unlike the view north across Ramsey Bay (except that the pier is in better condition than the Ramsey version!) Photo http://www.thetoptensite.com/

In no particular order, here are a few facts and figures about the Isle of Wight:

It has a land area of 148 square miles, which makes it approximately two-thirds of the size of the Isle of Man which is 221 square miles. However, its population is considerably bigger than the Isle of Man – circa 140,000 compared with circa 80,000 based on 2008 estimates.

It is located five to eight kilometers off the south coast of Hampshire, from which it is separated by the Solent.

The island‟s highest point is St Boniface Down in the south of the island, at 241 metres above sea level (as compared with Snaefell which is 620 metres).

The capital is Newport, and this is the island‟s main shopping area. However the largest town on the island is Ryde with a population of around 30,000.

Tourism is the island‟s biggest industry, with an estimated 2.7 million visitors a year, the vast majority of whom visit from other parts of the UK. Next is agriculture, particularly sheep and dairy farming and the growing of arable crops. The island‟s mild climate gives it a longer growing season than most parts of the UK.

The island is very popular for walking, and the 108km coastal footpath attracts thousands of walkers each year.


The Isle of Wight's spectacular coastline and rolling hills make it a popular destination for walkers (photo http://www.telegraph.co.uk/) 

The island has a total of 787 kilometres of roads (and I‟m willing to bet that most are in a far better condition than the Isle of Man‟s third-world roads!) There are also 322km of cycleways, many of them off-road.

The Isle of Wight was the last part of England to convert to Christianity (in year 686).

The word‟s first radio station was set up on the island, in 1897.

Queen Victoria built Osborne House in the north of the island (in East Cowes), which was her home during the summer months for many years. She died there in 1901. Osborne House is now open to the public.

Cowes, in the north of the island, hosts the world-famous annual Cowes Week sailing regatta, and is the home of Dame Ellen MacArthur.

Sandown (where the athletics will be held) is a popular seaside resort and is the home of the Isle of Wight Zoo and Dinosaur Isle geological museum (the latter is very close to where the team is staying). The island is one of the most important locations in Europe for dinosaur fossils.

There are three breweries on the island (but the team is presumably banned from sampling any of their products until the last night party!!)

On an athletics theme, the Isle of Wight Marathon is the UK‟s oldest continuously held marathon, having been held every year since 1957.

Hampshire have played several first-class cricket matches on the island.

There is a huge variety of wildlife, and it is one of the few parts of England where the red squirrel is flourishing. There are no grey squirrels on the island. The red squirrel has been chosen as the official mascot for the 2011 Island Games.


Notable residents (past or present) other than those already referred to include the Indie rock group The Bees, actor Geoffrey Hughes (famous for his roles as Eddie Yeats in Coronation Street, Onslow in Keeping Up Appearances and Vernon Scripps in Heartbeat), former BBC Sports presenter turned conspiracy theorist David Icke (I wonder if he‟s still wearing turquoise!), Mark King (lead singer/bassist for the band Level 42), famous TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh, and author Charles Dickens who wrote most of David Copperfield there.

The island hosts the annual Isle of Wight festival (recently revived). In 1970 it was the biggest rock music event ever held with an estimated attendance of 600,000, and featured one of the final public performances by Jimi Hendrix.

Part of the 600,000-strong crowd at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival (photo http://www.iow1970.com/)

The famous Beatles song “When I‟m 64” refers to renting a cottage on the Isle of Wight – “every summer we can rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight, if it's not too dear”.

Bob Dylan recorded “Like a Rolling Stone”, “Quinn the Eskimo”, “Minstrel Boy” and “She Belongs to Me” live on the Isle of Wight for the album “Self Portrait” during the 1969 Festival.

And finally – the Isle of Wight has competed in every Island Games since the event‟s inception in 1985. It hosted the event in 1993, and (just in case you didn‟t already know), it will play host to the Games again in 2011!!


Friday, 24 June 2011

In Wight from Mann! I got to my hotel in Sandown at lunchtime today, and have spent the afternoon sorting myself out and having a good look around the area. I had a drive round the main loop (five miles) on the Half Marathon course, and a walk round the short loop (one mile), each of which are completed twice in the race on Sunday morning. I also had a good look at the track and surrounds. Contrary to yesterday's report, there is a small covered stand near the finishing line accommodating about 150 spectators, but the rest of it is out in the open. However spectators appear to be able to get anywhere round the track, so there could be a decent atmosphere if the weather is good and there is a big crowd surrounding the track. It is very exposed though, and although the weather was mainly sunny and warm today there was a very stiff wind which would have been behind the sprinters in the home straight. When I got to the track some of the Cayman Islands sprinters were doing some stretches and strides, and there was plenty of work going on in preparation for the Games. I spotted a large figure walking towards me with about ten hurdles slung over his shoulder. He was wearing a GB tracksuit top, and it turned out to be none other than Great Britain's number one hammer thrower Andy Frost! He will be competing for the Isle of Wight next week. When I got off the ferry this morning most of the Bermuda team were strolling down the road, and while I was walking round part of the Half Marathon course the Rhodes team drove past in their coach, looking resplendent in their very striking blue tracksuits. The Isle of Man team have had a long day, meeting at the Sea Terminal at 6.15am for their sailing to Liverpool, followed by a long drive to Portsmouth. They should be nearly there now. They then have 45 minutes on the ferry and another few miles to get to their caravan park on the outskirts of Sandown. I believe the entry lists have at last been published on the official results website http://www.natwestiowresults2011.com/default.aspx. I haven't had time to look at them yet but will do so later. I'll finish this entry with a few photos of the track taken this afternoon.


The team have arrived After more than 13 hours of travelling, the team finally arrived at their caravan park in Sandown at around 8pm. There were some very tired looking athletes at the team meal tonight! It didn't help that the driver got lost on the drive down and found himself in Birmingham City Centre - yes honestly, you couldn't make it up! There were also no toilets on the coach, creating an obvious problem for athletes who are taught to drink lots of water to keep hydrated. Keith Gerrard reckoned the journey was every bit as long as travelling home from Albuquerque in New Mexico, and felt he was in a different time zone! I hope everyone gets a good night's sleep to recover tonight. Before meeting the team, I had a wander down to Sandown seafront and through the main street. Several of the Bermuda team were around, and I spotted about 15 of the Shetland team having a meal in an Italian restaurant. I took some photos of the seafront, which is slightly reminiscent of the view from Ramsey beach.


Saturday, 25 June 2011

Some photo updates Below is a selection of photos taken during the team's journey over yesterday, and at the track this morning. After a very long day, there were still some rather tired athletes this morning, but everyone is just about orientated now having sorted out how to get to and from the track (there is an excellent short cut!) and where everyone else is on the caravan park.

Gemma Astin, Reagan Dee and Rachael Franklin on the ferry from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight

The Half Marathon squad pose for a group photo before having a jog round part of the course. Left to right - Gail Griffiths, Martin Malone, Kevin Loundes, Ed Gumbley, Hannah Howard.


Ben Brand and Michael Haslett practic e their relay changeovers...

...as do Sarah Halligan and Bethan Pilley...


...while coaches Di Shimell and Danaa Callow look on.

After a long day's travelling yesterday, Gemma Astin and Rachael Franklin look pleased to be able to stretch their legs on the track...


The girls pose for a team photo at a windswept track. Back row left to right - Sarah Halligan, Rachael Franklin, Reagan Dee, Bethan Pilley, Sinead Kaneen, Sarah Astin. Front row left to right - Ciara McDonnell, Andrea de Bruin, Gemma Astin

The team then headed back for a team meeting, conducted in the garden of the pub next to the Caravan Park!


