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Watch: Team Malta end 18-year wait as 4x100m relay strike gold

From left: Raoul Stafrace, Kyle Micallef, Rudi Spiteri and Matthew Galea pose with the gold medal. Photo: Jonathan Borg

The opening day of the swimming programme turned out to be a historic one for Team Malta as the men’s 4x100m swimming team ended an 18-year wait to win a gold medal in front of an ecstatic crowd at the National Pool.

The race was full of drama as initially, Matthew Galea, Kyle Micallef, Rudi Spiteri, and Raoul Stafrace had touched home in third place behind Luxembourg and Cyprus.

Video: Jonathan Borg

However, the Maltese’s joy at winning a bronze turned into elation when it was announced that both Luxembourg and Cyprus were disqualified for committing an infringement in their changeover and promoted Malta to the gold medal position.

In fact, Malta won the race in 3:30.78 to finish ahead of Iceland (3:30.96) while Andorra took bronze in 3:32.32.
The only other Maltese swimmer to have won gold in a GSSE was Angela Galea who had struck gold in the 200m fly during the Andorra Games way back in 2005.

The Gold medal winners pose with members of the Aquatic Sports Association committee. Photo: Jonathan Borg

“Obviously it was a good swim for us, and an honour to listen to the national anthem of Malta,” Galea said.

“The circumstances how we won were not the best but all in all it was a good performance and I am sure we made Malta proud.”

On his part Kyle Micallef, who produced a stunning swim, said that everyone pushed for each other.

“I was just swimming for these guys and tried and pushed as hard as I could and it’s great that it paid off.”

Looking at the rest of the week, Rudi Spiteri said: “We have different races between and this gold medal will surely motivate us to get more medals.”

The relay gold medal was one of six medals won by a Maltese swimmer yesterday.

Sarah Demicoli realised her childhood dream of winning a silver medal at a GSSE after placing second in the 200 metres butterfly.

Demicoli, who had made a name for herself in open water swimming before switching to pool racing, stormed home in a time of two minutes 22.83 seconds to place second, a whisker behind winner Agathi Manoli, of Cyprus, who touched home in two minutes 22.56 seconds.

“I’m lost for words at the moment,” the 22-year-old Demicoli told the Times of Malta.

“It has been my childhood dream to win a medal at the Small Nations Games and having fulfilled that dream it feels amazing. To be honest, I came into the Games with the goal of a good placing, but to return home with a silver medal is just amazing.

“I made a lot of sacrifices for this medal. Last year I moved to Hungary where I focused on the 200m fly, specifically for these Games, and all that work with my Hungarian coach has surely paid off.”

Sasha Gatt speaks to the Times of Malta after her success. Video: Jonathan Borg

Sasha Gatt also managed to claim silver for Malta in the 800 metres freestyle despite not being in her best physical condition.

The Maltese swimmer led in the first part of the race but then was overtaken by eventual winner Arianna Valloni, of San Marino who touched home in 8:58.89.

Gatt was second in 9.00.89 while Freyja Birkisdottir, of Iceland, took bronze in 9:17.16.

“I am very happy with my performance and now I am already looking forward to my next races. I have 400m tomorrow and then 1,500m on the final day so we’ll see what happens,” Gatt said.

“Today I was the most nervous, still getting used to the atmosphere, now we’ll focus on the next and try to continue on this path.”

National record

Dylan Cachia took bronze in the men’s 800m free when clocking 8.22.73, a new national record.

“It’s an honour for me, it was a very good race, I went for gold but had to settle for bronze but no doubt I will push for more. It’s a good first race hopefully I can achieve more,” Cachia said.

“There is a good vibe among us and hopefully we can finish these Games with the highest number of medals.”

Victoria Balderacchi notched her first-ever medal for Malta at a GSSE when placing third in the 200m backstroke race when touching home in 2:23.14.

The gold medal went to Giulia Viacava, of Monaco, while Ylfa Kristmannsdottir, of Iceland, was second.

“I expected a bit better, to be honest,” Balderacchi said.

“But I am proud to represent Malta to win bronze, but now will focus on the 200m Individual Medley where I hope I can win gold.”

Thomas Wareing speaks to the Times of Malta after his success at GSSE. Video: Jonathan Borg

Thomas Wareing set a new national record on his way to taking bronze in the men’s race when touching home in 2.07.39. Luxembourg’s Max Mannes took gold ahead of Cypriot Antonio Nikolaou.

“It’s a very good achievement for me given it’s my first in an individual race,” he said.

“In Montenegro I was close but I made up for it. There are still some races to go and I will push to get another one.”

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

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