Table Tennis Wrap
Making it back on to the list of sports at this year’s NatWest Island Games, 125 competitors from 11 islands played a total of 381 matches in battling to take home one of the 18 medals in table tennis.
In a week when host island Jersey experienced some of the hottest weather in over a decade, there may have been no need for sunscreen inside the Geoff Reed Table Tennis Centre at FB Fields, but players struggled with the searing heat as they battled through match after match for the chance of winning gold, silver or bronze.
It clearly wasn’t just the competitors who seemed to be well prepared for the games ahead, but their supporters too had clearly been practising with Åland providing the best co-ordinated cheer from the sidelines. The rivalry between spectators was intense, but good natured – each side taking turns to cheer on their team between sets.
It was a proud moment for Jersey to see Jordan Wykes win two silver medals in his debut Games, more so for the fact that he is one of the youngest players at only 15.
Five of the 11 islands took home medals: Guernsey won three golds and one silver, Gotland two golds, one silver and four bronze, Åland one medal of each colour, Jersey two silver and one bronze and the Faroe Islands one silver.
Gotland, Guernsey, Greenland and Åland made it through to the semi-finals.
Fighting for bronze were Åland and Greenland. In the men’s singles there were some tough games, with Greenland’s Ivik Jafet Nielsen demonstrating some dramatic shots in his match against Jim Bergbo; it was a close call in the first game as Nielsen lost by two points at 12-14, but he found his feet again to win the match. Despite his hard work, Åland took the lead to win the medal by 4-2.
Guernsey’s star players Garry Dodd and Alice Loveridge demonstrated with flair why they are rated top in their field winning against their opponents Gotland to give an impressive 4-2 win and taking the first gold medal of the season, leaving the 2017 host island with silver.
Six of the 11 islands were represented in the women’s doubles, with Guernsey and Gotland having two pairs and Faroe Islands, Greenland, Isle of Man and Jersey having one each. 15 games would decide which pair would take home medals.
Jersey faced Gotland for bronze. Gotland’s Evelina Carlsson and Elin Schwartz kept Jersey down for the first two games, winning by 11-5. By the third game Jersey’s Kelsey Le Maistre and Sofia Uddnas dug deep to try and get the match back in their favour but just couldn’t get past Gotland, losing the third set by two points at 11-13.
Exhibiting fantastic teamwork, Guernsey’s Alice Loveridge and Dawn Morgan won every one of their matches, including a 3-1 final victory over the Faroes and take gold.
Lasting over three days, with 43 matches to be played, it was a long, hard struggle for the players to keep focussed. By the end of the third day, four pairs were left out of the original 19; Gotland had strong representation after both their teams got through to the semi-finals alongside Jersey and Guernsey.
Guernsey and Gotland faced each other for bronze and it was far from an easy match with sets being won by as little as two or three points, but Gotland’s Jonas Berglund and Johan Eriksson had the extra drive needed to win the medal by 3-2 against Guernsey’s Joshua Butler and Garry Dodd.
Having waited overnight to face each other, Jersey’s Jordan Wykes and Joshua Band went up against Gotland’s Bjorn Axelsson and Nisse Lundberg in what was to be a fraught match. With a win each under their belts, the tension was building by the third match before Gotland took it with a thrilling 17-15 win, Jersey caught up and it was up to the wire before Gotland had a sudden burst of energy to take home the gold by 3-2.
History repeated itself after the men’s doubles, with both Gotland’s teams making it to the semi-finals, along with Guernsey team Garry Dodd and Alice Loveridge and Åland team Marina Donner and Johan Pettersson.
Gotland were guaranteed a bronze as both teams lost out in their semi-final matches; Lina Olofsson and Jonas Berglund won the 'derby' match in straight sets against Elin Schwartz and Nisse Lundberg in a match that lacked the intensity of most of the other medal encounters.
Guernsey and Åland battled hard for gold; with two wins apiece, the last set would be the decider, and after a gallant effort by Guernsey, Åland took gold by just two points in the decider (10-12).
All competing islands bar Alderney were represented in the women’s singles, in which 22 women played 42 matches. The final four was made up of Guernsey’s Alice Loveridge, Jersey newcomer and rising star Sofia Uddnas, Gotland’s Evelina Carlsson and Åland’s Marina Donner.
Having both lost in straight sets, Gotland and Jersey battled through an amazing seven games, Uddnas smashed through to win the final and deciding game by 11-9 to take bronze.
The excitement didn’t end there as Guernsey and Åland squared up to each other, Loveridge claimed the first three sets but Donner turned it around to win the next two, but with steely determination, Loveridge rediscovered her A-game to take the sixth set 11-7 and take the gold by a margin of 4-2, with Donner left with the consolation of silver.
All islands were represented in the men’s singles and 41 hopefuls played a total of 73 games. Gotland again showed how strong they were with two players reaching the semi-finals, along with competitors from Jersey and Greenland.
First to face each other on the final day was Greenland’s Ivik Nielsen and Gotland’s Bjorn Axelsson having both lost their semi-finals; in Axelsson's case against fellow team mate Nisse Lundberg, who after the previous day’s tepid attempt in the final of the mixed doubles, managed to pull a straight-sets win out of the bag.
Nielsen’s previous energetic performances had clearly taken a lot out of him - by the last game it took up to seven points before he could get one past Axelsson, and the Gotland player still had plenty in reserve to win in straight sets and take home the bronze medal.
The last match of the NatWest Island Games was the most anticipated of them all, with Jersey’s young Jordan Wykes going up against Gotland’s Lundberg in a bid to win gold in his debut at the Island Games.
Crowds gathered around the table, with both sides chanting their support. Wykes was clearly overwhelmed and his confidence knocked after his opponent took the first two sets, but after taking a time out for some inspiration from his team manager, Wykes overcame his doubts to secure his first win in the third set. But Lundberg’s skill and experience was just too much and he went on to win the gold by 4-1 with Wykes having to be content with silver.
Words: Katey White - Pics: Oli Wade & Steve Lund