The women's volleyball team has a good shot at winning gold.
The women's volleyball team has a good shot at winning gold.
A contingent of over 100 athletes and officials from Bermuda will be competing in Aland over the next week at the 2009 Natwest Small Island Games.

But the harsh economic times have forced Bermuda to field a much smaller team this time around with athletes from football and the women's basketball team not taking part.

Some of the island's brightest swimmers and track athletes will also miss the games as they have bigger competitions to take part in this summer.

Even still, there should be lots of glory moments when the games kick off on Sunday. Many of these bright spots will revolve around our gymnastics team, who weren't able to compete officially last time around.

Here James Whittaker and Don Burgess preview our athletes and their chances for glory.
Basketball

Nothing less than gold will be enough to satisfy Bermuda's basketballers this time around. They won this competition in 2005 but had to settle for silver in Rhodes last time.

Steve Simons, one of the squad's three captains, said the same result would not be considered a success in Aland.

Sullivan Phillips is the key Bermuda player as its only pro, but others like Chris Crumpler are expected to step up and play big roles.

Coach Roderick Spencer is a master tactician and can be counted on to give his men every chance to win.

Bermuda's most experienced players gave up the opportunity of competing in the Caribbean Championships to be here and they did son with only one thing in mind: victory.

The nine-team tournament begins on Sunday with Bermuda taking on Cayman.

They must top the three-team group, which also includes Jersey, to advance to the medal stages. Their biggest rivals will be defending champs Menorca.

Squad: Lamont Vance, Jonathan Minors, Dale Jackson, Jason Simons, Phillip Davis, Steven Simons, Dean Jones, Sullivan Phillips, Jason Lowe, Kent Tacklyn, Chris Crumpler, Charjuan Knight.

Coaches: Roderick Spencer, Gavin Mackenzie, Brian Purvey, Timothy Trott

First Game: v Cayman on Sunday

Final: July 4

Medal Chances: Should bring home a medal of some sort, but what colour will it be?

Archery

Middle of the pack would represent a good showing from Bermuda's archers.

In truth, they are likely to find life tough against more experienced competitors and a top 20 finish would represent real progress.

Paul Harshaw, who will double as coach, was at the games last time but it is a first for Roslyn Kneeland.

Harshaw won his first round head-to-head knockout match before losing in the round of 32.

Squad: Paul Harshaw, Roslyn Kneeland

Medal chances: A long-shot.

Athletics

A-list athletes like Tyrone Smith, Arantxa King and Aaron Evans may have different priorities this summer but Bermuda still arrives in Aland this week with a strong squad.

A mix of experienced campaigners like sprinter Xavier James and up and coming youngsters like his protégé Jeneko Place makes for an interesting balance in the squad.

Half Marathon Derby winner Victoria Fiddick will also fancy her chances in the half-marathon - an event where Bermuda has fared well in the past.

Squad: Daniel Tucker, Xavier James, Jeneko Place, Melissa Clarke, Stephen Allen, Ashley Robinson, Victoria Fiddick.

Coach: Allan Bran, therapist: Susan Verity.

Starts: Sunday

Medal Chances: James and Fiddick look to be the best hopes.

Golf

Golf has been another strong suit for Bermuda in the Island Games. They picked up five medals last time including three golds.

Unfortunately none of the three individual medalists are on the plane this time.

That said rising stars Daniel Augustus and Tariqah Wallikraam, winners at the Bermuda Amateur Strokeplay Championship earlier this month, will both fancy their chances of taking their impressive local form on to the international stage.

Ebonie Burgess, who won silver in 2005 before opting to play soccer instead in 2007, will also believe that she has a chance to have a medal draped around her neck.

Squad: Men: Damian Palanyandi, Jarryd Dillas, Daniel Augustus, Camiko Smith; Women: Katrin Burnie, Katyna Rabain, Ebonie Burgess. Tariqah Walikraam.

Dates: Tuesday through Friday

Medal Chances: Bermuda has strong contenders in the individual tournaments and will also hope to medal in the team competitions.

Gymnastics

In 2005 they won roughly half of Bermuda's medals. No wonder the absence of an officially affiliated gymnastics competition in 2007 was blamed for Bermuda plummeting down the medal table.

