There were TV cameras filming every leap, every smile and every tear, photographers were rapid firing shots to capture every moment, but Mary Macleod and Heather Mackinnon won’t need the videos or the images to recall the night of Thursday, July 11th, under the Gibraltar sunshine.
Their record breaking jumps, medal winning leaps and honest outpourings of raw emotion have been burned into their memories – never to be deleted.
Just when the Western Isles Island Games Association athletics squad needed a few grains of magic dust to savour, to bring some medals into the athletics camp, Mary and Heather tipped a pocketful of the stuff over the Triple Jump final at the NatWest International Island Games.
Both girls’ stories are remarkable, inspirational and a testament to their natural talent, their hard work and desire and their determination to succeed at the top level of international sporting combat.
Mary, an athlete who has worked tirelessly across multi-events on track and field, is now more commonly pictured on a football pitch where she has propelled herself to being one of the first names on the team sheet of the WIIGA Women’s Football Team. But with no football in Gibraltar she was back with her athletics family, jumping in the triple jump - an event she only took up two years ago - and by her own admission hoping to set a new personal best.
She did that … and then some.
Not once, twice or even three times but on four different occasions Mary soared beyond her PB, setting new massive distances and the 19-year-old landed on the podium with her first jump – a massive 11.03m from a previous best of 10.75 - and she never lost a grip of the medal positions across her total of six leaps against some of the best from around the international islands competing.
Heather too was a story of grit, determination and a refusal to accept defeat in her bid to return to Island Games glory. The Eriskay teenager was the gold medal winner in Gotland two years ago on her Island Games bow but since then she has battled to fight her way back to fitness after suffering a knee injury she thought could finish her athletics career.
For her just being on the flight to Gibraltar and having the Western Isles logo on her chest was a victory in itself but she surpassed any expectations.
She too overhauled her own triple jump PB and like her WIIGA team mate she was on the podium and had one hand on a medal from her first leap of 11.04m. The two girls spurred one another on, pushed each other to even greater jumps and by the end they were in each other’s arms, in floods of tears as the enormity of landing medals together – unexpectedly in their own modest minds – saw the tears emerge like a raging torrent of emotion.
In the second to last round Mary went even further and jumped to 11.14 with Heather’s final jump securing bronze at 11.10 for another PB.
It means that now while both girls are at home with their medals hung on their mantelpieces they are among the top ranked triple jumpers in the country.
Mary is now No.2 at under-20 in Scotland and she is ninth overall for all women; Heather is tenth in Scotland for senior women.
After the initial raw emotion of tears eased the pair brought smiles and cheers to the entire Lathbury Stadium as they danced their way onto the podium and even during the medal ceremony they brought a sense of fun and genuine enjoyment to the occasion as they bobbed up and time on the podium in time to the traditional Island Games music.
It was a sight to behold and a fitting finale to a day where two immensely talented athletes marked a testing road to Gibrlatar with glory and silverware.
“I feel great,” beamed Mary between gulps of air after being confirmed as a NatWest International Island Games silver medallist.
“I honestly can’t believe this and I’m speechless for the first time ever. This will never sink in. My first jump was such a massive PB I couldn’t believe it and when they announced the top eight I thought maybe I had a chance for a medal.
“Heather is amazing and she came in with so much pressure from last time and to perform like she did to better her own PB from Gotland is amazing.”
Heather’s medal triumph was hugely emotional after she confessed her athletics career had been left hanging in the balance due to injury and she has felt the crippling weight of expectation on her shoulders after her gold medal showing two years earlier.
“I was not confident at all after a year full of injuries,” admitted Heather track side.
“It was last May at the North Districts that I dislocated my knee while landing the hop in competition and since then it has been popping in and out. I also felt a lot of pressure after Gotland because of the gold medal and I didn’t think I could medal here to be honest.
“I was only here to get back into competing and try and go for a new PB and I smashed my PB and I landed bronze.”
She continued: “My knee feels OK today but it did feel a bit aggravated after the long jump earlier in the week which made me feel a bit sick in the stomach for three or four days. I’ve been OK today and I had some time with the physio and I feel in good condition today.
“This is a big confident boost as I had contemplated giving up after I dislocated my knee but this is such a huge boost and I’m so happy.”