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Watch: Hat-trick of gold from track as Team Malta sets new record

Janet Richard poses with her 400m gold medal. Photo: Jonathan Borg

Hosts break 2003 medal tally after historic day

The second day of events at Marsa’s Matthew Micallef St John track produced more golden performances as Team Malta finished first in three other competitions in what turned out to be another historic day for the hosts.

In fact, at the end of Day Four Team Malta has set a new record of medals won at the Games as they have reached a staggering 49 medals – five more than their previous best of 44 won in the Malta Games 20 years ago.

The hosts are well on course to even assure themselves of the best possible place in the medals standings as they are currently second on 20 gold, 12 silver and 19 bronze, that leaves them only behind pacesetters Cyprus who top the standings on 21 gold 17 silver and 20 bronze.

Since the Games’ inception in 1985 Malta has never finished higher than fourth place.

Highly-rated athletes Janet Richard and Claire Azzopardi lived up to the expectations as they placed first in the 400m race and the triple jump events respectively.

Gina McNamara, already winner of the 800m race, crossed the finish line first in the 1500m race to make it nine golds for Malta in the athletics event.

The hosts are leading the medals list in this discipline with 21, with Cyprus (16) and Luxembourg (11) completing the top three.

This bodes well for the third and final day of events where Malta will be looking to rack up more medals come tomorrow.

Richard delivered a commanding performance in the 400m final, bursting out of the blocks and cementing her lead almost immediately.

With the home crowd pushing her in the final 100m, Richard came close to beating her own national record of 53.49, as she clocked 53.51 on her way to victory.

“It is a memorable race for me and although I could not break the national record in front of my home crowd, I will keep pushing to achieve such result,” she told the Times of Malta.

“In the final 100m, the supporters gave me a huge push to finish strongly.”

Richard’s family will be rooting for the rugby 7s this morning when Janet’s sister, Jacqueline, can bring another gold medal to their family should Malta defeat Andorra in the final.

Azzopardi followed up Tuesday’s victory in the long jump competition with a delightful display in the triple jump event, improving on her silver won back in the 2019 edition.

With a jump of 12.95m in her second attempt, Azzopardi retained the lead with team-mate Rebecca Saré producing a 12.66m jump that earned her a well-deserved silver for a one-two Maltese podium.

“This is the result of all the hard work and sacrifices to be prepared in the best possible way for this competition,”
Azzopardi said.

“All these successes are a reflection of the investment there is in this sport and hopefully this continues to be a trend
to deliver even more positive results.”

Medals’ chances

McNamara won the 1500m race with a leading performance, finishing in 4:36.81 to add a second medal to her tally as a Maltese representative.

“It’s been quite the experience to win again in front of my family and the local crowd,” McNamara pointed out.

Asked about tomorrow’s 5k race where she will take part as well, McNamara is upbeat about her medal chances and will give her best to delight the Maltese fans.

She was followed by 2007-born Mireya Bugeja whose 4:43.71 is a new personal best as she claimed her first-ever GSSE medal.

“I am very proud of my race and I am truly honoured to have managed to win a medal in these Games which are being held on home soil,” the youngster said.

Although he did not finish first, Graham Pellegrini produced a record-breaking run in the 200m final as the 2004-born athlete finished second in 46.83.

His finishing time is a new national record, beating Kevin Moore’s 2014 record of 47.26.

“I knew it was going to be a hard one because there were some challenging opponents, but I am truly proud to
have set a new personal best and a national record,” he explained.

Fellow Maltese Matthew Galea Soler, who placed fifth, managed to run in a new personal best of 48.31.
Pellegrini, together with Beppe Grillo, will be also involved in tomorrow’s 200m after progressing from their respective heats.

There were high expectations for starlet Jeremy Zammit to clinch gold in the long jump event, but the youngster could not find his best form as he finished second thanks to his last jump at 7.28m.

Nonetheless, Zammit managed to delight the home crowd with his last act as Ian Paul Grech placed third at 6.86m.

“Coming into this competition, I was not 100% healthy and I knew that I had to give my all to get a medal,” he admitted.

“It is not my first time managing to go into medal positions at the last attempt as well.

“The crowd was really involved in this event and that helped me a lot because I never competed in front of such a crowd on home soil.”

Jared Micallef (3:44.48) and Luke Micallef added a couple of bronze medals to Malta’s tally after placing third in the 1500m and the 3,000m steeplechase race respectively.

Jean Paul Debono (4:04.80) finished seventh in the 1500m while Dario Mangion (9:31.07 – personal best) placed fourth in the 3,000m steeplechase event.

Daniel Saliba, in 15.20, finished fifth in the 110m hurdles event while Rosalie Cauchi raced in a 11:37.79 to finish fourth in the women’s 3,000m steeplechase race.

In the pole vault event, the first of the day, youngster Nicolai Bonello jumped at 4.40m before exiting the competition in the early stages.

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