Team Malta's participation at the 2008 Beijing Olympics came to an end yesterday when Nicolai Portelli failed to make progress in the men's 200m heats.

Portelli, who was making his first appearance in Olympic Games, was on the starting blocks of the fourth heat that also featured American Walter Dix, a bronze medallist in Saturday's 100 metres final.

Portelli crossed the finish line in eighth place, clocking 22.31, 0.20 seconds slower than his personal best of 22.11.

Russia's Roman Smirnov won the heat in 20.76 and qualified along with Dix (20.77), Honduras's Rolando Palacios (20.81) and Spain's Angel David Rodriguez (20.87).

Brazil's Bruno de Barros (21.15), Bulgaria's Desislav Gunev (21.55) and Kazakhstan's Vyacheslav Muravyev (21.68) finished ahead of Portelli but also failed to advance.

Malta had six athletes at the Beijing Games. No doubt, the best performance came from shooter William Chetcuti. He placed eighth overall in double trap.

The 23-year-old was a whisker away from reaching the final when he finished joint sixth with three other shooters but luck deserted him in the shoot-off.

Chetcuti's result was Malta's best-ever in the Olympics and earned the Mellie─ža shooter an IOC Diploma as recognition for his creditable placing.

Swimmers Madeleine Scerri and Ryan Gambin also put up commendable performances and established new national records.

Scerri, competing in the 100m freestyle, won her heat in 57.97 to trim 0.14 seconds off her previous best set last year. Gambin missed out on qualification in the 100m butterfly semi-finals but still managed to lower his own national record when he touched home in 53.70. He was 0.24 of a second faster than his previous best mark set in Paris this year.

Judoka Marcon Bezzina and sprinter Charlene Attard were Malta's other representatives at the Olympics.

Bezzina was eliminated in the first round of the -63kg category by Algeria's Kahina Saidi, a gold medallist in the African Games last year. Attard placed sixth in her 100m heat but did not manage to better her national record (11.93) when clocking 12.20 seconds.

The Maltese Olympic Committee contingent in Beijing is led by chef-de-mission Julian Pace Bonello. The group also includes high officials Lino Farrugia Sacco, MOC president, and Joseph Cassar, MOC general secretary.

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