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Sports Development in the Maltese Islands

New millennium unfolds with 60-strong national organisations

Special Olympics Malta was established in 1998 with the initial focus being on athletic events and swimming competitions.

In last week’s article we saw how a number of new national sport associations continued to sprout during the last two decades of the twentieth century.

Today’s article will focus on the last few years prior to the dawn of the new millennium leading to the situation in Malta today.

The Malta Gymnastics Federation was founded in 1996 by a group of gymnastics enthusiasts spearheaded by Chinese coach Albert Chun. The first Artistic Gymnastics Championships were held at San Anton School in Mġarr in 1999.

The Malta Dancesport Association was also established in 1996 with the aim of cultivating dance sport in Malta and to raise the standard of amateur couples to international level.

During the first years, the national event, known as The Malta Closed Championships, was held at the Jerma Palace Hotel in Marsascala before being transferred to the University Sports Complex at Tal-Qroqq. Competitions were organised in three categories, namely Ballroom, Latin and Ten Dance, the latter combining Ballroom and Dancing.

Though having been introduced in Malta by the British Servicemen whilst stationed in Malta, following their departure from the island in 1979, fencing activities were very limited due to lack of interest and organisation.

Yet, in 1992, Juan Formosa re-introduced the sport at Stella Maris College, Gżira. Following the success generated by young followers, classes were also opened for adults leading to the foundation of the first Maltese fencing club, St Paul Fencing Club.

In turn, this led to the creation of the National Fencing Association Malta in 1997 with Formosa being elected as its first president.

Special Olympics Malta was established in 1998 with the initial focus being on athletic events at Marsa and swimming competitions at the National Pool, Tal-Qroqq (Gżira).

Nowadays, headed by National Director Anna Calleja, the entity is home to hundreds of participants spread over several disciplines with Malta due to host the Special Olympics Malta Invitational Games in May 2022.

In 1999, the Malta Equestrian Federation was established after La Vallette Horse Riding Club at Marsa was the sole entity for equestrian activity in Malta since its foundation in 1982.

With the Malta Equestrian Federation’s launch events started to be organised on a national level including at the Magħtab Equestrian Centre (Naxxar).

The dawn of a new millennium

Modern day Malta, also a member of the European Union since 2004, has continued to keep up with developments in international sport and sporting disciplines not yet recognised on national basis also found their way through the ranks.

After wheelchair dancing was introduced in Malta by Pippa Roberts at Ir-Razzett tal-Ħbiberija, Marsascala in February 1999, the Malta Wheelchair Dancesport Association was founded in 2001 with the first official club being the Pippa Gee Dance Studio in Paola.

Over the years the MWDA organised various competitions, including foreign participation, at the University Sports Complex at Tal-Qroqq.

The Malta Golf Association was finally set up in 2006 despite being one of the first disciplines to be practised on the island.

In fact, golf in Malta began with the arrival of Lieutenant General Sir Henry D’Oyley Torrens as Governor of Malta in 1888 when he immediately ordered the setting up of a golf course.

This was, in fact, realised in no time as Malta’s first golf course was laid out on St Anne’s Ditch, Floriana around the Hornworks Bastions.

At first only nine holes were available but was then extended to a full 18-hole circuit.

By 1904 two other courses in Mosta and Marsa were added yet within six years the one at Marsa became and still is the only available course on the island.

The storm that hit the Maltese Islands in 1979 left a telling effect on the course although refurbishment works started soon after as golf became a tourism attraction in itself.

Although Aikido in Malta started to be practised at Pembroke in 1993 and since then uptake for the sport was always been on the increase, Aikikai Malta was founded in 2006 following keen interest to form a national entity. Today, it operates from its premises in Ħamrun.

More recently, the National Federation Sports Angling Malta was set up in 2010 with the aim of bringing together local clubs and organising national championships.

In fact, these are held on regular basis at different locations such as Sliema, St. Paul’s Bay, Vittoriosa and Manoel Island (Gżira).

Despite Malta’s debut at the Paralympic Games in 1960, the Malta Paralympic Committee was only set up in 2018 with the aim of providing opportunities to para athletes both locally and abroad.

Its main activities are athletics held at Marsa and swimming, organised at the National Pool, Tal-Qroqq (Gżira).

Rowing and canoeing events around some of Malta’s most idyllic creeks, including Sliema and Msida, are also organised from time to time.

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