June 23rd sees the Gibraltar National Badminton team fly to Gotland for this year’s Island Games. A two day Team event where the squad will play up to 4/5 matches, followed by three days of Individual competition. The squad has been training very hard over the last two years. Over the last 9 months in particular they have been working on improving their levels of fitness and speed around the court, along with racket play and partnerships in doubles and mixed formations.
This year the team will be made up of 4 men and 3 women.
On the mens side we have Kasper Thy Jessen (aged 33). Kasper is the number one player in Gibraltar and in this year’s Nationals won a triple crown by winning the Singles, Doubles and Mixed competitions. Kasper will be a key player in the Team event in Gotland and depending on the draw, has the ability and strength to reach the latter stages of the individuals.
Next we have James Linares who will be 22 when we leave for Gotland. Now that James is back in Gibraltar working he has been able to train with the squad on a regular basis. He is fighting his way back from an operation on a herniated disc last year and so has had to be careful in the early stages of this year in his preparations. Thankfully he is now about fully fit and will no doubt be able to give his all in Gotland. He is a very talented player who just needs to believe in himself a little more.
Thirdly is Charlie Avellano (aged 33). This will be his second Island Games. An extremely dedicated and committed player who is always there first for training and has been working on the technical side as well as his fitness in preparation for the Games. He has developed into a very solid Doubles player even though he used to prefer the Singles format and so will add depth to the team event.
Lastly on the men’s side we see the introduction of Henry Archer (aged 17). Henry has been knocking on the door of senior representation for a few years now. (He was unable to attend the Games two years ago). A very keen badminton player who is learning all the time and promises to be a very good player in the future. This trip will hopefully give him the experience and incentive he needs to begin working towards his full potential in the future. By seeing and playing against players of a higher standard in this kind of competition will be invaluable to him.
The first of the women to be selected is Alison Jessen (Nee; Avellano). Ali is our most experienced player and has been the stalwart of women’s Badminton here in Gibraltar for many years now. (And still only 36 years of age) Ali has been working very hard at getting her fitness, speed and racket skills back to where they were before last year which has been difficult with the added pressure of bringing up little Thomas, (Kasper and Ali’s first baby) who was born only last year. Ali has been developing her game in Doubles and Mixed and will play a key role in the Team Event this year as always.
Next we have Chantal De’Ath now aged 24. Chantal is another player who has finished her studies in UK and is now back home working in Gib. This will be Chantal’s third Island Games and she has been working hard on adding strength and fitness to her game, along with improving her footwork on court and shot selection. I am looking forward to seeing how Chantal plays this year as the Games seem to bring the best out of her.
Finally we have a new comer to the squad Ina Lungova (aged 25). Ina has been a great addition to the squad over the past two years and has proved competitive in the local singles league in particular. She is this year’s National Singles Champion. Ina adds experience and very good racket work to the squad. Being her first Island Games it may come as a surprise to her as to how tough the week will be for everyone, but I am hoping that she will cope well and enjoy the experience, with many more to come in the future.
On the technical side, where would we be without our President and Team Manager, Ivan De Haro. Having retired from international events Ivan is now involved in the logistics for our trip to Gotland as well as being a committee member of the Island Games Association with duties to carry out there as well, in preparation for June this year. Ivan will also have responsibilities whilst in Gotland as he will be the Assistant Coach. (And has been for the past two years. So many hats to wear Ivan. How do you manage it?)
Finally there is myself, Rob (or Bob) Brooks as National Coach. (Aged 59… que viejo soy!) As mentioned earlier, I have been focusing on the squads fitness levels, along with trying to get the players to improve on their speed and footwork around the court. If they go to Gotland fully focused on the task at hand and believe in themselves that they have the ability and skills necessary to compete at the level required in the Games then they will do themselves and Gibraltar proud. Just go out there and give 100% commitment on court.
The GBA and squad members would like to thank sponsors: Umee, Ocean Village, Triay and Triay, AM Capurro, William Hill, Grant Thornton, Sovereign Trust, Easy Payment Gateway, Bet365 and Express Convenient Stores Ltd for their support.
Good luck to the whole squad along with all the participants from all the other sports who are travelling to Gotland in June.