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Claire Azzopardi leaps to GSSE qualifying standards in Marsa meet

Triple jumpers Rebecca Sare and Claire Azzopardi continued their spectacular neck-to-neck duel with just four centimetres separating the pair at the second Athletics Malta Challenge Meeting.

Sare jumped 12.50m and Azzopardi 12.46m in what turned out to be a thrilling duel.

Sare had already attained the MQS for the Malta GSSE when leaping 12.70m a few weeks ago and now she has been joined by Azzopardi, with a place on the team all to play for in the final stages of the run-up to the Games.

There was no respite for athletes as the build-up to qualifying for the coveted event continued during Easter weekend at the Athletics Stadium in Marsa.

While the extraordinary feats of the first Open Challenge of the season the week before were not repeated, three performances will indeed find space in the athletics history books.

Youngster Beppe Grillo managed to notch off yet another hundredth of a second of his Under 23 record in the 200m set a mere week earlier (21.39s) while Mireya Bugeja bettered a five-year-old Under 18 record on the 1,500m mark.

The Żurrieq athlete came home first in four minutes 44.87 seconds on the 1,500m, eclipsing Nina Zammit Moore’s benchmark set in 2018.

Bugeja also had the honour of actually crossing the finish line ahead of experienced athlete Monalisa Camilleri(4:49.76), though the latter was competing just a few days after returning from a two-week training camp culminating with a prestigious win at the Limassol 5k.

Rebecca Sare in action during the Athletics Malta Challenge Meeting.

La Salle’s Julian Zarb clocked 4:07.26 on the 1,500m also ensured an Under 18 category record for the young athlete.

Two foreign but Malta-based athletes, vying for a place on Team Malta at the GSSE, as allowed by that body for its competition, gave a good account of themselves in the sprints. 

Gaetano di Franco managed the best time of the day in the 100m, stopping the clock on 10.86 seconds. 

In the 200m, he had to bow out to the record-breaking Beppe Grillo who opted just for this distance this time round.

Di Franco managed a good time of 21.87 seconds.

Lloyd Tadiwanashe Mhirpiri came in third and fourth respectively in the two races, on each occasion preceded by Malta’s own Luke Bezzina, whose best was second in the 100m with his time of 10.93 seconds.

The longest distance this time round was the 5,000m race, with Mellieħa’s Dillon Cassar confirming his dominance with another stronger sub-15 minute performance.

Among the ladies, Evolve’s Roberta Schembri won in 17:48, a positive timing, but not enough for the time being to displace Lisa Bezzina and Joelle Cortis from Team Malta on the distance.

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