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Island Games love story comes full circle

Thirty years since the day his parents met while taking part in the Island Games, local runner Jessy Franco will be representing Gibraltar in this year’s competition.

The 20-year old’s mum, Randi, and dad, Fabian, met at the Opening Ceremony when the Island Games were held in the Faroe Islands in 1989.

Mrs Franco was part of the gymnastics team for the Faroe Islands while Mr Franco was selected to represent the Rock in athletics.

“These Island Games are going to be very emotional for us,” Mrs Franco said.

“Not only because Jessy will be running in but because that is when we first met.”

The couple struck up a friendship during the games and two months later, Mr Franco moved to the Faroe Islands.

They eventually moved to Gibraltar with their first son, Julian, 28, and since then Gibraltar has been the family’s home.

Jessy will be running the 200-metre and 400-metre races, and just recently broke Gibraltar’s national record when he recorded 21.31 seconds in the GAAA time trials.

He is looking forward to representing Gibraltar in the Island Games for the first time in four years, after falling sick in Gotland and having to miss out.

Jessy described the family as a “family of runners”, after following in the footsteps of his father and his older brother.

He was noticed for his running abilities when he was eight-years old by his father and Charlie Flower, but it was when he turned 16 that running became a primary focus.

Since then, his father has become his trainer, masseuse, manager and put his son’s success down to “a lot of patience”.

Having taken part in the Island Games on three separate occasions, Mr Franco described them as the “friendly games” and that it is a beautiful event.

“For us, the Island Games is like our Olympics,” Jessy said.

“It is one of the highest standards for sporting competitions you can get for an Island, or Gibraltar.”

Depending on how he qualifies in these races on Sunday, Jessy is hoping to take part in the World Championships in Qatar.

For now, his main goal is to achieve his personal best at the Island Games with support from his friends, family from Gibraltar and the Faroe Islands, and his “biggest fan”, his little sister, Grace.