More than 70 athletes from the Cayman Islands have joined competitors from 21 other islands, primarily from Europe, for the XVIII NatWest International Island Games in Gibraltar.
Cayman’s athletes are competing across nine sports – athletics, basketball, beach volleyball, cycling, sailing, squash, swimming, table tennis and tennis over six days, with competition having started on Sunday, 7 July.
There were some strong showings early Sunday with squash players Cameron Stafford, Julian Jervis and Jake Kelly having comfortable wins in singles, Marissa Harrison and Illean Powery winning their opening beach volleyball encounter against Bermuda and Danneika Lyn, Danielle Bailey, Pearl Morgan, and Karim Murray all advancing in their respective events on the track.
Every two years, the Games bring together athletes from island communities from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean, the North Atlantic to the Caribbean.
“These games not only expose our athletes to international competition among their peers, but they are also the equivalent of the Olympics for a small nation like ours,” said Janet Sairsingh, president of the Island Games Association of the Cayman Islands.
Carrying the flag for the Cayman Islands contingent at the opening ceremony on a breezy Saturday night on Gibraltar’s Atlantic coast was Carl Morgan, who has won multiple medals over the years and is the Island Games recordholder in the triple jump (15.68m in 2011).
“It’s an honour and a privilege. Not many people can say they get to bear their flag and represent their island and I’m humbled to do so,” said Morgan, who was also flagbearer two years ago in Gotland, Sweden.
Although he will wait until Wednesday to compete, the veteran athlete said he was eager to get into his events. “I plan to win them all, hopefully in medal fashion,” Morgan said. “I hope to win three golds, possibly four because I might be doing the 4x400m [relay]. I’m ready to compete,” said Morgan, who has become a crowd favourite wherever the games are held.
A unique feature of the opening ceremony is the mixing of seawater brought from all participating islands. Squash player Jade Pitcairn conducted this role for Cayman, carrying a calabash wrapped in thatch rope with water gathered from Bodden Town. The container has been used since Cayman debuted at the Island Games in Gotland in 1999.
In a ceremony filled with speeches and cultural entertainment, David Bruce, country head of title sponsor NatWest International, hailed all the competitors in what has been dubbed “the friendly games”.
“You are the role models our world and islands need,” he said. “You are here to compete and try to defeat your opponent. That will be difficult because you are all winners, but more important than winning is proving you have what it takes to become a friend. We are the friendly games and we do this in order to develop sports in our islands,” he said.
At the last games, in 2017, the Cayman Islands won 25 medals, seven of them gold, along with 10 silver and eight bronze.