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Games of the Small States of Europe

Sultana trio putting ‘years of hard work’ to the test

Colette, Kijan, and Lijana Sultana. Photo: Commonwealth Games

While there are eight official Games of the Small States of Europe (GSSE) disciplines that occur in every Games, each host country is allowed to add two sports to the list for a total of ten. In the case of GSSE 2023, one of the events to be held in Malta is Squash.

Divided between the Marsa Sports Club and the Cottonera Sports Complex (doubles), squash will take place for the fourth time, and among Malta’s squad, Sultana siblings Colette, Kijan, and Lijana will be aiming to put their skills to the test in search of gold.

“It is such a great honour to be representing Malta as an individual athlete – it’s the result of years of hard work and perseverance,” older sibling Colette said.

“Taking part in such a big event in Malta together as three siblings makes it so much more special and we are definitely excited to share these moments together both as athletes and as a family.

“We have been training hard and preparing well for these Games, so we are expecting to bring out our best squash throughout the week and we hope that this will also translate into some very good results for team Malta.”

While for Kijan and Lijana, this will be their first experience at the Games, Colette was part of Malta’s squad back in 2011.

“I was the reserve player in the 2011 Games in Liechtenstein which was the last time that squash was included in GSSE. This year we will have some new and younger players also joining the squad and we will be competing in doubles too. It’s all very exciting and the potential to do well is there for sure, Colette Sultana said.

Coming off a victory in the mixed doubles event at the Australian Open in February and the singles event at the Professional Squash Association (PSA) Satellite Women’s tournament in March, the 27-year-old believes they were vital for her season.

Colette Sultana. Photo: Squash Australia

“I think that in high-level sport, there are definitely very good moments of winning and success, and other moments that are difficult where perhaps things don’t go your way. Winning two big events in one season is really important for me because it brings a lot of positive reinforcement and confidence coming into the Games. Success makes the challenging moments better and you remember why you persevere through the hard times,” she said.

Asked about what effect playing on home soil will have on them Kijan Sultana, who despite being based in Australia like his sisters, played in the National Championship in Malta, the 19-year-old believes it would be a wonderful experience.

“It is always a great feeling to play on home soil, with the support of my family and friends as well as the Maltese people,” he said.

Kijan Sultana. Photo: PSA

“In February I travelled to Malta for the National Championships. Winning that title in front of the Malta crowd was such a wonderful experience for me. Coming into these Games as Malta National Champion has also given me extra motivation over the past months when preparing for the GSSE.”

Similarly, Lijana Sultana – the youngest of the trio at 16 years old– comes to the Games on the back of two silver medals in the Australian Junior Open and the Brisbane Junior Open in the space of two weeks.

“I am very happy with the results that I have achieved this past month,” Lijana Sultana said.

“Win or lose, I always try to learn something from every event which I can then apply to my next competition. I have been training really hard in preparation for the upcoming Games to be able to put on the best performance possible.”

Lijana Sultana. Photo: Squash Australia

Both Kijan and Lijana are supported through the Malta Sports Scholarships scheme. Apart from the support of the Malta Squash Association, the Maltese Olympic Committee, and SportMalta, the pair will be joined by coach Bradley Hindle – also part of Malta’s squash contingent – whom they had joined when moving to Brisbane to continue pursuing their sport.

“It is very helpful to have our coach joining us at the games,” Kijan Sultana said.

“He is a very experienced pro player who can offer so much advice and help throughout the event. We have worked with him for a long time and he knows us really well which gives us the best possible chances to do the best we can.”

Malta boasts a pretty impressive record in squash at GSSE of eight Gold medals and one Silver, the record being four Gold medals in the 2011 edition. Now, the trio looks forward to adding more to the team’s legacy.

“Looking back, Malta’s history of success is always such a great motivation for us. The legacy that squash has at these Games is very unique and definitely pushes us further to continue in the previous players’ footsteps and bring more success for Malta,” Lijana Sultana said.

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