Sunday, 26 June 2011

What a team! What a start! The Half Marathon runners got the Isle of Man‟s 2011 Island Games campaign off to an exceptional start this morning. All five produced outstanding performances to collectively win one gold medal and two silvers. Kevin Loundes well and truly made up for his disappointment in Aland two years ago with the individual silver medal, and he was also part of the silver medal winning men‟s team along with Ed Gumbley and Martin Malone. Hannah Howard and Gail Griffiths won the team gold medal in the women‟s race. For the team to have won three medals already in the first event is a massive boost for the whole team and takes a lot of the pressure off. Ten more needed to beat our total medal haul from 2009! Conditions were good during the race, with a sea mist enveloping much of the course in the early part of the race keeping the temperature down. The sun did break though during the race but most of the competitors coped well. The course was tough, with a lot of ups and downs and several significant hills, but times were generally only a minute or two down on pb territory. It was the sort of course for which you need to be really fit and well prepared, which is exactly what all the Isle of Man runners were. At the start of the race Kevin was in a leading group of four along with Guernsey‟s Lee Merrien and Steve Dawes, and Sean Trott of Bermuda, while Ed and Martin were also in a group of runners in around tenth place. Hannah was sixth and Gail ninth at this stage in a closely contested women‟s race behind the front three who had made an early break. By the halfway point Merrien had pulled well clear as expected, but behind him Kevin led a group of three and was looking really strong. Not too long afterwards Ed appeared in fifth place and was absolutely flying, and Martin followed about 100 metres further back in ninth. In the women‟s race Hannah was still in sixth at this stage, while Gail was eighth about 50 metres behind her teammate. On the final lap the pace began to tell for some of the field who had gone off too hard, and the superbly-prepared Isle of Man runners took full advantage. GB international marathon runner Merrien had increased his lead with every stride and arrived back at the track on his own to take the expected win by a clear margin. There was great excitement as we waited to see who would appear on the road outside the track in second place, and to the delight of the Manx support Kevin appeared out on his own well ahead of Sean Trott from Bermuda. To huge cheers from the Isle of Man contingent he crossed the line in a brilliant second place. Ed ran probably his best ever race to come home in sixth, and he very nearly caught the tiring Steve Dawes of Guernsey who had been the pre-race favourite for the silver. Martin finished in a very creditable ninth place with an intelligent run, and sensibly backed off a little towards the end with an eye on Friday's 10,000 metres when he knew that the team had the silver medal in the bag. Hannah and Gail also ran superbly, finishing in fifth and sixth places respectively and both running their hearts out. They each picked off tiring rivals on the last lap and were still looking extremely strong at the end. To the delight of all concerned it was confirmed that they had won the gold medal in the team event - fantastic! Hannah has been a great recent addition to the Isle of Man team, and Gail just continues to go from strength to strength. Everyone was delighted that Andy Fox was able to make a brief flying visit to the Isle of Wight to see four of his athletes getting the rewards that he and they so richly deserve. I have rarely seen Andy


looking so happy was he was after the race! I can't wait for the medal ceremonies this evening, when all five of our competitors will stand on the podium and 'Land of Our Birth' will ring out for the girls.

Hannah and Gail celebrate together after the race this morning, while Gail passes on the news to the folks at home!

A happy Kev gets a well-deserved rub-down from Andy Watson afterwards...


...Ed is consigned to the bin...

...as is Martin...

...and team manager Anthony Brand finds a new way of rewarding Gail for her success!


Sunday, 26 June 2011

Sunday evening report There were seven Isle of Man athletes in action this evening, as well as the medal ceremonies for this morning's Half Marathon. On a glorious sunny evening, there was a good crowd at the Sandown track creating an excellent atmosphere. The first track events were the women's 100 metres heats in which Ciara McDonnell and Sarah Halligan went for the Isle of Man. Ciara was in Heat 1, and unfortuntely did not make it through to the semi-finals, finishing sixth in a time of 13.86. Ciara has been unfortunate to pick up an injury at absolutely the wrong time a couple of months ago and her training has been severely restricted as a result. She still has plenty more this week though with the 400 metres and both relays and I am sure things will get better. Sarah went in Heat 3, and qualified comfortably for the next round in a time of 13.05. She did not get a great start, but looked very comfortable and has plenty more to come. Two field events started simultaneously and featured Games debutants Daniel Stewart-Clague in the High Jump and Richard Bell in the Shot. Daniel performed well to finish in eighth place with a best jump of 1.80 metres, achieving comfortable clearances at three heights. The highlight of the competition was a great performance by Jersey jumper Simon Phelan who won the event with a clearance of 2.10 metres, which I think is the second best jump in the history of the Games after the Isle of Man's Martin Aram's 2003 mark of 2.13m. Phelan had three attempts at 2.14m but was unsuccessful. In the men's Hammer event, Richard Bell made an excellent Games debut with a very consistent set of throws. His best effort of 42.55 metres was a new pb by over a metre and gave him an excellent seventh place finish, not far behind the fifth and sixth place competitors. There was another spectacular display from Great Britain's number one Andy Frost, who won yet another gold medal for the Isle of Wight with 70.61 metres. Next up were the men's 200 metres heats, with Tom Riley representing the Isle of Man. Tom had no problems qualifying for the semi-final with a comfortable second place finish in Heat 3 in 22.62. He looked in complete control of his race and seemed to have plenty in hand. The final events with Manx interest were the men's 800 metres heats. Andy Barron went in Heat 2, which was extremely fast on the first lap. Andy worked very hard but was unable to close the gap on high-class opposition, finishing sixth in 2.02.09. However the good news is that this was still good enough to progress to tomorrow morning's semi-finals as one of the fastest losers. Andy was disappointed with his run afterwards, but I think he was being hard on himself. He has another opportunity tomorrow morning, and still has his best event the 1500 metres to come. Ryan Fairclough went in Heat 3, and after a relatively sedate first lap Ryan forced the pace in the second 400 metres and came home in a comfortable third place looking well in control. After an interminable delay we finally had the medal ceremonies for the Half Marathon - it was just a shame that most of the crowd had gone home by then. However the lack of numbers were more than compensated by the racket the Manx support made in the small stand by the track in honour of the Half Marathon heroes! It was a great moment to see Hannah and Gail picking up their gold medals in the team event, and the lads picking up their silvers (in Kev's case the individual silver too!). Really well done to all!


Here are a selection of photos from the evening.

Kevin gets greedy and claims not one but two silver medals!

Hannah and Gail jubilant on the podium...


...and proudly show off their gold meda ls afterwards!

This is what winning Island Games medals does to you!


Monday, 27 June 2011

Monday morning action Day Two of the athletics programme began at 11am with the semi-finals of the men's 400 metres hurdles, featuring the Isle of Man's Michael Haslett. Mikey went in the second semi, and looked in really good form as he glided easily over the hurdles despite a strong crosswind. He came home in third position in an excellent time of 54.49, and looked as if he has plenty more in the tank for tonight's final. It should be a close, competitive and high quality race tonight, as all eight qualifiers ran between 53 and 55 this morning. We then had the semi-finals of the men's 200 metres, with Tom Riley going in the first race. Unfortunately this proved to be the low point of the morning as Tom was disqualified for a false start, making him the first Island Games athlete to fall foul of the false start rule that was brought in last year. It was difficult to see from my position on the home straight as the view of the start was partly obscured. Had Tom run the time he recorded last night he would have cruised into the Final. We then had Ryan Fairclough and Andy Barron in the semi-finals of the men's 800 metres, and they were drawn together in the first race. I must apologise for an error (now corrected) in last night's report, as I honestly thought Andy had been eliminated after his Heat, but he had in fact qualified as one of the fastest losers - sorry Andy! Both Ryan and Andy produced cracking runs this morning, with Ryan again looking extremely strong and relaxed as he ran most of the race on the shoulder of the Isle of Wight's Joseph Wade, coming home in a comfortable second place in a time of 1.56.17. Andy also ran a fine race, staying with the pack for most of the race and only just losing contact towards the end. His time was 2.00.26, and subject to confirmation both Ryan and Andy have run pbs this morning. Ryan said afterwards that he felt no more tired after this morning's race than he did last night when he ran five seconds slower! Andy was much happier this morning than he was yesterday evening, and has done well to get to the semi-final of his debut Island Games event. He can now focus on his favourite 1500 metres event later this week. There was a great atmosphere at the track this morning as hundreds of local schoolchildren assembled in the sunshine on the grassy bank to cheer on the athletes, creating a colourful and noisy backdrop. There should be great excitement tonight, and we have several athletes in action. At 6pm we have Lee Corlett and Richard Bell in the Shot final and Mikey Haslett in the 400m hurdles final, followed by Sarah Halligan in the women's 100m semis. Then at 7pm we have Rachael Franklin and Gemma Astin in the women's 1500m final, and then hopefully Sarah Halligan in the 100m final. At 7.50pm is the one that we have all been really looking forward to when Keith Gerrard lines up for the 5000m final, in which his main opposition is likely to come from Thomas Wade of the Isle of Wight. Finally, Harriet Pryke and Ciara McDonnell go in the semi-final of the women's 400 metres. It should be a great night and I can't wait! It was hot and sunny at the track this morning (around 28 degrees) but it has now clouded over with the possibility of a thunderstorm later. Hope we don't get soaked!!


