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Watch: Malta’s swimmers add four medals to GSSE tally

Malta's 4x200m women's relay team (from left to right) Francesca Falzon Young, Sasha Gatt, Mya Azzopardi, Sarah Demicoli. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Maltese swimmers continued from where they left off on Day One as no less than four medals were added to Team Malta’s tally in these Games of the Small States of Europe on Wednesday.

Two Silver and Two Bronze medals sealed the day’s achievements with Sasha Gatt amassing one of each from the women’s 400m freestyle and the 4x200m relay, as Georgia Bohl took Silver in the 200m breaststroke, and Dylan Cachia won Bronze in the men’s 400m freestyle event.

Sasha Gatt. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

Speaking to the Times of Malta, Gatt embraces the environment which she says helped her performances.

“It’s amazing, even the environment here in Malta, the crowd,” she said. 

“Everything helps and I’m really happy with my performances. I’ve got my last race on Friday and I’m hoping for the same result or even better. So I’ll just have to wait and see.

“As I’ve got my longest race on the last day it will be a bit tiring obviously but I’m going to do everything to recover quicker and I’m hoping for the best. I’ll try my best as always and we’ll see what comes out.” 

In the morning heats nine Maltese swimmers secured a ticket to the finals at the National Pool.

In the 100m backstroke, Victoria Balderacchi and Sarah Demicoli both qualified from the women’s first heat with 1:07.18 and 1:11.32 respectively to make the final as the third and fourth swimmer. In the men’s competition, Nathan Mcleave cruised into the final with a first-place finish at 58.16. Thomas Wareing joined him in the next round after qualifying fourth at 59.52.

In the 400m freestyle, Gatt made it to the next round of the women’s event with a 4:31.25 finish in second place. In the men’s event, Cachia progressed with another second-place finish after 4:06.35.

In the first 100m men’s butterfly heat Simon Mallia finished fifth after 58.24 as Mcleave missed out after finishing sixth with 27.06 in the second heat. 

In the 200m women’s breaststroke, Bohl finished second after 2:33.81 as Maya Galea registered a 2:42.88 finish to qualify third.

After the break, competition grew stronger as the swimmers prepared for the final stages of their events. 

In the 100m backstroke, Balderacchi just missed out on a medal with a fourth-place finish after 1:05.83. Demicoli however, struggled and after a time of 1:11.18, finished in eighth place. In the men’s event, Mcleave finished fifth after 58.88 while Thomas Wareing was seventh at 59.83.

Malta’s most consistent finish on Wednesday came in the 400m freestyle event when Gatt finished third for her second Bronze of the Games at 4:24.88 after a powerful swim that saw all three medal winners distance themselves from the rest in the second half of the race. Cachia earned his second GSSE 2023 medal as well when he put in a strong showing to secure a 4:01.69 time.

Dylan Cachia. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

“Obviously, it’s a great honour,” Cachia said, “this is the first time I’ve won a medal in the individual event. Last Games I managed two silver medals in the relay events so the fact that I’ve won my first medal in the individual event is great, especially when the Games are being held in Malta.

“When I was preparing for the race, I knew it was going to be tough. These are swimmers whom I’ve met in international competitions overseas already and we’ve raced against each other before. 

“I did my utmost and I went for it, in fact, I was in front until the last 300 metres, but I lost at the end. That’s sport so I’m proud of myself for going for it and doing my utmost.” 

Next on the programme was the 100m butterfly event. Nirvana Micallef went closest to a medal here when she finished fourth, only losing out with .20 of a second as she managed a 1:03.98 time. Compatriot Michela Portelli finished sixth at 1:05.12. In the men’s event, Simon Mallia finished seventh at 58.25.

The first of two Silver medals came for Bohl, who like Micallef missed out on a higher placing with microseconds, as she raced incredibly in the women’s 200m breaststroke event. Bohl lead for most of the race but lost out to a late comeback from eventual winner Maria Erokhina of Cyprus.

Georgia Bohl. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

“I’m really excited. I’m really happy with the medal as I haven’t raced in two years so I’m excited to be back and representing Malta,” Bohl said after the race.

“I gave my all and that’s all I could do but I’m looking forward to the 100m and that’s my favourite event so hopefully I’ll do better in that.”  

If one Silver was not enough, Malta’s 4×20 women’s relay team did just the same in the following race. Mya Azzopardi started the race, followed by Francesca Falzon Young, Gatt, and Demicoli. The team finished at 8:41.41 to the delight of the Malta support.

From left to right: Sarah Demicoli, Mya Azzopardi, Sasha Gatt, Francesca Falzon Young. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

“I’m very pleased. I don’t think any of us was expecting it,” Azzopardi said after the race. 

“It’s always fun racing in a relay and I think the outcome is even better and it makes us all happier as four people just not one person. It makes us prouder and the fact that we all did our best and it was unexpected makes it even better.”

In the men’s event, Malta finished fourth as Mcleave, Matthew Galea, Thomas Woods, and Cachia finished after 7:52.00.

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

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