ORKNEY Athletic Club’s championships on Sunday (29 August) had a special significance – and not just due to the fact that the 100m and 75m heats were run in the opposite direction due to the morning’s high winds.

It was the presence of Scottish Athletics chairman Dr Frank Dick that hopefully motivated many of the young – and not so young – to run, jump and throw to their best ability, despite the blustery conditions.

Just short of 50 girls, and nearly 40 boys and men competed over the five-and-a-half hours at the Pickaquoy Centre, which began with strong back winds for the switched-direction sprint heats and the javelin competitions. For the throwers especially, these were testing conditions, with many javelins coming down tail first in the following wind.

There were no new records and few personal bests set during the competition, according to organisers.

However, despite the wind making things difficult for most of the day, the track and field competitors gave it their all in search of medals and personal bests.

The highlight of the day was the awarding of the Clubmark to Orkney Athletic Club, with Dr Dick praising the club’s efforts.

Afterwards, he told Orkney Today: “There were some interesting performances here today. When you think about the challenges Orkney has to get to competitions, and not just fighting the elements. For a lot of these youngsters they have a fair bit of travelling to do to get to their training, as well as getting to competitions on the mainland.

“I’m not making a virtue of this, but when you meet Orcadians you are meeting people who have a different way of life. You do not find excuses, you find ways of doing things,” he said.

Part of the reason for Dr Dick’s visit to Orkney was to recognise the upset that had been caused by the bus crash on Berriedale Braes earlier this year, in which athletes heading for a competition in Inverness had been involved.

However, he said: “I think anyone who knows me knew that I would be making the effort to get round the country anyway. But immediately I heard about what was, thank God, something not on the level of tragedy it could have been, I telephoned Aly (MacPhail) and wanted to make sure the youngsters got another chance for competition, and also said I would come up for a weekend to spend some time here.”

And what a boost that was. Apart from talking to the athletes on Sunday, Dr Dick gave sports people, and folk from the wider community, a real treat in Kirkwall Town Hall on Saturday evening as they listened for an enthralling hour and a half to his motivational talk entitled Winning Matters.

In it he talked about mountain people – winners – and valley people – losers – and detailed ways that people could help shape their lives, and those of others, to ensure they maximised the opportunities that were set before them. Taking one of his themes – that probably the only sustainable competitive advantage you have is to learn faster than your opposition – he told Orkney Today that he felt sports clubs in Orkney could learn well together. “I see the concept of Sports Club Orkney,” he said.

SCOTTISH Athletics chairman Dr Frank Dick OBE personally congratulated Orkney Athletic Club on achieving the Scottish Athletics Clubmark Accreditation.

Dr Dick, in Orkney for the weekend, said that the club was one of the very few that had got this far, and it meant that the club could now move forward. Speaking after making the presentation at the Orkney Athletic Club Championships on Sunday, Dr Dick said: “This is awarded to very, very few clubs in the UK let alone Scotland. It shows that the club is at the top of the pile, and that the people at the top of the club are doing their very best for the coaches and the athletes.”

The award, which was accepted by Aly MacPhail on behalf of the rest of the members, signifies Orkney AC’s commitment to being a safe, effective and child-friendly athletics club.

Dr Dick said of Sunday’s championships: “This is club athletics at its best; enormous competition at one end, and just pure fun at the other.”

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