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Games of the Small States of Europe

Swimmers will leave their mark at 2023 Small Nations Games, says Malta coach

It has been almost 20 years since a Maltese swimmer has won a gold medal at the Games of the Small States of Europe but national coach Delon Dannhauser maintains that given the huge work done by every swimmer, they are on track to end this drought this year.

Dannhauser said that thanks to the financial assistance from MOC, NDSF, and SportMalta, the Aquatic Sport Association has left no stone unturned to give their swimmers the best preparation.

“Preparations actually started in October 2021. We were coming from a difficult time due to the pandemic where the swimmers had a restricted training and competition programme which had an effect on their performance,” Dannhauser said.

“We had to start re-building our swimmers both physically with regular gym and pool sessions and mentally.

We started with a relatively large group traveling to various competitions over the past months, giving the opportunity to our top swimmers to improve in their respective strokes and be able to identify the fastest swimmers in each stroke and distance to come up with the GSSE squad.”

National records have been tumbling consistently in recent years and Dannhauser said that it was due to a collective effort from all stakeholders.

“The ASA dedicated pool space and time for the top swimmers while the clubs affiliated to the ASA have all invested in training their existing coaching staff and employed new coaches with international experience.

“Added to that the swimmers have understood the mentality that to keep improving and achieve results one needs to be dedicated and consistent.

“With more money invested in swimmers, they competed in international events against new competitors which in turn raise the bar to swim faster and improve.”

Dannhauser confirmed that Team Malta will feature some new faces for the Games.

“In order to have a squad which can compete successfully in all the events one would need quite a number of swimmers which, given our size in Malta it is not always possible,” he said.

“So for the short term, we needed to fill in some gaps where we know we did not have the capacity of achieving the selection times set by the MOC to ensure the level of the athletes for the Games.

“In this case, we will be having one female and one male swimmer who will be swimming a couple of events in the short to mid-distances. We have paired these swimmers with younger ones who are training locally to give them the exposure of a competition of this level which of course takes a different dimension when one considers the fact that it is being held in Malta.

“The long-term idea is that these swimmers will help us achieve good results to ensure that swimming continues to improve the exposure and recognition to secure the crucial funding to keep improving.”

Asked how confident he is to see a Maltese swimmer finally win gold at the Games, Dannhauser said: “We can assure you that the hopes are always there and that is why the swimmers, coaches, ASA, the MOC and SportMalta all worked at their 101% without leaving any stone unturned for this target.

“Of course, it all depends also on the opponents and what happens on the day, however, we are definitely on the right track to achieve this.”

Looking at the future, Dannhauser said that the forthcoming inauguration of the Cottonera Sports Complex will be a huge boost for the sport.

“A good performance at such events always keeps the momentum going and that is the ASA’s target to keep the sport growing. We know that at this point we have reached a limit with pool space but the opening of the new Cottonera Indoor Olympic size pool will be spot-on to take aquatic sport to the next level,” he said.

“A strong performance would be proof to show that when there is a significant investment in sport, the results are achievable.”

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