Monday, 27 June 2011

Looking back to the Half Marathon Thanks to Caroline Brand, I have got together a collection of photos from yesterday's memorable Half Marathon for the Manx runners.

Martin Malone and Ed Gumbley followed their plan to work together in the early stages, and have Bermuda's Stephen Allen for company

Hannah Howard leads a bike-mounted marshal. The marshals did a brilliant job, not only keeping the competitors safe but also encouraging the many spectators around the course to give the runners plenty of vocal support


Martin looking very strong as he finishes in a fine ninth place

Gail comes home in sixth place with another superb run, gai ning revenge on Guernsey's Nikki Neal (in the background) who beat her in Aland two years ago


Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Pure class! Pure class indeed! That is the only way I can describe Keith Gerrard's performance in the 5000 metres final tonight as he completely destroyed the opposition with a magnificent display of front running. It is probably a contentious debate as to which is the finest performance by an Isle of Man athlete in the history of the Island Games. Certainly Brenda Walker's Half Marathon in Aland in 1991 and Martin Aram's high jump in Guernsey in 2003 are two that spring immediately to mind, but I would suggest that Keith's performance tonight was at least as good. His only rival was the Isle of Wight's Thomas Wade who is a very fine athlete indeed, but by the end of the first lap Keith had already taken a lead of around five metres, which had grown to 20 metres or more by lap two. By the 2k point Keith was 150 metres clear and running with a style and class that was a complete joy to watch. He was well inside the schedule to beat Lee Merrien's Games record from 2009, and by the time the race reached the last four laps he had lapped the entire field with the exception of Wade. It was a truly outstanding exhibition of front running on an extremely hot and humid evening, and with the race done and dusted Keith eased the pace a little in the second half of the race and eventually just missed the record by a few seconds. His performance was hugely appreciated by the big crowd who cheered him from start to finish. I hope the rest of the Isle of Man team appreciate how fortunate they are to have Keith as their teammate this week and take the opportunity to learn from him what it takes to be a top athlete. I know Andy Barron for one is hugely inspired by Keith and will be a better athlete for being able to pick Keith's brains all week. I'm not sure that people on the Isle of Man fully appreciate just how good Keith is, mainly because he doesn't get to compete on the island or for the island very often. Any of the Isle of Man team who didn't know before how good Keith is certainly know now! I had to laugh after the session finished tonight when I gave Keith a lift back to the team HQ and he instinctively made for the driver's door thinking it was the passenger door - after two years in America habits die hard!

Keith looks happy after the race, following a supreme performance!!


Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Monday night report I devoted last night's entry to Keith Gerrard's magnificent gold medal winning performance in the men's 5000 metres event, so will now take the opportunity to catch up with the rest of last night's action. The first event on the track was the final of the men's 400 metres hurdles, in which Michael Haslett was hopeful of landing his first individual Games medal. This was the highest quality 400 metres hurdles race in Island Games history, and although Mikey ran well and gave it everything he had, he had to settle for fifth place in a time of 54.55. The winner, James Forman from the Isle of Wight, smashed the Games record with a superb time of 50.41, and all three medallists ran sub-52 which is exceptionally classy running. Mikey was disappointed afterwards as he had a very personal reason for wanting to win a medal, but he did himself and his family proud. I have absolutely no doubt that he will get that medal before long. At the bottom end of the arena the men's Shot final was starting, and this featured two of our Games debutants Richard Bell and Lee Corlett. This is not the strongest event for either of them, but both performed creditably against high-class opponents. Lee finished sixth with a best putt of 11.13 metres, just short of his pb, while Richard was eighth with his best putt of 9.74 metres being a new pb. The winner Zane Duquemin of Jersey beat the Games record with a brilliant putt of over 17 metres. Next on the track came the semi-finals of the women's 100 metres, with Sarah Halligan running in the second race. She gave it everything and finished very strongly, but was not quite able to break into a high enough position to qualify for the final. She finished sixth in a time of 12.82. In the later final, Guernsey's Kylie Robilliard became the latest athlete to claim a new Games record, beating Kelly Sotherton's 1997 record with a superb 11.94 clocking. Next up was the women's 1500 metres final in which Rachael Franklin fancied her chances of a second successive medal and Gemma Astin was looking to overcome recent problems with a solid run. It soon became clear that the race was going to develop into a tactical battle when the first lap was run in a very sedate 78 seconds. Nobody was prepared to really take it on, and the ten athletes ran the first 1000 metres in a tight bunch. Only approaching the bell did the field start to break up a little and it was then a case of who had the greatest finishing speed. It was the experienced duo of Eilidh Mackenzie (Western Isles) and Claire Wilson (Jersey, formerly Shetland) who hit the front, and after a final sprint it was Mackenzie who had the greatest speed to retain her title from 2009. Rachael finished like a train, but left her effort just too late and was edged out of fourth place by a millimetre. Gemma also finished very strongly to finish eighth and can take heart from this performance going into the 5000 metres final. Only three seconds separated the first eight athletes, and even the final finisher ran a time that would have won a medal in the not too distant past. The men's 5000 metres final has already been covered in detail, so the final event with Manx interest was the women's 400 metres semi-final in which Harriet Pryke and Ciara McDonnell were drawn together in race one. Harriet has been in great form this season, and she underlined it again with a run of great style and authority, winning by over two seconds with a time of 56.41 without stretching herself. She was also nearly two seconds faster than the winner of the second semi, and will start as favourite for the gold medal in tonight's final. Ciara McDonnell finished fourth in the same race as Harriet, starting really strongly before fading a little in the closing stages. She finished in a respectable time of 61.80, but this was not good enough to make the final. Ciara has great talent as a 400m


runner and with better luck with injuries I think she has a good chance of making her mark in future Island Games. Tonight should be really exciting. The programme kicks off at 6pm with the women's Shot final, with Louise Kneen and Charlotte Christian representing the Isle of Man. We then have the heats of the men's 4x100m relay (the women's event is a straight final on Friday) followed by the women's 100 metres hurdles in which Hannah Riley makes her long-awaited Games comeback. The men's discus final follows with Lee Corlett and Richard Bell, and then Tom Riley goes in the men's 110 metres hurdles final having gained a late entry. The evening finishes with the women's 400 metres final (Harriet Pryke) and the men's 800 metres final (Ryan Fairclough). It promises to be a really exciting evening and I am optimistic that there will be some Manx successes to report later.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Photos from Monday

Andy Barron gets focussed before the 800 metres semi -final

Ryan Fairclough tucks in behind the Isle of Wight's Joseph Wade, and took an excellent second place


Lee Corlett relaxes before the shot putt final

Sarah Halligan blasts out of the blocks in the 100 metres semi -final


By lap three Keith was way out on his own

Keith being interviewed by the stadium commentator


Harriet Pryke blasts off in her 400 metres heat...

