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Watch: Paris Olympics next in line for Malta’s shooters after successful GSSE

MSSF president Frans Pace (centre) with Malta shooters. Photo: Kurt Aquilina

If these past Games of the Small States of Europe (GSSE) have shown us anything, it is how the right investment can lead to sporting success, even for a minuscule country like Malta. Multiple records have been broken and a significant one that will be one of Team Malta’s more difficult to break in the next edition is amassing three gold medals in sport shooting.

Malta managed to win gold in trap, pistol, and skeet shooting last week and Malta Sport Shooting Federation Frans Pace believes it is the perfect rendition of ‘hard work pays off’.

Malta Sport Shooting Federation president Frans Pace. Video: Kurt Aquilina

I’m very happy with the shooters’ efforts because they’ve strived and worked very hard,” Pace told the Times of Malta.

“I’ve seen a lot of work from the coaches, council members, and volunteers – everybody has worked so hard so that we can achieve these results, and they did so in spectacular fashion.

“We never expected all these medals, but we knew that our level was very high.”

Asked about what was next on the federation’s agenda, Pace believes the Paris 2024 Olympics are their main target.

“Next in line for us are the Olympic Games which will take place in France,” Pace explained.

“I’m very happy to announce that we already have a shooter who is close to qualifying for these Games and this shooter has won gold at this edition of the GSSE. I only hope we can continue to show this kind of progress.”

Ultimate goal

Eleanor Bezzina, Team Malta’s captain for the Games, had already won her second 10m Air Pistol GSSE competition in Montenegro four years ago. This time around, the veteran shooter inscribed her name among the legends of the competition with yet another gold medal, her second in a row, at the Kirkop Sports Hall.

Echoing what Pace said, Bezzina has also set her sights on future international competitions like the European Games, World Championships, and eventually Paris 2024.

“My focus now will turn to more prestigious Games and in the next few weeks I will be part of a small contingent that will compete at the European Games and then I have the World Championships in Baku,” she had told the Times of Malta after her win.

“My ultimate goal remains to manage to qualify for my third Olympic Games in Paris next year.”

Close to 24 hours later, newcomer Matthew Grech made history with his first gold GSSE medal, an achievement he made on his debut in the competition. Malta’s first one-two finish in this year’s shooting competition came in the trap event when Grech placed first and Malta stalwart William Chetcuti finished second.

This finish brought out the country’s dominance at the event as it was now the third time in the last 22 years that Malta won the gold and silver in this discipline.

In fact, Philip Busuttil and Chetcuti had taken the top two placings in San Marino 2001, before Gianluca Chetcuti and William Chetcuti took gold and silver in Montenegro four years ago.

Clive Farrugia in action at the GSSE 2023. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Finally, on the last day of this year’s Games, Clive Farrugia made it three golds for Malta in another one-two finish in skeet shooting with Marcello Attard taking silver.

“We have worked so hard for this and I must thank SportMalta, the MOC, the Malta Sport Shooting Federation, my family, and my girlfriend for their support. I’m so proud to have won this medal for my country,” an emotional Farrugia had said.

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