Connect with us


Watch: Gold medal rush for Malta as hosts produce stunning start in athletics

Gina McNamara crosses the finish line to win the 800m race. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Team Malta win 24 medals on second day

The second day of the Games of the Small States of Europe proved to be a memorable one for local athletics as Malta racked up 11 medals at the Matthew Micallef St John Stadium at Marsa.

Six of those medals were gold as Malta set a record of top-placings in athletics at a GSSE, with the previous all-time number of victories being four.

Malta’s strong showing in the track and field event made it a day to remember for the whole contingent as Team Malta finished in an unprecedented second place in the overall’s standings with 24 medals – nine gold, four silver, and 11 bronze.

Only Cyprus did better when finishing the day with 27 medals – 11 gold, eight silver, and eight bronze.

Team Malta dominated both men’s and women’s 10,000m races for a second successive time with Jordan Gusman and Lisa Bezzina crossing the line in first position to make it back-to-back victories in GSSE editions.

Gusman set a new meet record of 29:37.96 as he finished with a lead of almost a minute ahead of Bob Bertemes, of Luxembourg, (30:35.81) and team-mate Dillon Cassar (30:37.83).

Jordan Gusman. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

“I am very pleased with this gold medal,” Gusman told the Times of Malta.

“I was a few seconds away from the 10,000m record back in Montenegro (in 2019) and that was my goal here, while at the same time, I wanted to help Dillon (Cassar) to secure a medal as well.

“The last 5km were also a test for me for next Saturday and I feel in pretty good shape right now, so I am confident about my chances.”

Asked about the boost that the home support gave him, Gusman said that it might have added extra pressure on his shoulders but he wanted to repay the trust of SportMalta and the Maltese Olympic Committee put in him by delivering a splendid result.

Dillon Cassar. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

Bezzina, on her part, registered her second straight victory in the 10,000m having won the 2019 edition in Montenegro as well.

Lisa Bezzina. Video: Gianluca Lia

While Bezzina’s time four years ago was of 35:39.01, yesterday’s finishing time was an improved 35:27.43 with the experienced athlete delighting the home fans with a brave display in the final lap.

“This victory means a lot to me and although I have already won in other editions, placing first on home soil is a different story,” she admitted.

“I dedicate this win to all supporters that made their way here to back me throughout my race, their support was incredible.”

The other Maltese athlete in the race, Joelle Cortis, was fourth in 36:13.61.

In another men’s and women’s doubles, Jared Micallef and Gina McNamara triumphed in their respective 800m races.

Micallef placed first in 1:50.22 followed by Andorra’s Moya Pol and Luxembourg’s Mathis Espagnet.

“Three days ago I could not run because of a calf injury and while I managed to recover for this race, I felt it again just before this race so that is why this victory made me so emotional,” he pointed out.

Jared Micallef. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

McNamara, on her part, delivered the 800m gold in 2:12.45 with her sister Clare placing third in 2:16.92.

The McNamara sisters were delighted with their result and speaking to the Times of Malta, they described this moment as one of the memories they will treasure forever.

Clare and Gina McNamara. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

Benjamin Micallef, also competing in the 800m final, placed fifth in the nine-man race in 1:52.68.

Azzopardi’s leap

Another gold medal was won in the long jump competition with Claire Azzopardi beating her competitors with a 6.14m result, followed by Cyprus’ Pentelita Charalmbours who registered 6.02m.

Claire Azzopardi. Video: Gianluca Lia

“This is a special win because we have been working hard towards this moment,” Azzopardi said.

“Winning in front of the home crowd was not easy but as soon as I delivered the decisive jump, that was a massive relief for me.”

Rachel Pace, the other Maltese athlete competing in this final placed fourth with a jump of 5.65m.

Peppijna Dalli and Sana Grillo produced a delightful evening in the pole vault event as they won a gold and bronze medal respectively.

Peppijna Dalli and Sana Grillo. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

While Dalli secured the win with a jump of 3.65m height, Grillo followed at 3.60m.

Another memorable day in these games for these two, having already won medals for Malta during the gymnastics event back in 2015.

“I am very excited because we brought the gold home on our own island, despite the pressure that we had to deliver positive results in this competition,” Dalli said.

Grillo’s brother, Beppe, also brought home a bronze medal after finishing third in the 100m race which had Maltese Luke Bezzina absent from it after being disqualified in his heat following a false start.

Beppe Grillo clocked a time of 10.66 to place third with San Marino’s Francesco Sansovini storming towards the finish in 10.41.

Meanwhile, neither Carla Scicluna (fourth, 11.70) nor Charlotte Wingfield (fifth, 11.86) could deliver a medal for Malta in the women’s 100m race.

The first medal of the day in athletics, though, was won by Mireya Cassar who placed third with a 50.74 mark in the hammer throw competition with Antonella Chouhal placing fourth with a 40.77.

Mireya Cassar. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

Luke Farrugia finished fifth with a 50.27m throw in the discus competition, which was won by Montenegro’s Danijel Furtula (62.79).

In the 400m, Graham Pellegrini (48.51) and Matthew Galea Soler (48.83) placed second in their heats and will be vying for medals in tomorrow’s final.

Follow our live GSSE blog covering all the sports involved here…

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


World Cup News


More in Athletics