...and crosses the line way out in front. Her teammate Ciara McDonnell (extreme left) was fourth


Wednesday, 29 June 2011

H is for Heaven - for Hannah and Harriet! It was a truly wonderful night for Manx athletics on the Isle of Wight tonight. Two golds, one silver, and several other great performances. Pride of place goes to the two H's Hannah Riley and Harriet Pryke who each destroyed all opposition in the 100 metres hurdles and 400 metres respectively to the absolute delight of the big and very noisy Manx support. Hannah's performance was sensational. I detailed in her recent feature on the blog that she was almost finished as an athlete after suffering a serious knee injury in 2005 that took years to get over, and indeed this was her first Island Games appearance since Shetland six years ago. She has been in excellent form this season, but I honestly thought (as she did) that the best she could hope for this time was probably the bronze. How wrong can you be! Hannah got a superb start, and was right up with Guernsey's Commonwealth Games hurdler Kylie Robilliard over the first few barriers. The Guernsey girl then got it horribly wrong, clattering a hurdle really hard and being thrown completely off her stride, and Hannah was suddenly three metres clear of the field. She hurdled faultlessly to bring home the gold medal in superb style, and the scenes immediately afterwards were some of the best I have ever witnessed at the Island Games. Hannah could scarcely believe she was once again an Island Games gold medalist and didn't even try to hold back the emotions after the race! Hannah is a true champion athlete who has the happy knack of producing the goods when it really matters, and tonight was a wonderful night for her. To put the icing on the cake her winning time of 14.68 was not only a huge pb, it also beat Cheryl Done's long-standing Isle of Man record! Next up on the track was the men's 110 metres hurdles final, and this also produced a great performance and a great story. Hannah's brother Tom is a top-class sprinter, but has only taken up hurdling this season and did his first ever 110m hurdles race only two months ago. He was not originally entered in the event, but a withdrawal by another athlete opened up a place and Tom's late entry was accepted yesterday. And what an incredible performance he produced. Right from the gun he was at the sharp end of the race, hurdling very smoothly and very rapidly. At the line, Guernsey's Glenn Etherington was a narrow but clear winner, but behind him it was a blanket finish by the next three athletes. The consensus from the Manx spectators looking down the track from the hill beyond the finishing line was that Tom may possibly have got the bronze, but after an agonising few minutes there was absolute jubilation when Tom was confirmed as the silver medalist. It was a quite incredible performance from an athlete so new to the event, and completed an unforgettable night for the Riley family. Heaven knows how good Tom will be at this event with a bit more experience and technical work! The third track finalist of the night was Harriet Pryke in the women's 400 metres, and unlike Hannah and Tom she had the added pressure of being the clear favourite ahead of the race. If she felt any pre-race anxiety it didn't show for a moment, and Harriet ran superbly right from the gun. At the 200 metres mark she was narrowly in the lead, and then after gathering herself round the top bend she absolutely exploded down the home straight to pull out over two seconds on the second placed athlete. It was an enormous victory margin for a 400 metres race, which confirmed that Harriet is now an athlete of very high quality who has the confidence in her ability to win the races that really matter. Like Keith Gerrard the previous night, Harriet was very calm and composed about her victory, even expressing a touch of disappointment with her time (which means that Julie Harrison's Games record still stands!). It will take a very good athlete to beat Harriet in this event in the next few years, and I think this will be the first of many individual gold medals for her.


The last track final of the night was the men's 800 metres, and Ryan Fairclough also produced a tremendous performance. This was a race of very high quality, and it started at an astonishing pace. The leader went through 200 metres in 25 seconds (inside world record pace!!) and 400 metres in 52. At this stage Joseph Wade (Isle of Wight) and Donald Macleod (Western Isles) were away, but behind them Ryan was still in with a real shout of the bronze. He went through 400 metres in fourth place in just under 55 seconds, and after holding his position up the back straight on the second lap he then surged past a slowing rival into third place on the top bend. The excitement amongst the Manx crowd was at fever pitch by now as they roared Ryan on down the home straight, and he gave it everything he had. After a heroic effort he was eventually pipped by two of his rivals in the closing stages to finish fifth, but it was a superb run in a new pb time of 1.55.93. I hope Ryan is inspired to work even harder over the next two years - if he does he will surely get a medal next time. The other track event with Manx interest had taken place right at the start of the evening, and saw the mens 4x100 metres relay team easily win their heat to qualify for Friday's final. The team (in leg order) was Michael Haslett, Ben Brand, Daniel Stewart-Clague and Tom Riley (warming up for his hurdles final!) and all ran well. With just a little bit of work on the changeovers, the team can be confident of doing well on Friday. There were two field event finals tonight, and two particularly good Manx performances. In the women's shot putt event, Louise Kneen was competing in her tenth Island Games, and made light of a recent foot injury to finish in fourth place with a best putt of 10.62 metres. There was frustration for her on her final throw, which was called as a no putt by the judges for a foot infringement. It was a cracking throw too, definitely in excess of the bronze medallist's distance of 11.00 metres. This was an excellent Island Games comeback by Louise after missing 2009. Charlotte Christian finished seventh with a best effort of 8.38 metres, and will have a better chance in the hammer event tomorrow night. In the men's discus final we had Lee Corlett and Richard Bell in action. Richard had a disappointing evening, only managing one legal throw, but Lee was pleased with his night's work, finishing in a very respectable seventh position with a new pb throw of 38.98 metres. This was within five metres of the bronze medallist, which should give Lee lots of motivation to work hard over the next two years. It was a really great night to be Manx tonight, with the anthem being played no fewer than three times (Keith got his 5000m gold tonight as well as Hannah and Harriet). Tomorrow morning we have Tom Riley quickly back in action in the men's 100 metres heats, followed by Rachael Franklin and Sarah Astin in the heats of the women's 800 metres. Next will be Harriet Pryke and Sarah Halligan in the women's 200 metres heats, and finally Ben Brand in the 400 metres heats (possibly Michael Haslett as well). It's been another late night's blogging so I will call it a night now, but I hope to get a selection of photos from tonight's memorable action published in the morning.


Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Tuesday night photos Below is a selection of Caroline Brand's photos from a memorable night for the Isle of Man at the track in Sandown last night.

Keith Gerrard shows his delight at winning a gold medal for the Isle of Man

Brilliant hurdling from Hannah Riley - are the others even in the same race?


Hannah can hardly take in the fact that she is an Island Games gold medalist again...

...but here is the proof that she is!


Louise Kneen took an excellent fourth place in the Shot...

...and Charlotte Christian was seventh


What an amazing night it was for the Riley family...

...as Tom adds a silver to sister Hannah's gold!


Harriet about to blast off in the 400 metres final...

...which she won by a huge margin...


Harriet stands proudly in the centre of the podium under the Isle of Man flag


Wednesday, 29 June 2011

More photos from a great night! Here are more photos of last night's memorable session of athletics at the Fairway Athletics Centre in Sandown. These were all taken by Gail Griffiths, and brilliantly capture some of the raw emotions after the successful races. The first four capture Hannah Riley just seconds after winning the 100 metres hurdles title, and require no captions!


Hannah's mum Brenda sheds a tear after the race as she celebrates with team coach Di Shimell...

...and Hannah gets a big hug from her Dad Martyn


This picture of Tom Riley was taken seconds after winning the silver medal

Louise Kneen gets herself balanced...


Louise Kneen ready to throw...

...and the scoreboard confirms her best throw, which gave her fourth place


Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Wednesday morning report There were four events involving Isle of Man athletes this morning, all heats, and it was another successful session. The weather was lovely this morning - after the heat and humidity of the past few days, yesterday afternoon's thunderstorm has cleared the air and it is a gloriously clear sunny day today and a few degrees cooler than of late. First up were the men's 100 metres heats, in which Tom Riley was quickly back in action after his hurdling heroics last night. Tom went in the last of three heats, and ran a highly impressive race. He looked strong and in complete control as he finished second in a time of 11.24 to easily qualify for the semi-finals. Next came the women's 800 metres heats, in which Rachael Franklin and Sarah Astin were drawn together in Heat 2. Both ran strongly on the first lap with Rachael taking the field through the bell in around 66 seconds and Sarah close behind in about fifth place. Rachael led for the rest of the race and looked comfortable and confident in recording a time of 2.17.6. Sarah gave everything she had and was well in contention until the final 100 metres or so, when she drifted slightly off the pack to finish in 2.21.4. Unfortunately this was not fast enough to qualify for the final. It was a really brave effort by Sarah who has been plagued by injury problems recently, and I really hope and believe she will get her rewards in Bermuda in two years time. The next events were the women's 200 metres heats. Sarah Halligan was in Heat 2, and ran an excellent race to finish in third place in a time of 26.02, qualifying easily for the semi-final. Harriet Pryke went in Heat 3, and showed no ill effects after last night's 400 metres triumph with a blistering time of 24.86 to win by almost a second. I think this may be a pb time and she looks in absolutely superb form. Finally we had Ben Brand in the 400 metres heats (unfortunately Michael Haslett's application to be added to this event came too late). Ben went in Heat 3, and ran really strongly for the first 300 metres and into the home straight. He faded a little towards the end, coming home in fifth place in a time of 52.40, but this was still good enough to qualify for the semi-final. Tonight we have Reagan Dee and Sinead Kaneen making their Island Games debuts in the women's high jump final and Charlotte Christian in the discus. I think both the men's and women's 4x400 metres relays are straight finals on Friday with no heats required tonight, so the only track event with Isle of Man interest tonight will be the women's 10,000 metres. Both Hannah Howard and Gail Griffiths should be full of confidence after their Half Marathon performances on Sunday and should go well. Whilst that is going on we have Harry Pugh making his Games debut in the men's javelin final. Best of luck to all - I can feel at least one more medal coming on tonight!


