Just a few weeks to go and our sportsmen and sportswomen fly off to Jersey to represent Gibraltar in this year’s Island Games. One of the many sports to be played in the Island Games is of course Badminton. After two years of training the team selection will be made up of 3 men and 3 women going to the Games.
To start off with, Kasper Thy Jessen (aged 31) who as we know is now a permanent fixture in Gibraltar Badminton which has been helped along slightly by the fact that he has married a local girl, who is also in the squad. Surprise, surprise! This will be Kasper’s fourth Island Games, his first being in 2009. He travels to Jersey as our number 1 player since he is this year’s Singles National Champion. He has been working hard on his fitness levels over the past 12 months and I believe this will help him in those tight matches that he is bound to be involved in during the Games week.
Therefore more responsibility lies on his shoulders and I believe he is capable of coping with this added pressure as technically and physically he is well prepared. Just a little mental toughness is needed now.
Thirdly from the men's side, we see an introduction of Charlie Avellano to the squad (aged 31). Charlie, who is not new to Badminton, has over the last few years made a come back to Badminton. Due to his commitment and dedication to training and willingness to try new things it was clear to me that Charlie should be included in this year’s squad.
From brother to sister of Charlie and wife of Kasper, Alison Jessen (aged 34) is the first of the women to be selected by me. Ali, since her return to Badminton in 2010 has been striving to improve her game both technically and physically and has, in my opinion made considerable improvements. She remains extremely competitive which is an absolute must if you want to achieve success in the Games Arena. As usual she will be a key factor in the Team Event especially in the Singles and the Mixed matches.
The second woman to be selected is Sevelanne Gordon (aged 33) who is now Sevelanne Newsham. She has been representing Gibraltar in the Island Games since 2009. Sev who is based in the UK, plays regularly in her local leagues and gets over to Gib as often as she can in order to spend some time training with the squad as well as making it over in order to play in the nationals every year. She always lends an element of experience when it comes to the Doubles and the Mixed matches and is a solid member of the squad.
The final selection is Chantal De’Ath (aged 22) who represented Gibraltar in the Island Games for the first time in 2011. Unable to make it to Bermuda two years ago due to study commitments, she now returns to the squad. Another player, who is unable to train regularly with the squad due to studying in the UK but she also manages to play in the University league set up. Chantal is still an inexperienced player but has the potential to become a much better player in the future. I am hoping to be able to coach her a lot more in the next few years as Chantal is finally back in Gib as from July.
Apart from the players, we have of course Ivan De Haro who this year goes to the Island Games as Team manager. Ivan has been involved in the Island games longer than anyone. He first participated in the Island Games in 1987 and now at 44 is still playing at a very high standard all be it a tad slower (sorry Ivan it happens to us all eventually). Ivan hung his International rackets up in Bermuda 2 years ago and has been focusing his attention on running the Badminton Association as President along with the committee members of course as well as preparing things for the Island Games and playing in the local leagues. He has been training with the squad regularly over the last two years, as I convinced him (it wasn’t hard) to take his rackets to Jersey as a reserve player in case of injury as well as to play in the Individual Doubles Event which takes place after the Team Event. Although Ivan is getting on a bit in terms of badminton years, he still takes his training and match practices seriously and is still teaching some of the other top players about determination and perseverance on court.
Finally myself (aged 57). I first became involved in the Games in 1989 as a player and since 1995 have been National Coach. I am hoping that all the players step up to the plate and make a good account of themselves in the Games this year. Having been drawn against the Faroes (No.1 Seeds) and Orkney in the Team event I believe that Gib have the potential to come second at least in this group although it will be a tough ask. The fact that 3 of our players have been gaining competition experience across the border throughout the year is something I hope will stand Kasper, Ali and more recently Charlie in good stead, especially if it comes down to a nail biting finish. I am hoping that if it comes down to it, this extra competition will help overcome the nerves associated with the big point plays.
I would just like to say that I hope all members of the squad play to their full potential at the Games this year and I know they will give nothing less than a hundred percent commitment on court. On behalf of the GBA we would also like to thank Spark Ltd, Ocean Village, Sovereign Trust, William Hill, Grant Thornton, Express Convenience Stores Ltd, U-Mee, A.M. Capurro and Bassadone Motors for supporting the team.
Good luck to you all.