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Battle for 2023 GSSE spots in track and field events hots up

Joelle Cortis wins 5k race in Nice, Gina McNamara seals 5,000m spot

A number of Maltese athletes braved challenging weather conditions and delivered encouraging performances beyond our shores throughout the weekend as the race for the final spots on Team Malta will come to a close on Monday.

Simon Spiteri consolidated his spot on the team in the 5,000 metres race when completed the distance in 14 minutes 31 seconds in a meeting in Milan where he raced against some top Italian runners. This result sees Spiteri, who has been improving his times this year both on track and non-stadia events, joining Jordan Gusman on the distance.

There were excellent results from Joelle Cortis and Dillon Cassar at the Nice 5km race.

Cortis produced another impressive performance when she won the race in a time of 17 minutes and 41 seconds.

The veteran runner finished ahead of Laurie Sicot, of France, 18:50 while Gwenola Le Roux was a distant third in 19:12.

Dillon Cassar stormed to second place in the men’s race when completed the distance in 14 minutes 47 seconds.

The win went to Raphael Montoya, of France, in 14.22. Alexandre Hennion, of France, completed the podium in 15 minutes and five seconds.

Further afar, at the Penn Relays Event in Philadelphia, Gina McNamara, completed her 5000m race in 16:56, enabling her to secure a place in Team Malta for the same distance, alongside Lisa Marie Bezzina, a week after her impressive national record on the 1500m distance. Running the same distance, Jordan Gusman recorded a very strong 14:03 at the Drake Relays in Iowa. These two results certainly augur well for Malta’s chances at the upcoming GSSE.

Several other athletes competed in Marsa at the Fifth and final Athletics Malta challenge meeting seeking one last push to earn them a place on the Malta team.

Youngster Graham Pellegrini continued to impress after his 200m achievement the week before, winning the 400m race in 47.85 seconds, establishing a new Under 23 and Under 20 record in the progress.

Matthew Galea Soler, Luke Camilleri and Steve Camilleri all dipped below 50 seconds to all but confirm their presence on the team.

In the jumps, Claire Azzopardi got the perfect boost for the Games equalling her PB with a 6.21m jump, albeit wind-aided. She will be representing Malta in both the long and triple jump alongside Rachela Pace and Rebecca Sare’ respectively.

Sana Grillo jumped 3.50m on the pole vault to obtain her MQS while Antonella Chouhal improved the W45 record in the hammer with a 45.43m throw.

The longest distance of the day, the 10,000m, featured two brilliant solo performances by Luke Micallef and Lisa Marie Bezzina. Micallef took the win in a superb time of 30:23, while Bezzina concluded in 35:41 to earn the right for a double participation at the upcoming GSSE, giving her the opportunity to repeat the splendid double-gold of Montengro 2019.

The final qualifying event will take place on Monday morning, drawing the curtains on a packed calendar of competitions through which Malta’s best athletes battled it out for a place on the GSSE team.

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