Thursday, 30 June 2011

Reagan leaps to gold! Wednesday night was yet another golden night for the Isle of Man athletics team. This time the toast of the team was 16 year old Reagan Dee, who in her first Island Games completely outclassed her opponents to take the gold medal in the women's high jump by a margin of 6 centimetres. Reagan gave a high jumping masterclass after coming into the competition when the bar was set at 1.55 metres, and she achieved easy first-time clearances at this height and then at 1.60m and 1.63m. When the two remaining competitors from Rhodes and the Isle of Wight failed with three attempts at 1.63, Reagan had the gold medal in the bag. She went on to clear 1.66m to further increase her margin of victory, and then had three attempts at 1.70m only just failing with her third attempt. It was a great achievement to win a gold medal in her first Island Games and to perform under pressure when it really counted. She had her serious and focussed head on tonight, and did not allow herself the luxury of as much as a smile until the competition was all over! Reagan now goes on to compete in the English Schools Championships at the weekend and we wish her the very best of luck. Also in the same event, 15 year old Sinead Kaneen was likewise making her Games debut, and she did herself proud. She entered the competition with a first-time clearance at 1.40 metres, and then convincingly cleared both 1.45m and 1.50m with her first attempts. The bar then went up to 1.55m which was an opportunity for a new pb for Sinead, and after aborting her first attempt, she had a really good go with her final two jumps. She finished in sixth place which was a very good performance indeed in her first experience at this level of competition. Alongside the high jump area, the women's hammer competition was going on at the same time with Charlotte Christian throwing for the Isle of Man. After serious problems with a knee injury Charlotte was not fully fit coming into the Games but threw very well tonight. Her four legal throws were all very similar, and her best effort of 35.70 metres gave her a very respectable fifth place finish, just one centimetre ahead of the sixth placer! It was good to hear Charlotte say afterwards that she feels highly motivated for the next Games in two years time. There was only one track event involving the Isle of Man tonight, and that was the women's 10,000 metres final over 25 laps of the track with Gail Griffiths and Hannah Howard representing the Isle of Man. Both produced tremendous performances. Gail is in the form of her life at the moment, and ran a magnificently judged race. After a cautious start in which she was in a group of four about 50 metres behind the leading six, she worked her way up to the back of the leading group. After a few laps the leading four made a slight break, and Gail then tagged onto Shetland athlete Michelle Sandison for a few laps before moving ahead and into fifth place. With a few laps to go the Aland athlete who had won Sunday's Half Marathon, Johanna Kahlroth, began to drop off the leading group and Gail made a determined effort to catch her. She was unable to quite do so, but her time of 38.06 was a pb by a huge margin and was a brilliant run. Hannah also ran extremely well in her first ever 10,000 metres track race, and her time of 38.27 was faster than her 10k road pb and gave her sixth place. She ran a very consistent and sensible race, and her two performances this week in her debut Island Games have been excellent. I think she will do even better in two years time. Finally tonight we had Harry Pugh in the men's javelin final. Although he is an experienced athlete, Harry is also an Island Games debutant and performed really well in a very close and high quality competition. Harry's best throw was an excellent 50.23 metres to finish in eighth place, yet he was only just over five metres short of the silver medal! The gold medal was won by Island Games legend Sander Suurhans of Saaremaa, who broke his own Games record yet again with a fantastic throw of


68.80 metres. There are two more days of competition, with many more medal opportunities for the Manxies. Tomorrow morning's action starts at 11.30 with Keith Gerrard and Andy Barron going in the 1500 metres heats. They are followed by Ben Brand in the 400 metres semi-finals, and then Harriet Pryke and Sarah Halligan in the 200 metres semi-finals.

Reagan Dee entered the competition at 1.55 metres, and prepares for her first jump...

...which she cleared with a huge amount to spare


Reagan also cleared 1.66 metres to increase her victory margin...

Reagan with her first, and surely not last, Island Games gold medal!


Thursday, 30 June 2011

Wednesday photos Below is a selection of the Brandsâ€&#x; photos from Wednesday's action.

Tom Riley had no trouble in his 100 metres heat

Rachael Franklin was strong and controlled in her 800 metres heat


Sarah Astin gave it everything she had in the same race as she tucks in behind Sarah Livett of Ynys Mon

Sarah Halligan qualified for the 200 metres semis with a third place finish in her heat


Harriet Pryke was way out in front in her heat, looking in superb form

Ben Brand got through to the 400 metres semi -final with a fourth place finish in his heat


Rich Sille has done a great job as part of the management team, and seems to fancy his chances as a shot putter in the next Games!

The athletics competition had a royal visitor yesterday. Prince Edward is no stranger to the Island Games, having been the guest of honour when the Games were held in the Isle of Man in 2001


Sinead prepares to jump...

...and clears 1.45 metres easily...


Gail Griffiths shadows Shetland's Michelle Sandison midway throug h the 10,000 metres final

Hannah Howard looking strong and relaxed at the same point in the race


Gail crosses the line to finish fifth in a superb time of 38.06

Gail and Hannah have had a great week


Harry Pugh about to launch the javelin into the far distance...

...and what a follow-through!


Thursday, 30 June 2011

Thursday morning report There were five Isle of Man athletes involved in this morning's action, across three events, and it was another good morning's work. First up were the heats of the men's 1500 metres, and Keith Gerrard and Andy Barron were drawn together in the second of two races. Keith led from the front but ran with plenty to spare, and helped Andy to get into a good pace and rhythm. Keith was a clear winner, and Andy came home in an excellent third place feeling very strong and relaxed. Next came the semi-finals of the men's 400 metres, with Ben Brand drawn in the first race. Ben ran with great determination but was unable to quite match the pace of the others, finishing in seventh place. He has both relays to look forward to tomorrow. Finally we had the semi-finals of the women's 200 metres, in which Harriet Pryke and Sarah Halligan were drawn together in the first race. Harriet again looked effortless in winning in a slightly slower time than she recorded in yesterday's heat, and Sarah worked hard to finish in fourth to also clinch a place in tonight's final. It is a busy night for the Isle of Man team tonight. Games debutant Andrea de Bruin is in the women's discus final along with Louise Kneen, while Hannah Riley goes in the women's 400 metres hurdles final. That is followed by the semi-final of the men's 100 metres with Tom Riley, and then Games debutants Bethan Pilley and Sinead Kaneen are in the women's long jump final. Rachael Franklin follows in the women's 800 metres final and then hopefully Tom in the men's 100 metres final. Finally we have Harriet Pryke and Sarah Halligan in the women's 200 metres final. It should be another great night and I am confident of more success for the Isle of Man!

