After three years of intense preparation, there are high expectations for Team Malta in the forthcoming Games of the Small States of Europe in Malta.
The Maltese Olympic Committee, buoyed by the strong backing of SportMalta and the National Development and Social Fund, have left no stone unturned to give its athletes their best possible preparation.
Charlene Attard, the MOC Director of Sport, has been one the masterminds behind Team Malta’s technical preparation and said that the sound investment on both the athletes and Maltese sport in general has left an indelible mark.
“This is the third time that Malta is hosting the Games of the Small States of Europe,” Attard said.
“Preparations have been ongoing since 2017 when the Maltese Olympic Committee won the bid to host these biennial Games. During the last three years, we focused on the athletes’ technical preparation, and through the record amount of funds received, we created different projects for the ten disciplines on the Games’ schedule.
“For instance, in athletics, we worked a lot with our Italian counterparts, as we used the services of their coaches, with Maltese athletes going for frequent training camps in Italy and the effect it had on the performance levels of our team was impressive. Not only we saw a vast improvement from athletes who are competing in the Games but also from others who will not be part of the contingent.
“In fact, we have instances in the track and field, where there are disciplines where we had three athletes who achieved the Minimum Qualifying Standard but due to the fact that only two can compete in every event, we were forced to omit the third-placed athlete.
“In squash, we have the majority of the athletes who are based in Australia or in other European countries so the investment was different, and the same goes for other sports.
“In shooting, we didn’t invest only on just two shooters from every discipline but on five in both trap and skeet because we wanted to leave a legacy for the upcoming Olympic Games, where shooters can qualify for the Paris Games only if they compete regularly in World Cup shoots.
“Added to that, thanks to the funds we had, the MOC invested heavily in professional coaches for all the shooters and that bodes well so that we can achieve a great result in this year’s edition.”
Attard said that it’s encouraging to see that the investment made is pointing towards Malta achieving the best possible result in the Games but she maintains that it will surely help Maltese athletes achieve more prestigious results in bigger international events.
“Our goal is that through these Games both the MOC and SportMalta are nurturing a new sporting culture that will see us develop the sport beyond these Games,” Attard said.
“We are expecting Team Malta to clinch its best-ever result in a GSSE but we are looking beyond these Games. Last year we had an athlete, who benefitted from this investment, who clinched an historic medal at the EYOF Games. There are other sports who also gained through this investment that will surely see them excel in other major international events.”
Attard said that beyond the satisfaction of winning medals, she hopes Maltese athletes will inspire youngsters to take up a career in sport.
“A lot of work has been done in the build-up to these Games to send athletes in the various schools around Malta and Gozo to speak to children on the holistic development one can gain through a sporting career,” Attard said.
“These Games are held in Malta once every 20 years and I hope that we will have a lot of youngsters who will be watching our athletes in the Games and will start to dream that one day, they too can represent the country in such competitions.”
The MOC Director of Sport said that these two years have been clear proof that when the authorities invest heavily in sports, results will be attained and Attard hopes financial assistance will remain high even after the 2023 Games.
“I think these two years were a clear example that when the country invests heavily in sport, our performance levels will reach unprecedented heights,” Attard said.
“In the past, we had much less funds at the athletes’ disposal and that was one of the reasons why we couldn’t achieve certain results. Today it’s different.
“However, it’s clear now that only those athletes who will achieve the best results at these Games will continue to receive hefty funding. That is the mentality that we are going to embark, similar to what other fellow small nations do.
“When you reach a certain level of performance, you need thousands of euros so that our athletes maintain their high standards.
“We have already created a matrix or a pyramid on how these funds will be spent. Athletes who will reach a certain world level will not only receive financial assistance but will also be given the services they need.
“This is a plan that we didn’t invent overnight but we spoke to countries like Switzerland and Germany that have been following such a path for several years and we just need to put everything under one scheme now.”
As we reached the final part of the interview, Attard declared that personally, she hopes that the 2023 Malta GSSE will attract many more people to give their contribution so that Maltese sport can continue to develop.
“If you had to ask me what is my biggest wish, obviously I hope that we will secure our best-ever result in these Games, something everyone is hoping for.
“I am sure that there will be athletes who will surprise us and other that will disappoint, as in the end it’s all part and parcel of sport.
“But I hope that these Games will create memories that will remain in our hearts forever, similar to what the 2003 GSSE in Malta did. And hopefully, these Games will instill hunger in more people to give their helping hand to help Maltese sport continue to reach higher levels.”
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