Tennis starlet Francesca Curmi and shooter Marlon Attard will be Malta’s flag bearers on Saturday as this year’s edition of the Mediterranean Games takes place in Oran, Algeria.
The pair were announced yesterday at a press conference ahead of the Games between Saturday and July 6.
Both athletes have made waves in their recent international commitments, with Curmi currently the talk of the town within the sporting community after winning back-to-back ITF titles in Tunisia, in the space of a week.
Attard, on the other hand, is fresh from his experience with Malta’s shooting team at the ISSF World Cup in Azerbaijan where Malta just missed out on the bronze medal.
Speaking to the Times of Malta, Attard said his goal will be to win a medal and continue building on the work he has done.
“When they (Malta Olympic Committee) told me I would be a flag bearer, I realised that my work and sacrifices towards my sport and training are reaping dividends,” Attard said.
“I’ve been shooting for nine years, competing with the national team for five. When I managed to get a result and see the interest that came with it, this gave me a boost.
“My aim will be to win a medal for team Malta. In these last few days of training I have left here, I’ll be looking to make the most so that when I’m there I can give my utmost.”
The Maltese contingent is based upon five different sports – athletics, cycling, sailing, shooting, and tennis and will be made up of 23 athletes from an original set of 170 available.
Chef de Mission Johanna Grech insisted the number was brought down to the final set in order to send only the best to the Games.
“This adventure began a year ago when we found cooperation from all the associations both here and in Oran,” Grech said.
“The preparations were not at all easy, considering we started all of this during the pandemic and Algeria was marked as dark red.
“The sports that have been chosen, have all been picked in order to achieve the best results. We believe in our athletes and that we can attain the best level.”
The contingent is set to be residing together at the Athletes Village, bar the sailors due to their event being held around 46km away.
“We will be dividing our contingent into two groups to avoid having athletes without training facilities once their event is over,” Grech added.
This division comes also due to the fact that these Games will take place just weeks away
from the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Asked about the small gap between competitions, Director of Sport Charlene Attard said that as a result of COVID-19 cancellations for the past two years, “everything was pushed onto this year”.
“The calendar is full and even some sports associations we spoke to, told us that ‘we don’t feel we can send athletes to these games for the simple reason that next week, we’ve got the European Championships’,” Attard said.
“The associations had to choose between these games and their championships to see their athletes at their best form.”
Attard said the choice of athletes took place on the basis of three criteria – the athletes’ ranking in their sport, the number of junior athletes that can benefit from the experience ahead of the leap into the senior category, as well as the Games of the Small States of Europe (GSSE) 2023.
“We chose athletes that rank in the top eight in their sport, with regards to Mediterranean countries,” the MOC Director of Sport said.
“We know that the level is very high and so we will be sending athletes only in five sports.
“We chose also in terms of youths and Under-21s, where we can see that these young athletes could be part of our contingent of the future and so, these games can help them.
“We gave priority to the sports that are part of the GSSE 2023. After a break of two years, we feel that before next year, we need to start bringing back the feeling of Team Malta.
“Together with the associations, we gave the earmarked athletes in contention for a spot on the 2023 team the chance to compete in these Games with the aim of peaking their form and giving their best performance here as well.”
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