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Watch: Team Malta ends on a high to top medals tally

Malta's Luke Bezzina sticks his tongue out after winning the 4x100m relay. PHOTO: MATTHEW MIRABELLI

Team Malta put in a strong shift in the final day of the its athletics commitments in these Games after picking up six gold medals on Saturday, at the Marsa’s Matthew Micallef St John Track.

These six victories, together with the five silver and bronze medals combined won on the third and final day propelled Malta to top the athletics tally with 15 gold, seven silver and 10 bronze for a total of 32 medals.

Cyprus placed second with 24 while Luxembourg won 11 medals.

The medal rush in athletics helped Malta to finish at the top of the medals count with a staggering 97 medals collected in five days of sports.

The 2023 GSSE hosts racked up 38 gold medals, eight more than Cyprus.

Team Malta also won 30 silver medals and 29 bronze, with Cyprus winning 28 and 29 respectively.

Never in the history of the Games has our country managed to beat all the other small European countries, with our previous best result being a fourth place in three editions – 1993, 2003 and 2011.

Gina McNamara and Claire Azzopardi became the first Maltese athletes to win three gold medals in athletics in the same edition of these Games.

The former produced a solid run in the demanding 5,000m race where she and fellow Maltese Lisa Bezzina broke from the group immediately.

McNamara though, increased her stride in the final 200m to finish in a time of 17:11.32, two seconds ahead of Bezzina to make it a Malta one-two in this event.

Azzopardi, on her part, was in the quartet – Janet Richard, Carla Scicluna and Charlotte Wingfield – that delivered a gold medal in the 4x100m relay event where the hosts beat Cyprus and San Marino with a time of 45:39.

In the 4x400m, the Maltese team formed by Kaya Testa, Claire McNamara, Richard and Josepha Micallef, placed second in a time of 3:46.78 behind Cyprus.

Meanwhile, the men’s 4x100m also managed to cross the line first with Luke Bezzina redeeming himself from the 100m race disappointment to help Malta with his final 100m run to beat San Marino and Cyprus.

Bezzina, together with Graham Pellegrini, Beppe Grillo and Gaetano Di Franco registered a time of 40:59.

Pellegrini brought home the first gold of the day when in 21.22 he beat Luxembourg’s David Wallig (21.28) in the 200m race.

Jordan Gusman secured his second gold medal in these Games with a dominant performance in the 5,000m race where he set a new GSSE record at 13:51.77.

In the triple jump event, Malta secured a gold and bronze with James Armani and Ian Paul Grech respectively. Unfortunately, Grech was not at his best and could not continue with his event after picking up a hamstring injury. Nonetheless, his attempt of 13.93 before he got injured was enough to earn him a bronze medal. Armani, on his part, jumped at 14.49 to clinch his first ever gold medal for Malta in these Games.

A national record was set in the 200m women’s race with Carla Scicluna completing her event in 23.74, beating Malta’s previous best time of 23.78 of Wingfield. Richard finished third to win a bronze for Malta in 24.08.

The only disappointment was in the 4x400m relay where unfortunately Malta placed last after Jared Micallef could not run properly after falling during the baton exchange. Micallef, who was then carried out by an ambulance, was one of the athletes that brought a gold medal (800m) back on Tuesday. The quartet was formed by Matthew Galea Soler, Benjamin Micallef, Jared and Pellegrini.

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