Encouraging athletes to their best performance

WIIGA chair Norris Tomsh, left, accepts the cheque from Angus McCormack, chair of Point and Sandwick Trust.
WIIGA chair Norris Tomsh, left, accepts the cheque from Angus McCormack, chair of Point and Sandwick Trust.

Community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust have made it easier for a group of athletes to represent the Western Isles on the world stage this summer with a donation of £1000.

The donation was made to the Western Isles Island Games Assocation (WIIGA), who are sending a squad to compete in the NatWest Island Games in Sweden in June.

Norrie ‘Tomsh’ MacDonald is chair of the local games association and was delighted to receive the cheque recently from Point and Sandwick Trust chairman Angus McCormack.

Angus said: “Our charitable status precludes us from making payments to individual athletes, so the board decided the best way of supporting athletes attending the Island Games was to make this donation. We wish the athletes all the best for the competitions in June. We are all very proud of what they have managed to achieve on the international stage.”

Thanking Point and Sandwick Trust, Norrie said: “We are grateful for every single donation we get and £1000 is a huge amount of money.

“It means it reduces the costs for all our athletes. That’s the long and the short of it.

“A lot of our athletes fall into the school kid category so reducing the costs to them is of paramount importance because it’s not cheap.”

The WIIGA squad includes athletes from a number of sports: athletics, swimming, golf, shooting, cycling, football and triathlon.

The games take place every second year and go on rotation around the 24 island members of the International Island Games Association. This year’s host is Gotland in Sweden and a squad of 75 athletes and 15 others — coaches, managers and medics — are going from the Western Isles.

A small number of family members and supporters will also be going along to the event, on from June 24 to 30. The costs are high though, with the bill for WIIGA coming in at between £160,000 and £180,000.

Scottish Salmon is the main sponsor for the Western Isles squad. But many other sponsorship deals are also needed.

Norrie said: “I sit on the fundraising subcommittee and I must have written 100 letters to people over the last month. I’ve written to everybody that I can think of. We’d be grateful if anybody is out there and willing to get on board.

“We are grateful for every single donation we get. We have managed to reduce the costs to the athletes of about £600 each, which is still a lot of money, but every single bit of sponsorship takes that down.”

While the sums involved are clear, what is harder to quantify is just how big an effect that participation in the Island Games has had on sports performance in the Western Isles.

“We’ve taken great strides in the last 10 years,” said Norrie. “The standards of the island sports have increased massively.

“Instead of going to the mainland to participate, they are going to the mainland thinking they can win. Confident. They’re not scared now, especially at the North of Scotland events.

“Our whole premise is to make sure that every single person in the Western Isles has access to sports at the grassroots level. If the athletes are good enough, we take them on board and make sure they get proper access to proper coaching, proper training camps.”

The Island Games have helped make sports stars of a number of athletes from the Western Isles, including cyclist Kerry McPhee and swimmer in Kara Hanlon.

In Kara’s case, she first participated in the games at the Isle of Wight in 2011, when she was an under-16.

By the time of her next games — Bermuda in 2013 – she had become a contender and missed out on a medal by her fingertips. Next time, at Jersey in 2015, she won a gold and a silver.

“It’s all about the potential,” said Norrie. “We want to encourage the youngsters.”