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Island Games 2019 Athletics: Gibraltar’s Athletes Prepare

Robin Sheppard-Capurro

Gibraltar 2019 Natwest International Island Games: Athletics

Athletics has been a part of the Island Games since the beginning in 1985. This summer its home will be a newly purpose built IAAF approved athletics track & field complex (at the old Lathbury Barracks).

For Team Gibraltar expectations are high. Our athletes are no strangers to the podium in Games gone by, bringing home five from Jersey in 2015 and seven from Gotland in 2017. With home advantage this summer should again prove fruitful.

The term ‘unsung hero’ has never been truer when referring to the man responsible for Gibraltar’s success down the years. A reserved character who avoids media attention as if it were the plague, but Head Coach Hector Romero’s devotion and commitment to the development of local athletics is unparalleled.

Gibraltar Island Games Athletics

Now 70, he’s very much seen as a father figure, not just for the athletes, but the rest of the staff as well. With his experience, knowledge and personality he demands respect. For him, maximum effort is the minimum requirement.

Much of his praise comes from Team Manager Avelino Baldachino who was himself a talented middle-distance runner in the 80’s. However, when he got married at the age of 26 he decided to hang up his spikes: “Worst decision I’ve ever made!”

“I regret it so much – I never thought the Island Games would become such a massive event. The times I was doing would’ve won Gibraltar medals.” he reminisced. But then was then, and now is now. His focus is firmly on the upcoming Island Games and the squad at his disposal. Gibraltar’s standout athlete is 25-year-old Harvey Dixon, a semi-pro middle-distance runner now based in the U.K. Last year he became the first athlete from Gibraltar to reach a final at a Commonwealth Games, when he qualified for the men’s 1500m in Gold Coast, Australia.

Gibraltar is also blessed with a handful of talented sprinters. Jerai Torres, Zyanne Hook, Laura Bevington, Craig Gill and Jesse Franco (who holds the current 100m national record of 10.90 seconds) are all fit and raring to go. Kim Baglietto is another one to watch out for. I was fortunate enough to watch the drama unfold at the Jersey 2015 games in the women’s half marathon. A race she’d only signed up for on the day. Lo and behold, against all odds, she was first around the final bend like a warrior limping out of battle, battered and bruised, but the gold medal was hers.

Gibraltar Island Games Athletics

Traditionally field events have drawn the short straw on the Rock. A lack of space the main issue but a new wave of interest, coupled with the new facilities, has given Gibraltar a new wave of hope. 17-year-old Triple Jumper Karla Kaemmerlen and 18-year-old Jack Norton in the High Jump have shown encouraging signs of progress. Although inexperienced, this summer’s Games could be just the stage for them to showcase their ability.

At a recent sporting awards ceremony, the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said Gibraltar is set for a ‘revolution in sport’ once the facilities are completed. It’s an exciting time for the Rock and its people, particularly for those involved in Athletics – a timely new platform on which to excel in years to come.

Gibraltar 2019 Natwest International Island Games: Athletics

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