The NatWest Island Games this year was hosted in Jersey and saw 24 islands participate with approximately 700 participants. From Gibraltar, we had almost 200 athletes participating in various events.
Gibraltar performed very well in the medals table with 6 Gold, 5 Silver and 6 Bronze. In fact, Gibraltar was the first country to secure a Gold medal in the Games thanks to Kim Baglietto’s performance in the Women’s Half Marathon event.
The triathlon event took place in the afternoon on the first day of the Games and two categories of medals were up for grabs:
- 1st, 2nd and 3rd Individual
- 1st, 2nd and 3rd Team (the total time of the first three triathletes from each island was summed to dictate the positions)
In 2013, Gibraltar had secured Gold in the team event which meant that the pressure was on us to defend our status!
We knew that the competition in 2015 would be tougher. A few professional and semi-professional triathletes who did not participate in 2013 were on the starting list for the event in 2015. Nonetheless we remained optimistic as a team to bring home a medal regardless of its colour!
The triathlon race was a standard Olympic distance, non-drafting triathlon. The 1.5km swim took place in the bay next to St. Helier whilst the 40km bike took place on partially closed roads along the Western half of Jersey. The cycle course was extremely technical with plenty of sharp turns, grinding climbs and steep descents! Definitely not a course to ‘relax’ on. The run consisted of 4 laps along the pier by the swim course which provided a lot of room for spectators to cheer the athletes creating an electrifying atmosphere!
Gibraltar got off to a great start with Chris Walker, Andrew Gordon and Sean Randall exiting with the lead group of swimmers. The rest of us soon followed with Chris Redondo, Tobie Muir and myself exiting the water within 1 minute of each other. It was one of the toughest swims I have experienced due to the cross wind causing disorientation amongst the participants. The start was also slippery as a result of the layer of green sea weed on the shore. The swim felt ‘longer’ than what it should have been but getting out of that washing machine was much appreciated! In Transition, I could see Chris (Redondo) and Tobie who had exited the water between 20 and 30 seconds ahead of me. I made my transition snappy and managed to overtake both Chris and Tobie within the first 2km of the bike.
As described above, the cycle course was challenging with steep sharp descents which were also accompanied with horrific climbs. I knew I had to control my effort on the cycle course to avoid burning out on the run. After the first 25km, the remainder of the cycle course was fairly flat but finding a rhythm was difficult when sharp turns kept forcing me to hit the brakes! I had lost a few positions on the cycle but I was confident I could catch up again on the run. Tobie overtook me on the cycle as I almost flew off a cliff as I misjudged one of the sharp turns on a descent. At Transition, Tobie had just left as I racked my bike and he therefore became one of my targets on the run!
Along the first stretch of the run along the pier, I could see Tobie and 2 of the other triathletes who overtook me on the bike. It was my mission to regain my position and push away from them as much as possible after overtaking them. As with my cycle, I managed my effort throughout the run as it is very easy to start running like a cheetah chasing its prey but then crumble towards the end of the run. The most satisfying races for me are those where I control my pace and then go for the ‘kill’ with 3-4km remaining. I stuck to my plan and slowly but surely I caught Tobie and one other triathlete on the first lap. My focused was then to catch the other two triathletes who overtook me on the cycle by the end of the third lap to leave me in a good position to smash the last lap. Laps 2 and 3 were the most painful but the crowd was spectacular! I was cheered right throughout the run which at times made me forget about the fact that my lungs were about to burst or that my legs were going to collapse! There was one triathlete from Greenland who I could see in the distance from the start of the run and I was on the verge of catching him on the final lap. We could both see each other at every turnaround point on the run and this triathlete knew I was gaining on him and I could potentially beat him to the finish line. At the final turnaround point on lap 4 with 1km to the finish line, I acknowledged the effort of the Greenlandic triathlete by giving him a ‘thumbs up’ and he too acknowledged with the same gesture. We had both pushed each other as he was trying to stop me catching him whereas I was trying my utmost best to hunt him down! Unfortunately for me, the Greenlandic held on to his lead and finished ahead of me.
Getting My Breath Back
The finish line was no rest bite either! Our team had to wait patiently to hear whether we had won Silver or Bronze in the Team category after Jersey had comfortably taken Gold. The third Gibraltarian athlete to cross the line was Mark Francis who received a 15 second penalty for dismounting his bike after the dismount line when entering Transition 2. The entire team was hoping that even after the 15 second penalty, we would be able to take home some metal regardless of its colour! After about 20 minutes, the news finally broke. We had won BRONZE!
A sigh of relief amongst the team with high fives being thrown and plans being made for the celebrations later that night!
All Good Things Come To An End
It was great to see our efforts reward us with a medal after many months of training and preparation. We went through numerous Time Trials and practise races in the Andalucian circuit in Southern Spain which got us all in good shape both physically and mentally.
The time had come to put our feet up, rest and recover for our next ventures!