The swimming portion of the 2015 Island Games, being hosted in the British crown dependency of Jersey, began on Monday.
This unique event doesn’t divide along traditional Olympic boundaries; rather, the multi-sport spectacular organized by the International Island Games Association has been participated in by 27 different island teams (including 11 who have participated in every games) since 1985.
The swimming portion of the meet is held in short course meters this year, as it was in 2013, but in 2011, was in long course.
Some of the participants are more familiar, like Jersey, Isle of Man, Isle of Wight, Greenland, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, the Falkland Islands, and Gibraltar. Others are less known, like Saaremaa, which is a part of Estonia; and Yns Môn, an island off the north-west coast of Wales.
In overall, all-time medals tallies, this year’s hosts Jersey has been the dominant force, followed closely by Isle of Man and Guernsey (it must be in the cows). In swimming, the story has been no different – Jersey won 32 medals (10 more than any other country) and 11 golds in 2013.
But the title of dominant swimming program bounces around, and the great wildcard is Pal Joensen of the Faroe Islands – a part of Denmark. He didn’t compete in 2013, but has 22 career Island Games gold medals and won an astonishing 14 medals in 2011 (9 gold, 4 silver, 1 bronze).
Joensen is back in 2015, as a tuneup to the long course World Championships, and began his meet with a bang, earning a gold, two silvers, and a bronze.
The gold came in the day’s most impressive time: a 14:57.73.
In one of the best showdowns we’ll see of the entire meet, Joensen earned a silver medal in the men’s 200 IM, swimming a 2:02.88. That’s within a second of his lifetime best, but in each case left him short of Caymanian Olympian Shaune Fraser (2:01.58).
In both of those races, Joensen was followed immediately by a teammate. When combined with a Faroese bronze in the men’s 200 medley relay; and Joensen’s silver in the 100 breast (1:02.80); that left the country at the top of the day 1 medals table (more highlights after the jump).
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Joensen had the highlight swim of the day, but Jersey’s Ian Black deserves a big tip of the hat for his 1:00.24 in the 100 breaststroke final – which beat the runner-up Joensen by two-and-a-half seconds. 2014 Commonwealth Games swimmer Guy Davies was 3rd in that race in 1:03.69.
Black is a relative veteran in a lethal, deep, and very young British breaststroking scene at 26-years old, but is more of a threat in short course than long course. He won the 100 breaststroke on Monday in 1:00.24, which is his lifetime best by almost a second-and-a-half.
Also racking up a big tally on day 1 of the met is Guernsey’s Thomas Hollingsworth. He won three medals of his own (1 gold, 2 silvers) including a win in the 50 backstroke.
Full, live results of the meet are available here.