Thursday, 30 June 2011

G is for Gold, H is for Harriet! It was another golden night for the Isle of Man athletics team last night, as Harriet Pryke produced another superb run in the final event of the night to win the gold medal in the women's 200 metres by a clear margin, in a new pb time of 24.76. This completes the 200m/400m double for her, and gave the Isle of Man a sixth athletics gold medal of the Games to date - that is more than in the last three Games put together! Harriet is in magnificent form this season, and although the 200 metres is her secondary event I fully expected her to win last night. She got an excellent start and was clearly ahead of most of the field in the first 50 metres, but entering the home straight she still had Aland's Hanna Wiss for company. Not for long though, as Harriet blasted down the home straight to leave the rest of the field trailing in her wake. She crossed the line, arm raised in triumph, nearly half a second clear of the Aland girl. Sarah Halligan was also in the race and as always gave it her all, but had to settle for an eighth place finish in a time of 26.36. There were many near-misses last night with a host of fourth and fifth place finishes, including the women's discus event which opened the night's proceedings. Representing the Isle of Man were Louise Kneen in her tenth Games, and 16 year old Andrea de Bruin making her debut. It was an extremely close contest which followed a remarkably similar pattern to the men's javelin final the


previous evening. Jersey's prodigiously talented young thrower Shadine Duquemin was way out in front, and the last placed competitor was some way adrift, but just 2.56 metres separated the other seven competitors! Louise has been restricted by a foot injury she picked up a few weeks ago and was unable to spin into her throws, but from a standing position she produced a really fine effort of 31.47 metres which gave her an excellent fourth place finish. Andrea was experiencing the Island Games atmosphere for the first time, and did very well to finish just behind Louise in fifth place with a best throw of 31.18 metres. She was a couple of metres short of her recently set pb, a repeat of which would have given her the silver medal, but she must have a great chance of medaling in future Games and should be applauded for her efforts last night. The first track final of the night was the women's 400 metres hurdles, with Hannah Riley hoping to add another medal to the gold she took in the 100m hurdles earlier in the week. It didn't quite work out that way, but Hannah produced another superb performance to finish fourth. There may have been only five competitors in the final but it was a very high class race, and Hannah's time of 65.07 was the fastest she has run since Shetland 2005. Considering she has not really been training for this event and has not run faster than 68 in the past year, this was an amazing effort. Hannah's brother Tom then went in the first semi-final of the men's 100 metres, and had no problems in qualifying for the final with a strong and controlled run to finish second in a time of 11.13. Two young Games debutants then contested the women's long jump competition, which took place in front of a massive crowd in the stand and on the grass bank of the home straight. There really was a great atmosphere at the track last night. Bethan Pilley has had a long wait until the fifth day of competition to get into action, and made a highly impressive Games debut. The 16 year old jumped very consistently to progress to the second half of the competition in which she produced her best jump of 5.08 metres, just one centimetre short of her pb. This was good enough to give her a fifth place finish out of thirteen, which was a really great effort. Her final jump was bigger still, but unfortunately a marginal no jump. 15 year old Sinead Kaneen was the other Manx competitor, and she achieved a tenth place finish with a best jump of 4.61 metres. This is some way short of her pb and Sinead didn't make the cut for the final three jumps of the competition, but the experience of competing in two events at this level of competition will play a big part in her development as an athlete and she has done well this week. The next event was the final of the women's 800 metres, with Rachael Franklin competing for the Isle of Man. The race was fast from the start, and Rachael was looking strong and controlled on the first lap. On lap two the pace at the front increased still further, with the two leaders stretching away from the field. Rachael was still in with a chance of the bronze medal in the home straight and finished strongly, but was unable to quite catch the athletes in front of her and came home sixth in 2.16.67. This is the fastest time ever run by a Manx athlete at the Island Games but that will be no consolation to Rachael who was desperate to win a medal at these Games. Shortly after the race she was promoted to fifth when the winner Eilidh Mackenzie of the Western Isles was disqualified for a blatant obstruction on Shetland's Emma Leask in the home straight. I watched the incident back on my camcorder footage afterwards, and although you never want to see an athlete disqualified, the judges were absolutely correct. The penultimate event was the men's 100 metres final, always a major highlight of any competition, and the Isle of Man's Tom Riley lined up hoping to add to his brilliant silver medal in the hurdles event. Tom ran really well and could have done no more, but had to settle for a fourth place finish this time, just 0.08 of a second behind the bronze medalist. He has the relays to look forward to today in which we should do well. The final event was the golden women's 200 metres final which has already been fully covered.


Today is the final day of competition, and should bring great excitement. We have Daniel StewartClague in the triple jump final, followed by Gemma Astin in the women's 5000 metres final (her sister Sarah has had to withdraw due to injury). Then comes the men's 1500 metres final with Keith Gerrard and Andy Barron, and this should be a fantastic race between Keith and the Isle of Wight's Joseph Wade whose 1500m pb is slightly faster than Keith's. The two 4x100 metres relays follow in which we have real medal potential, and then Kevin Loundes and Martin Malone contest the men's 10,000 metres final - Kev will be optimistic of adding another medal to his Half Marathon silver. The action is the completed by the two 4x400 metres relays, in which we are strong in both. The athletics team have won six golds and three silvers so far (no bronzes) and will hopefully add to that collection significantly today. Go Manxies!!

Friday, 1 July 2011

Photos from Thursday Below is a selection of the Brandsâ€&#x; photos from Thursday's action, both morning and evening.

At the end of the first lap of the men's 1500m heats it was Manxies one and two. Keith Gerrard leads, Andy Barron is second


Ben Brand gave it everything in the men's 400 metres semi -final, but it was not enough to reach the final

Harriet Pryke looked effortless in winning the women's 200m semi final, and Sarah Halligan was fourth. Both qualified for the final


Daniel Stewart-Clague, perhaps dreaming of a relay medal!

The subject of this photo took many hours of video as well as writing this blog. He will soon be trying to work out how to reduce nearly eight hours of video footage into just over four hours of DVD!


Andrea about to launch the discus

Hannah Riley powers out of the blocks in the women's 400 metres hurdles final...


Bethan Pilley (centre) lines up before the start of the women's long jump competition...

...as does her teammate Sinead Kaneen (second right)


Bethan about to jump...

...and Sinead lands


Rachael Franklin about to start the women's 800 metres final

Tom Riley (left) was fourth in a closely contested men's 100 metres final


Harriet exploded into the lead down the home straight leaving the opposition trailing...

...and crossed the line way out in front!


It is debatable whether Harriet or her mum Cheryl is more pleased!

...and Harriet's teammate Sarah admitted that she was possibly concentrating more on Harriet's win than her own race down the home straight!

Friday, 1 July 2011

Seventh heaven for the Isle of Man! What a final session we had at the Fairway Athletics Centre on the Isle of Wight on Friday! No fewer than seven more medals were won by the Isle of Man in the eight events in which we were involved. This gives the team a final tally of 16 medals (seven golds, seven silvers, two bronzes) which is exceptional and above all expectations. It was a packed programme on the final day, held once again in the most glorious weather conditions in front of a crowd of several hundred spectators. The first Isle of Man athlete in action was Daniel Stewart-Clague in the men's Triple Jump final, and Daniel got in a good first jump of 12.31 metres. Unfortunately he lost his run up with his second and third attempts, and was eliminated at the 'cut' after three rounds, having to settle for 13th place. First on the track was the final of the women's 5000 metres, and this race produced an outstanding and totally unexpected Isle of Man performance. Sarah Astin had been forced to withdraw her entry


