Team Malta had reason for celebration last night as they finally ended their gold drought in the 2019 GSSE with an historic double triumph in the 5,000 metres to end the day with a tally of 14 medals – two gold, five silver and seven bronze on a wet evening in Bar.
Lisa Marie Bezzina and Jordan Gusman were the top performers of our track and field athletes after topping the 5K race in largely contrasting fashion.
Bezzina’s victory was nothing short than extraordinary and at the same time controversial after a blunder by the track judges almost cost the veteran runner her first ever gold medal in a GSSE after forcing her to make one extra lap despite she had already completed the distance.
In fact, when Bezzina crossed the finish line she raised her arms in celebration but she was soon forced to continue her run after the judges rang the bell for a final lap. Here, Bezzina was overtaken by Cypriot Meropi Panagiotou at the finish.
However, Bezzina immediately protested with the officials who immediately admitted their error and handed victory to Bezzina.
Still, the official result was not issued until two hours later when the officials checked TV images that Bezzina had completed all 12 laps and confirmed her as the winner.
“I am so emotional right now,” Bezzina, who clocked a new personal best 16.55.05, told the Times of Malta.
“I have been working hard for so many years to finally win my first gold medal and I can’t find words to express my emotions. I would like to thank my coaches, family and sponsors for supporting me throughout the years and I dedicate this gold medal to a special person, my former coach John Walsh who passed away a few years ago, who always believed in my ability.”
Mona Lisa Bezzina placed fourth overall in 17:19.59.
The men’s race was completely dominated by Gusman who led the race from start to finish as he completely outclassed his opponents to cross the finish line in 14:00.40.
“I’m so happy to have won the gold medal in my first race for Malta,” the Maltese-Australian runner said.
“I felt very comfortable throughout the race and hopefully there is more to come from me for the rest of the week. Now I just have a good recovery and hopefully I’ll be ready for the 1,500 metres race tomorrow.”
Paula Bugeja was another debutant to win a medal yesterday when placing third in the 800 metres race in 2:09.85.
“I never expected to win a medal on my debut at the GSSE,” Bugeja said.
“It was a very tough race as I faced some very fast runners, but I remained just behind them and in the end I had enough to speed to get home for a fantastic medal.
“We’re only at the start of the season and hopefully there is more to come for me in the coming months.”
The other medallist for Malta yesterday was Ian Paul Grech who placed third in the long jump with a best jump of 7.15m.
“It’s a great result for me as it made up for disappointment of two years ago when I placed fifth,” Grech said.
“Conditions were very difficult today but I held on and now I’m focused on the triple jump and the relay where hopefully I can add more medals.”
Damian Mizzi enjoyed a serene ride to today’s 400 metres final as the Maltese-Australian cruised to a comfortable victory in the second heat yesterday.
Mizzi, who was making his international debut for Malta at the Games, fended off the challenge of Konstantinos Christou, of Cyprus, to cross the finish line in 48.68, the fastest time of the two heats held yesterday.
“I’m quite pleased with my race today,” Mizzi said.
“I didn’t want to push too hard ahead of tomorrow’s final but I tried some things like a strong start and a solid finish and I’m pleased with my overall performance. Now I’m looking forward to tomorrow where hopefully I can finish the job.”
There was disappointment in the 100 metres races as Charlotte Wingfield failed to defend her gold medal in the women’s category after finishing a disappointing fifth in 12.00 seconds.
In the men’s category there was disappointment for Omar ElAida who picked up a hamstring injury midway through the final and had to retire.
His brother Jacob ElAida failed to make the final when clocking 11.23 seconds.”