The gymnasts did compete in 07 but the contest was held in Isle of Man and their successes did not count towards Bermuda's total.

Kaisey Griffith, who won five golds in that event, is back this time to lead Bermuda's medal charge.

Morgan Beckles looked to have pulled off the impossible yesterday and won Bermuda's first gold before the tournament had even started. The Games website posted Beckles as the winner of the Individual Asymmetric Bars - a result which was copied on at least one Bermuda-based sports website.

As it turned out Games organisers were just testing their technology. Beckles and co don't start competing until Sunday.

Squad: Hannah King, Caitlyn Mello, Kaisey Griffith, Riann Ming, Morgan Beckles, Rosie Finnigan. Coaches: Tina Williams, Michelle Strenk

Starts: Sunday

Medal Chances: Should bring home enough medals to make any war vet proud.

Sailing

Slightly surprisingly, sailing has not been a big medal-producer for Bermuda in the past.

But that could be about to change. Rockal Evans, who finished sixth last time in the standard laser class, will be pushing for a better finish while former Pan Am silver medalist Sara Lane Adderley will be a medal contender.

Former Sunfish World Champ and Pan Am silver medalist Malcolm Smith also has a good chance.

It will be interesting to see how Alex Jones, who hopes to use this tournament as a stepping-stone towards an Olympic campaign, fares on the windsurf board.

Squad: Alex Jones, Brett Wright, Sara Lane Adderley, Malcolm Smith, Rockal Evans

Starts: Sunday

Medal Hopes: Smith and Adderley have enough experience to do well here to bring home something

Shooting

Ross Roberts has been to three Commonwealth Games - Victoria in 1994, Manchester in 2002 and Melbourne in 2006 - and will be expected to have a top of the field performance. Roberts has been one of Bermuda's most consistent small-bore competitors over the years with a shooting average of 95 per cent or better.

While Roberts is the more experienced shooter, Anthony Evans has competed overseas taking part in last year's West Indies Fullbore Rifle Shooting event.

Squad: Ross Roberts, Anthony Evans

Medal Chances: The pair are a bit of an unknown quantity at this level as Bermuda did not take part in the 2007 Rhodes Games.

Swimming

It's been a glorious year for the island's swimmers so far and this competition would seem an ideal chance to add to the medal collection.

The Bermuda Amateur Swimming Association generally uses this as a development meet for its up and coming young swimmers.

And while it's true that the likes of Roy Burch and Kiera Aitken - even Carifta star Rebecca Sharpe - have bigger fish to fry this summer, there is enough talent in the next generation of swimmers to pose a real threat.

The likes of Rebecca Heyliger, Morgan Hopkins and Rebecca Yearwood are all record breakers in their age groups.

Squad: Rebecca Heyliger, Morgan Hopkins, Nicole Yearwood, Ashley Yearwood, Nathan Frick.

Coach: Richard Goodwin

Manager: Vivian Yearwood.

Starts: Monday

Medal chances:

Volleyball

The success of the women's team during their World Championships qualifying campaign rocketed the sport, briefly, into the mainstream this year.

But the Island Games remains the central focus for both the men and the women.

Always a popular social sport on the island the national programme wasn't set up until the Games gave it a raison d'etre and it is a competition that is close to the hearts of all the island's volleyball players.

The women, fourth last time, will really be pushing for a podium spot this time. They've had plenty of match practice and are peaking at the right time.

Squad: Men: Jon Gazzard (athlete/coach), Gary Leblanc (athlete/coach), Eric Haller, Ian Bucci, Jonathon Noseworthy, Mark Hamilton, Mike Bengson, Christopher Lemieux, Brad Meindersma, Jason Ebbin, Adam Wong (athlete/coach), Yves Charbonneau.

Women: Elisabeth Rae, Stacey Dorush, Chantal Brown, Juanita Blee, Emma Vacas, Wendy Gazzard, Lisa Leblanc, Kim Burns, Lianne Leonardi, Giovanna Pacheco, Kristin Thomas, Vikki Stevenson.

Staff: Raina Steer (physio), Alexander Hunter (manager), Mark Bell, Bill Bucci,

Medal Chances: Both squads are in with a shout but this is one of the most fiercely contested sports in the games.