for this race as she is still struggling with a hip injury, and Rachael Franklin was drafted in as a late replacement to partner Sarah's sister Gemma Astin. Rachael had the luxury of being able to run with no real pressure of expectation in this race, and during the opening laps she and Gemma tucked in a short way behind the leaders. Sadly Gemma was forced to retire from the race feeling unwell at around the 3k mark, but Rachael was looking strong and controlled. Into the last 2k, Rachael was up into fourth place and was closing in rapidly on the Isle of Wight's Aiya Abe who is a very good athlete. There was great excitement as Rachael surged past her rival into the bronze medal position, and with two laps to go she held a lead of about 15 metres over the Isle of Wight girl. At the bell the gap had closed slightly and we wondered whether Rachael had the strength to hold on, but there were absolutely no worries on that score. She produced a great kick down the back straight to pull well clear, and came home to claim a totally unexpected bronze medal in her first ever 5000m track race. Her time of 17.55 was fantastic for a first attempt at the distance on the track, and must surely now force a rethink of her athletics priorities! Next on the track was the one that I and many others had been looking forward to with real excitement all week, as Keith Gerrard and Andy Barron lined up for the men's 1500 metres final. Keith is a great athlete, but the 1500m is not his specialist event these days and the Isle of Wight's Joseph Wade has a slightly faster pb than Keith at the distance. Keith had realised that his best chance of winning was to go hard from the start and to try and run the finish out of the Isle of Wight athlete who has real sprinting speed, and he executed the race plan to perfection. At the end of the first 400 metres Wade was right on Keith's tail, but over the next 200 metres a small gap started to appear which had grown into a significant gap by the 800 metres mark. Keith just kept powering on relentlessly, and his easy and fluent running style was a complete joy to watch as he stretched away from his rival with every stride down the back straight on lap three. By the bell he had already established a winning lead, and finished with a great final 400 metres to win by a margin of over five seconds. Even better news soon followed, as it was confirmed that Keith's winning time of 3.48.45 had broken the Games record set by Guernsey's Lee Merrien in Aland two years ago. It was another wonderful exhibition by a champion athlete, probably even better than his 5000 metres masterclass earlier in the week. Andy's performance was always going be somewhat overshadowed by his illustrious teammate, but he ran with real determination and spent most of the race in close company with a group of evenly-matched athletes. Andy finished in ninth place in a new pb time of 4.07.30. He felt afterwards that he should have run better, but not for the first time this week I think he was being overly self-critical. He should be proud of his performances this week and use them as a springboard to bigger things in the near future. The 4x100m relay finals always produce excitement and drama, and it was no different this time! The women's race was first, with the Isle of Man defending the title they won in such style in Aland two years ago. We had Hannah Riley in place of Danielle Ross on the first leg, but the team was otherwise the same as in 2009 with Sarah Halligan, Ciara McDonnell and Harriet Pryke completing the team. Earlier in the week Hannah had taken the 100 metres hurdles title after Guernsey's Kylie Robilliard clattered a hurdle halfway through the race, and they again lined up against each other on the first leg. This time the Guernsey girl exploded out of the blocks and ran a blistering first leg, and although all four Isle of Man runners did extremely well they were unable to chase down the Guernsey team. The Isle of Man's time of 48.82 was only fractionally outside the winning time from two years ago and was a great effort. In the men's 4x100m relay, it was always going to be an uphill task to compete with the Cayman Islands and Guernsey unless they made a mistake, and those two teams had an amazing battle that was won by the Caymans by just one hundredth of a second! The battle for the bronze medal was


also hugely exciting with little to choose between the Isle of Man, Isle of Wight and Aland. After excellent legs by Michael Haslett, Ben Brand and Daniel Stewart-Clague, it was up to Tom Riley to use his speed down the home straight and he ran an absolute blinder to edge in front of both his rivals to take the bronze by just 0.08 of a second from Aland - what a race! There was then a change of tempo, as the men‟s 10,000 metres finalists took to the track with Kevin Loundes and Martin Malone representing the Isle of Man. Kevin had won the silver medal in the Half Marathon behind Lee Merrien, and with the Guernsey star not contesting this race it looked as if it would be a battle at the front between Kevin and the Isle of Wight‟s Thomas Wade. That was exactly how it turned out, although Bermuda‟s Sean Trott and Guernsey‟s Steve Dawes were also in the mix for the first half of the race. Kevin looked very strong as he led the race for a while, but in the second half Wade, who did not run the Half Marathon, made a decisive break with an impressive change of pace. Kevin rallied well and was by now well clear in second place, which he held to the end to bring home his third silver medal of the week. It was a great performance from an athlete who is totally dedicated to his sport, and just reward after his disappointment two years ago. Kev should be an inspiration to those athletes who haven‟t been able to perform as they would have liked this week after suffering injuries or illness. Also in this race was Martin Malone, another extremely focussed and committed athlete. Although his performance was slightly overshadowed by that of Kevin, Martin ran a really excellent race, following his pre-race plan and running strongly and very consistently throughout. His tenth place finish in a strong field was a tremendous effort, and Martin should be proud of his performances this week. I think he will be an even better athlete in two years time. The final two events of the Games were the 4x400m relay finals, with the women‟s race going first. Ciara McDonnell led the team off in the outside lane and ran a strong first leg, handing over to Hannah Riley. Hannah also ran very well but was up against Jersey‟s Claire Wilson who is a formidable athlete, and Jersey had opened up a fair gap by the end of leg two. Sarah Halligan used all her experience on the third leg to try and reduce the lead, but when Harriet Pryke took the baton to start the final leg the Manx team were five seconds adrift. Harriet was up against the 2009 double champion in the 200 and 400 metres Gemma Dawkins and appeared to have no chance of catching her, but she produced an extraordinary run. By the 200 metre point the gap had come down from five seconds to just over two, and entering the home straight Harriet was almost on the shoulder of the Jersey girl. It was a thrilling battle to the line, but even Harriet‟s heroics were not quite enough to catch the winners. Harriet‟s split time was 53.8 seconds, absolutely incredible! The consolation for the team was to beat the Isle of Man record that was set in Aland two years ago. The men's 4x400m final brought the week's proceedings to a close, and Guernsey's Commonwealth Games relay squad were the huge pre-race favourites with everyone else likely to be fighting for the silver medal. That is how it turned out, and it was the Isle of Man quartet who took a great second place to claim the silver medal. Ryan Fairclough led the team out with a strong first leg run, handing over to Ben Brand who produced his best performance of the week on leg two. A typically determined run by Tom Riley on the third leg put the Isle of Man in a strong position to take the silver, and although the Western Islands last leg runner tried very hard, Michael Haslett had enough in reserve to blast away from him down the final straight. It was a great effort by all the lads, and the four leg splits were all very even at around 50 seconds each. The final action was on the podium where all but one medal ceremony involved Isle of Man athletes, and 'Land of Our Birth' rang out yet again in honour of Keith Gerrard's wonderful performance in the 1500 metres final. A great end to a great week for Manx athletics!!


Monday, 4 July 2011

Final day photos Below is a selection of photos from a very successful final day of competition for the Isle of Man athletics team, in which no fewer than seven medals were won. All photos are by Gail Griffiths except where indicated.

Daniel Stewart-Clague's opening jump of 12.31 metres gave him 13th place in the Triple Jump final

A tightly bunched group in the early stages of the women's 5000 metres final includes Gemma Astin and Rachael Franklin


It was a close battle for the bronze medal between Rachael and Aiya Abe of the Isle of Wight, before Rachael powered away down the back straight and into the final bend to take a superb third place

Keith Gerrard (third from right) gets set for the men 's 1500 metres final...


...as does Andy Barron (second from right)

The Isle of Wight's Joseph Wade, an extremely good 1500m runner, did his best to hang onto Keith, but the Manxman soon stretched well clear to take the gold medal and a new Island Games record


Keith celebrates afterwards with his dad Stuart, who was inspired by Keith's 5000m performance to make an impromptu visit to the Isle of Wight for the 1500m race. Well worth the trip I'd say!

The girls didn't quite manage to retain the title they won two years ago, but second was still an excellent performance. Left to right - Harriet Pryke, Hannah Riley, Ciara McDonnell, Sarah Halligan


The lads also ran well to claim the bronze medal in the men's 4x100m relay. Left t o right - Michael Haslett, Daniel Stewart-Clague, Tom Riley, Ben Brand

Kevin Loundes leads the Isle of Wight's Thomas Wade and Bermuda's Sean Trott in the early stages of the men's 10,000 metres final. Kev took his third silver medal of the week, behind the Isle of Wight man (photo by the Brands)


Kev chats with Guernsey's Steve Dawes after the race

Martin Malone ran an excellent race to finish in tenth place, and congratulates Minorca's Pedro Pallicer who was eighth


This is the start that Harriet Pryke gave Jersey's Gemma Dawkins on the final leg of the women's 4x400m relay final...

