23 Jul 2018

Swimming pair aim to put the Faroe Islands on the World stage

The Faroe Islands may be the smallest nation competing in the European Championships this summer, but for what they lack in size, they make up for in ambition.

Only two Faroese swimmers will compete in Glasgow at the European Championships this summer, but they hope they can punch above their weight on the European stage.

With under 500 miles separating the Faroese capital of Torshavn and Glasgow – the islanders will have one of the shortest journeys to Glasgow 2018 this summer. And they’re hoping for a productive stay in Scotland.

Alvi Hjelm is the Faroese record holder in the 400m medley and has a wealth of experience on the European stage, competing in four of the championships over five years.

He said: “When we compete at these championships we show the World that there is a place called the Faroe Islands.

“Even with a population of 50,000 we have athletes that can compete at these events and take medals.

“This is one of the central motivations to even be a swimmer for me, Europeans and Worlds are among the biggest events in swimming and this is what makes it special to be a part of.”

The 22-year-old swimmer now lives in Copenhagen, where he is studying for a degree in business and commercial law at the Copenhagan Business School.

He juggles his degree with elite level training and says he looked up to racers like Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte when he was an aspiring swimmer, as well as Pál Joensen, a Faroese athlete who competed under the Danish flag at the Olympics.

Hjelm believes the feeling of swimming in the colours of the Faroe Islands is something to be savoured. And something he hopes to experience at future tournaments, including the Olympics.

He added: “It would mean the world to represent my country at the Olympics.

“As of now it’s never going to be the same special feeling everybody else has at the Olympics because we as Faroese must represent another country with another language, flag and national song.

“If we should get the IOC membership I for sure think that it is going to raise the level of sports in the Faroe Islands.”

Signhild Joensen is the second of the pair coming to Glasgow to compete and aged just 17 balances her school study with training in Klaksvik.

Her European curtain call came in London in 2016 and she also competed in the World Aquatics Championships 2017 in Budapest, Hungary.

She said: “The Worlds was such a huge experience and the hospitality was really good.

“It means a lot to me to compete with the World and Europe’s best swimmers and to gain more experience from the competitions.”

Joensen shares her teammates joy at being able to compete under the flag of the Faroe Islands at Glasgow 2018.

She said: “It’s really important, we want to compete under our own flag and have the opportunity to reach our Olympic dream.

“As an athlete who dreams of competing in the Olympics, this is something I think about a lot.

“I work every day to get to the Olympics and I have a dream to reach Tokyo (2020).

“It would be incredible if I were to compete under the Faroese flag – that is my dream.”

This summer two athletes will represent their entire nation at the Tollcross International Swimming Centre and this will hopefully be another step to progressing sport on the Faroe Islands.

Be there for swimming this summer: https://bit.ly/2LaU9UU