The Malta squash players ended the 2023 GSSE in some style after dominating the mixed doubles competition that was played at the Cottonera Sports Complex yesterday.
Both Malta’s teams in the tournament stormed into the final and it was the ‘senior’ pair of Colette Sultana and Niall Engerer prevailing in the gold medal when they beat the Sultana siblings Kijan and Lijana in a well-contested final 2-0.
If further proof was needed, the mixed doubles competition again underlined Malta’s superiority in the sport as the Maltese pairing had a serene route to the final.
In fact, Kijan and Lijana Sultana easily overcame the challenge of Loic Ruchon and Camilla Zerbo, of Monaco, in the first round 11-2 11-2 before battling past Luxembourg duo Miguel Duarter Tojal and Sandra Denis in the semis 11-9 11-8.
On the other hand, Niall Engerer and Colette Sultana had the better of Mark Radley and Michele Meyer of Luxembourg with an identical 11-7 scoreline to set up an all-Maltese final.
The actual gold medal final was a clash between the experience of Colette Sultana and Niall Engerer and the agility of the young Sultana siblings, Lijana and Kijan.
In the end, it was the Sultana-Engerer pairing who took the first set 11-7. The second set, Engerer and Colette Sultana kept their young opponents at bay as they cruised home to another 11-7 win to seal the gold medal.
Engerer told the Times of Malta, that the 2023 Games was another proof that our country stands clearly at the top of the sport at GSSE level.
“There is no doubt that Malta is by far the strongest country in squash,” Engerer said.
“We have more than proven the MOC’s decision to include squash in these Games. We have done more than enough and capping it off with gold and silver in the mixed doubles was the perfect way to finish it off.
“All the work the coaches have done with the young players over the last years has paid off. You had Brad Hindle Deguara before me who started it off and then I had the opportunity to coach Lijana for a couple of years before she left to Australia and Brad had an influence on Kijan and Colette so for us coaches we are really proud of their efforts.
“But this week’s result is a team effort as even those who did not play had an important role to play around the players and every medal I have won this week is also for them.”
Turning his sights on the future Engerer said that these Games should be a launchpad for bigger things for Maltese squash in general.
“During the past four years we have worked hard to attract more youngsters to the sport, through junior programmes and projects in school,” Engerer said.
“My contract expires after these Games but everything depended on how it would work out in the 2023 GSSE so I’m confident that I will continue to work.
“Looking at the Commonwealth Games, that could be a major appointment for us, particularly given how far our players has grown. We have improved a lot in terms of playing doubles and I believe that Malta can be a challenge for a place in the podium in such an important event.
“But beyond that we will continue to work with the kids, Brad has his academy in Australia while we have a lot of networks across Europe and we are always looking to see where our most talented players could be good for them to continue to develop.
“At the moment we have a promising young player Julian Scerri who we are seeing where is the best place for him to go as a college so he can develop his game.
“But no doubt there are exciting times ahead, particularly with the construction of a new squash centre, which we never ahead so we are really looking forward to turning Malta into a European hub for squash.”
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