...and here is the gap at the line. Harriet ran an incredible last leg split of 53.8 seconds, and so nearly caught the Jersey girl


No Island Games photo collection would be complete without a picture of Ciara McDonnell looking very happy! This was taken just after the women's 4x400m relay team had claimed the silver medal in a new Isle of Man record time

The men's 4x400 relay team ran superbly to win the silver medal. Left to right - Ryan Fairclough, Ben Brand, Tom Riley, Michael Haslett (photo by the Brands)


A happy Harriet shows off her four medals (photo by the Brands)

The first chapter of the week's success sto ry was written by the Half Marathon runners last Sunday, and the team enjoys some well deserved relaxation at the last night party in Cowes. Left to right - Ed Gumbley, Kevin Loundes, Hannah Howard, Martin Malone, Gail Griffiths


Few people have put more into the Island Games over many years than these two! Geoff Corlett was the Organising Director of the very first Island Games on the Isle of Man in 1985, and did so much in the years that followed to establish the Games as a great international sporting event. Di Shimell has been involved in at least ten of the fourteen Games to date. Two great servants!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Moment of the Games After the Isle of Man athletics team's most successful Island Games for years, how do you possibly choose one moment as the most memorable of the Games? It's not an easy task and I don't really know why I've taken it on myself to do it! There were so many to choose from. Nobody will ever forget Keith Gerrard's two magnificent performances - one a solo demonstration, the other a great race against a quality athlete who Keith just ran into the ground. 2011 was the year that Harriet Pryke fulfilled all the promise she has shown in recent years with two high-class victories in the 200 metres and 400 metres, stamping huge authority on both and not giving her rivals a glimmer of a chance in either. It was also the year that Reagan Dee made her Island Games debut and won a gold medal at the first attempt in the high jump. This is an event she looks set to dominate for years to come. From a personal point of view, it was tremendously rewarding to see Gail running better than ever in both her races, and winning a thoroughly well-earned gold medal in the Half Marathon team event along with Hannah Howard. Her dedication to her running is incredible and she is an inspiration to many athletes both on and off the island. One of the Western Islands Half Marathon runners came up to her after the 10,000 metres race and told her exactly that, which was a lovely touch. There were also some highly promising performances from some of the young Island Games


debutants this year, who will surely go on to success in the future. But one moment stands out for me as the most memorable of the Games, and that was Hannah Riley's magnificent performance in the women's 100 metres hurdles final. Unlike events such as the Half Marathon and 10,000 metres where there are many twists and turns over a long period of time as the race unfolds, the short hurdles races are all about instant drama and excitement And never more so than on the Tuesday night of Island Games week on the Isle of Wight! Hannah won a gold medal in the 400 metres hurdles on her Games debut back in 1999 and had a glittering Games career up to 2005, but she then suffered a serious knee injury that took years to fully recover from. She missed the next two Island Games, and then just as she was about to launch her 2011 season she was knocked off her motorbike in March, breaking a wrist and some ribs and generally being a bit knocked about. She recovered remarkably quickly from this, helped by several sessions in the Hyperbaric Chamber, but the missed training meant she was not fully prepared for her favourite 400 metres hurdles event and decided to concentrate mainly on the sprint hurdles event this year. I thought Hannah may have a chance of getting into the medals if things went really well, but surely nobody seriously expected the medal to be gold! The red-hot favourite for the race was Guernsey's Kylie Robilliard, who is a Commonwealth Games hurdler, and the previous night she had smashed Kelly Sotherton's 14-year-old Island Games record in the 100 metres final. Hannah was totally focussed on her own race though, and by the fourth hurdle she was in second place but not too far behind the Guernsey athlete. Whether Robilliard was affected by the pressure of being seriously challenged I don't know, but suddenly she got it all wrong and smashed into a barrier with a real thud. This completely unbalanced her and after struggling over the next couple of hurdles she had to admit defeat and pull out. Hannah was now metres clear of the rest of the field, and her hurdling technique over all ten barriers was absolutely superb. When Hannah crossed the line way out in front in a new Isle of Man record time, it took me a second or two to take in that she had actually won the race (it's difficult to film and properly watch the race at the same time!) Pandemonium then broke out as Hannah raced over to the Manx support at the end of the track, and spent the next minute or so struggling to take in what she had just achieved as the emotion of the moment took over. It was a wonderful performance by a quality athlete. It is often said that at the top level of sport the really great performers are the ones who can not only win, but suffer adversity and come back and win again. If that applies at Island Games level, then Hannah's performance must be one of the best by an Isle of Man athlete in Games history. Her first Island Games race since 2005 (there were no heats, it was a straight final) and a gold medal - incredible! Of course it then got even better a few minutes later as Hannah's brother Tom won the silver medal in the men's 110 metres hurdles race, which followed on directly after Hannah's event. This was every bit as exciting, as it took several minutes for the result to be confirmed. It was a really great night for the Riley family who have put so much into athletics for many years, but remarkably this was the first time that Hannah and Tom have both competed in the same Island Games. Sadly their grandfather passed away suddenly at the end of Island Games week, but not before he had taken great pleasure and pride in hearing of his grandchildren's successes in the Isle of Wight. Hannah's victory in the 100 metres hurdles race gets my vote as the 2011 'Moment of the Games'.


Hannah (lane two, second from right) gets a cracking start, but is a stride behind Guernsey's Kylie Robilliard (lane eight, extreme left) at this stage

It was at around this point in the race that Robilliard (now out of shot) clattered a hurdle really hard which threw her totally out of her stride. She did not complete the race. Hannah is now a clear leader ahead of Bermuda's Shianne Smith (extreme left) who took the silver


Hannah's lead then grew with every stride, and with three hurdles left to jump the opposition are trailing in her wake

Hannah's hurdling was faultless. She was smooth and extremely fast over every barrier, looking by far the best technician in the race


Thursday, 28 July 2011

Memories in photos

Team manager Anthony Brand and thrower Richard Bell pictured enjoying the spectacular Opening Ceremony on the streets of Ryde (photo Caroline Brand)

Discus thrower Andrea de Bruin enjoyed every minute of her Island Games debut, and now has the Commonwealth Youth Games to look forward to in September (photo by Brands)


Bethan Pilley made an excellent Island Games debut, finishing fifth in the Long Jump. Here she ponders her approach for her next jump

It was very warm all week, and Daniel Stewart -Clague takes refuge under a brolly during the Triple Jump competition


Although he didn't win a medal in this race, Ryan Fairclough's performance in the 800 metres final was one of the best of the week from the Isle of Man team. He gets a well deserved pat on the back after the race

The Island Games always provides a great platform for making and maintaining friendships with athletes from the other islands. Ga il Griffiths enjoys meeting up with Claire Wilson of Jersey (formerly Shetland) for the first time since 2007...


...and getting to know Half Marathon rival Deon Breary of Bermuda at the track during the week

Martin Malone swaps shirts with Minorca's Half Marathon competitor Juanjo Cerro after the 10,000 metres race on the final day


The team's drive down to the Isle of Wight was memorable for the driver getting lost and finding himself in the centre of Birmingham. They would surely have done much better with Tom Riley driving and Mikey Haslett navigating!!

The track at Sandown may have lacked the character of the stadium in Mariehamn two years ago, but there was still a good atmosphere with big crowds in attendance throughout the week. But thank goodness it wasn't a wet week! (photo by Brands)


Di Shimell (left) is standing down from the athletics management team after many years of service. Former GB international athlete Danaa Callow (right) was part of the management team for the first time in the Isle of Wight (photo by Brands)

The official mascot for the 2011 Games was the red squirrel. However, the unofficial mascot for the IOM athletics team was the meerkat! (photo by Cheryl)


In 2005, the team stayed on a cruise ship, in 2007 in a 4 -star hotel, and in 2009 in a school. In the Isle of Wight in 2011 they stayed on a caravan park, generally with six sharing a caravan. The living rooms were quite spacious...

... and the kitchens reasonably well equipped...

...whilst the sleeping quarters could best be described as very cosy!


And finally‌..there were some breaks from blogging and filming during the week!


From Mann to Wight  

NatWest Island Games XIV