Over the past few years, Mario Bonello has mulled retirement several times. Each year, Malta’s most successful male athlete goes into competition in the belief that it will be his final season before ultimately changing his mind.

“I had planned to retire seven years ago, that is after the GSSE held in Malta,” Bonello reflected.

“I was not pleased with the results I attained then and decided to continue. I ran my personal bests after that so I thought that the GSSE in Andorra in 2005 would be my last. I managed to win my first gold medal at these Games in the 4x100m relay. We really had a great team.

“Unfortunately, most of the team members left the sport, most notably the talented Darren Gilford, and I found myself again at the top in our event. I stayed because I felt I could still compete with the country’s best.”

Indeed, this year Bonello has been more than just competitive... he has been the best. His top status is reflected by the MAAA’s decision to choose him as the man to represent Malta at the European Athletics Championships, starting today in Barcelona.

“To tell the truth, I was really hoping it would happen,” Bonello admitted. “I planned my peaks well with the best result in the 100m (10.92) arriving at the European Team Championships which were held in Malta.

“However, with only one male representative making it to the Europeans, I was not sure that I would get the spot for the Championships in Barcelona. I am really pleased that I have been picked.”

“Of course, there is no possibility of winning a medal. I hope to do a technically good performance both in the 100m and the 200m.”

Despite his elation at being chosen to represent Malta at a major championship after a gap of 10 years, there is still more than a tinge of concern that local athletics can’t produce anyone capable of bettering the results of a 36-year-old.

“Of course I think something has to be done,” Bonello said. “We have some good talent but we always end up losing them in their prime.

“Furthermore, some athletes think they can get results after a few years of training. What everyone has to realise is that not only do we have to prepare the body, but we have to prepare the approach, the mind, etc. At times the latter take more time to develop than the body. We also need to seek new blood for the sport and help them believe in their potential.”

Talent spotting

“I am presently working with the MAAA (Athletics Malta) to launch a talent identification programme in the near future,” he continued. “As of late, everyone has become aware of the importance of having state-of-the-art sports facilities. We need to couple that with talent identification and development.”

Coaching and talent identification are topics close to Bonello’s heart.

“I love coaching. I try to use my knowledge and experience to bring the best out of my athletes,” he said.

“Children tend to go for the most popular sport believing that that is the only road for sporting success. Many a time it is the wrong path and talent is lost.”

“I think the biggest obstacle is the lack of presence by the athletics community in schools,” Bonello added.

“Athletics is not an easy sport. It is mostly an individual effort. However, approached in the right way by the coaches, it can be so much fun for the kids. My experience in the Gozitan schools has been overwhelming. Children love it and I have seen great talent.”

And there can be no better example than Bonello himself. For him, this will be the second trip abroad in as many weeks having recently taken part in the European Masters Championships in Nyiregyhaza, Hungary where he won gold in the 100m.

What really keeps pushing back Bonello’s decision to retire are such results along with all the support he receives.

“I’ve been lucky enough to find lots of support through the years, not least that of my wife Katya and our children Andria and Nicolai,” Bonello said.

“Our kids make themselves heard at the track by urging me in every race at the top of their voices, “Go Papa Go!!”

Over the past few years, Mario Bonello has mulled retirement several times. Each year, Malta’s most successful male athlete goes into competition in the belief that it will be his final season before ultimately changing his mind.

“I had planned to retire seven years ago that is, after the GSSE held in Malta,” Bonello reflected.

“I was not pleased with the results I attained then and decided to continue. I ran my personal bests after that so I thought that the GSSE in Andorra in 2005 would be my last. I managed to win my first gold medal at these Games with the 4x100m relay. We really had a great team.

“Unfortunately most of the team members left the sport, most notably the talented Darren Gilford, and I found myself again at the top in our event. I stayed because I felt I could still compete with the country’s best.”

Indeed, this year Bonello has been more than just competitive... he has been the best. His top status is reflected by the MAAA’s decision to choose him as the man to represent Malta at the European Athletics Championships, starting today in Barcelona.

“To tell the truth, I was really hoping it would happen. I planned my peaks well with the best result in the 100m (10.92) arriving at the European Team Championships which were held in Malta.

“However, with only one male representative making it to the Europeans, I was not sure that I would get the spot for the Championships in Barcelona. I am really pleased that I have been picked.”

“Of course, there is no possibility of winning a medal. I hope to do a technically good performance both in the 100m and the 200m.”

Despite his elation at being chosen to represent Malta at a major championship after a gap of 10 years, there is still more than a tinge of concern that local athletics can’t produce anyone capable of bettering the results of a 36-year-old.

“Of course I think something has to be done,” he said. “We have some good talent but we always end up losing them in their prime.

“Furthermore, some athletes think they can get results after a few years of training. What everyone has to realise is that not only do we have to prepare the body, but we have to prepare the approach, the mind, etc. At times the latter take more time to develop than the body. We also need to seek new blood for the sport and help them believe in their potential.

Talent spotting

“I am presently working with the MAAA (Athletics Malta) to launch a talent identification programme in the near future. As of late, everyone has become aware of the importance of having state-of-the-art sports facilities. We need to couple that with talent identification and development.”

Coaching and talent identification are topics close to Bonello’s heart.

“I love coaching. I try to use my knowledge and experience to bring the best out of my athletes,” he said.

“Children tend to go for the most popular sport believing that that is the only road for sporting success. Many a time it is the wrong path and talent is lost.”

“I think the biggest obstacle is the lack of presence by the athletics community in schools,” Bonello added.

“Athletics is not an easy sport. It is mostly an individual effort. However, approached in the right way by the coaches, it can be so much fun for the kids. My experience in the Gozitan schools has been overwhelming. Children love it and I have seen great talent.”

And there can be no better example than Bonello himself. For him, this will be the second trip abroad in as many weeks having recently taken part in the European Masters Championships in Nyiregyhaza, Hungary where he won gold in the 100m.

What really keeps pushing back Bonello’s decision to retire are such results along with all the support he receives.

“I’ve been lucky enough to find lots of support through the years, not least that of my wife Katya and our children Andria and Nicolai,” Bonello said.

“Our kids make themselves heard at the track by urging me in every race at the top of their voices, “Go Papa Go!!”

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