THE eyes of the world will be watching as Team Isle of Wight competes in the 18th Island Games in Gibraltar, which starts this weekend.

The squad flies out to Gibraltar today (Friday) to compete against athletes of 23 islands from across the world, in 12 sports — athletics, badminton, basketball, cycling, judo, sailing, shooting, squash, swimming, tennis, table tennis and triathlon.

The Island will have more than 100 athletes competing during seven days of competition, amid a heatwave in the Iberian peninsular.

Martin Goodall, of the Isle of Wight Island Games Association, will be overseeing his third games as chairman and, while he hopes they return with a medal haul, his only wish is for each individual to give their all.

“I want everyone to have the best possible time — to perform at their best and deliver, after all the weeks, months and years of training,” said Martin.

“If they perform at their best — that can mean winning gold or coming last — it’s about giving their everything and leaving nothing out there.

“The Island will be very proud of them for being their best. That’s all we hope for.”

Martin competed in the 1993 Island Games, held on the Isle of Wight, winning a silver medal in the triple jump and bronze in high jump.

“It’s a very exciting event to take part in,” he said.

“It was a highlight of my athletics career and it will be the highlight for many of our competitors this time around.

“For some, it’ll be a real chance to win a medal — and we have a few hopefuls, who we’re confident we have a great chance.

“It gives athletes from the Island the chance to compete alongside each other as one team, which is really special.”

Medallists from previous games return to the squad for Gibraltar.

Runner Dan Eckersley, who won gold in 2017, Anna Showan, a badminton medallist from 2011, and sisters Imogen and Shelley Moss, who between them won a clutch of medals two years ago in Gotland, Sweden, all feature.

Nine-time table tennis gold medallist, Dan Burns, also returns, with the extra responsibility of carrying the Island flag during the opening ceremony tomorrow (Saturday).

“I first took part in the Island Games in Gibraltar in 1995, so to have this privilege 24 years on is something very special and it feels as though it has come full circle,” Dan said.

“I’ve had some amazing moments in the Island Games and to lead the team out in Gibraltar will be right up there with them.”

Dan’s table tennis team-mate, Simon Proffitt, 64, is the oldest member of the squad, while squash player Amelie Haworth is the youngest at just 13.

The cost of sending an athlete to Gibraltar is £800, say the association.

But thanks to the support from businesses and organisations, the Isle of Wight Island Games Association has been able to help with travel and accommodation costs for some competitors in low-paid work or those still in education or training,

Software company ICRTouch, based at Sandown, renewed its sponsorship deal with Team Isle of Wight to cover the cost of the squad’s Island Games kit.

Other sizeable donations — including from the Isle of Wight Sports Foundation, Newport Grammar School Trust, Wight Aid and Newport Business Association, have also been received.

But having recently gained charity status, officials hope this will help attract future funding and sponsorship to support even more competitors.

Martin added: “We’re hugely grateful for all the support we’ve had to help us get to Gibraltar.”

For Martin and his colleagues, the games follows months of planning but, come the start of the competition on Sunday, it will all be worth it.

“I’ve been involved in sport all my life and I just wanted to pay something back and help provide people opportunities I had given to me, thanks to the efforts of others,” said Martin.

“We all do this voluntarily because of what it means to the Island’s sporting community.

“It’s always an incredibly emotional week. To see people achieve their goals and perform at their best, when it matters most, is an amazing experience.

“To be there to share all the ups and downs of the week is a real rollercoaster, but it makes all the hard work to get us there very worthwhile.”

To follow all the action from the 2019 Island Games, visit the Isle of Wight Island Games Association’s Facebook page or follow @IOWIGA on Twitter.

There will be regular reports posted on the County Press website: and extensive coverage in next Friday’s edition of the paper.