There was an air of satisfaction among the Maltese Olympic Committee contingent at the end of the 2015 Games of the Small States of Europe in Iceland, late Saturday.
Team Malta had amassed a total of 31 medals – four gold, nine silver and 18 bronze – which shows an improvement on the Luxembourg result of two years before when the athletes returned home with 25 medals in all (two gold, 10 silver and 13 bronze).
This 16th edition of the Games will surely be remembered for the feats of sprinting duo Charlotte Wingfield and Kevin Moore. They won two gold medals each in track and field.
The gymnastics team also surprised many with their lively displays as the young girls finished with a record of four medals.
In Iceland, Malta also chalked up an historic golf silver as the sport was making its first appearance in the GSSE.
On a less successful note, however, there were below-par performances in beach volley and shooting and, perhaps, more was expected from judo and table tennis where a spate of bronze medals were won but it’s crystal clear that our representatives lagged behind their peers from among the small nations on the continent.
MOC Director of Sport Mario Micallef, the man responsible of the athletes’ technical preparation, was generally satisfied with developments in Reykjavik last week.
“The GSSE in Iceland was the climax of two years of sheer hard work,” he said.
“Although there was a lot of scepticism on our medal chances, we always believed that the ones chosen all had good chances of making the podium in their sport.
“We finished with a good number of medals, perhaps more than we expected.
“In gymnastics, for instance, we got one medal more than anticipated. That result was achieved as we made the trip to Iceland with a complete team of five who all performed to high levels.”
Results from the track and field squad also gave a timely response to those who doubted their abilities, Micallef added.
“Having said that, one must also keep in mind that we are nowhere near a finished product. We know that there is still a lot of work to be done in various aspects and different sports,” Micallef contended.
“The level of other countries is growing steadily but one area of concern for me is the mental strength in our team. There was more than one occasion during the Games when we saw our representatives collapsing under the pressure.
“So, definitely sports psychology should rank high on our agenda in future.”
One other problem hitting our sport badly is the lack of adequate venues.
The beach volley players told Times of Malta they have no proper headquarters to conduct their training and the judo federation facilities are also not up to standard.
“I’m aware of these problems. We have to get in touch with the authorities and solve these issues,” Micallef said.
“As regards beach volley we already had talks with the Malta Sports Council and it looks likely that a place has been identified for the players to have their own area where they can practise.
“As regards other sport solutions can be found and the option of old factories no longer in use can be considered. This happened elsewhere and hopefully we can copy that example in our country.”
Meanwhile, Micallef said the results in Iceland and the outcomes from the European Games in Baku will be discussed in meetings with associations in the coming weeks.
“The way forward now is to plan for future competitions,” Micallef said.
“After the European Games we will go back to the drawing board and discuss matters with all stake holders to make sure we’re on the right track.
“As I’ve said, other countries are progressing rapidly and unless we adopt a more professional approach in our preparation there is no way we can bridge the gap.
“All in all, I think the future is not bleak but we have to make sure that the good work is maintained and the upward trend extended into our next projects.”
Final medals table