Team Malta enjoyed a highly-positive afternoon at the 2019 GSSE as the final athletics programme provided two gold and two silver medals to take the country’s tally to 25 medals – six gold medals, 11 silver and eight bronze.
After the heroics of shooters Gianluca Chetcuti and William Chetcuti in double trap it was the turn of the track and field athletes to end Day Four in the best possible way.
In fact, Lisa Marie Bezzina and Jordan Gusman rewrote the athletics history books yesterday after completing an impressive double in the long-distance racing when topping the 10,000m races on the final day of the athletics programme.
Bezzina, who on Tuesday had clinched gold in the 5,000m race, was in control right from the outset. As the laps passed, Bezzina and her Cypriot rival Anna Dagnara Handzlik distanced themselves from their rivals as it looked clear that they would battle for the gold medal.
With just 300m to go, Bezzina sped clear of the Cypriot and gradually opened a commanding lead which she kept till the end to cross the finish line in 35 minutes 39.01 seconds.
Dagnara was second ahead of Montenegro’s Sladana Perunovic.
Roberta Schembri finished the race in sixth place with a time of 38 minutes 11.22 seconds.
“I’m lost for words at the moment,” Bezzina said.
“After winning the 5,000 metres race I approached this race with less pressure as I had already a gold medal in my bag. Still, I wanted to end as best as I could. The conditions today were much hotter and I feared that they could effect my performance.
“But honestly I felt really well and I’m really pleased to have finished the job and I’m returning home with a gold medal. These have been some Games for me which I will remember for the rest of my life.
“I just want to thank the authorities and my family for my support and my coach Ivan Rozhnov who without his guidance I wouldn’t be in this position today.”
Gusman completely dominated the men’s race as after keeping the pace with the other runners he sped clear with eight laps to go, opening a gap of almost 300 metres to cruise safely home in a time of 29 minutes and 49.43 seconds.
“It may have looked easy, but it wasn’t,” Gusman said.
“Having two races in as many number of days made it difficult to come to this race in the best possible condition but I coped really well. There were some fast runners in this race but my pace was good throughout and I’m just delighted to bag a second gold medal in these Games.”
Asked on what lies in his future, Gusman said: “My goal is to represent Malta in the World Championships. For me this is a great start but I’m determined to do more to help Maltese athletics.
“In these Games we created history as it’s the first time that Malta has two gold medals in the long distances so that shows you the great potential there is. My goal is to help the Maltese movement to continue develop and ensure a bright future for the sport.”
Luke Micallef was seventh in 32:59.30.
In the field events, Claire Azzopardi enjoyed an excellent debut in the GSSE athletics competition when she placed second in the women’s triple jump.
The young jumper produced a best jump of 12.30m to finish only behind to Montenegro’s Ljiljana Matovic who won gold with .
“This is amazing for me,” Azzopardi said just after the race.
“I have only taken up athletics for a couple of years and I have no experience in competing in a GSSE in this sport so I’m still getting accustomed to the new surroundings. I am grateful to my coach Zivko Jetchev for his constant support and mentoring as well as my family and I hope that this is just the start for me.
“No doubt, this medal will fill me with more confidence and hunger to continue to improve and achieve better results in the future.”
Rebecca Sare was fifth with a best jump of 11.86m.
Ian Paul Grech was also a silver medallist in the men’s competition with a best jump of 15.00, which is a new personal best.
“It’s a great result for me,” Grech said.
“I improved on the result of two years ago when I took bronze and to do it with a personal best is even sweeter. Definitely these has been a positive experience and I’m looking forward to keep working hard to reach bette heights in the future.”
Charlotte Wingfield has lost her 200m GSSE title as the Maltese sprinter just missed out on a place on the podium when placing fourth in the final.
Wingfield, winner of the gold medal in San Marino two years ago, started brightly and was leading the way after 100m but she could not maintain her charge in the final metres and had to settle for fourth place with a time of 24.66 seconds.
The gold medal went to Iceland's Jona Bjarnadottir in 24.26 ahead of team-mate Tina Whitworth. Annas Bauer of Luxembourg took bronze in 24.53.
Wingfield then teamed up with Claire Azzopardi, Sarah Busuttil and Annalise Vassallo to run in the 4x100 relay.
An error in the third baton change, compromised the team’s medal hopes as they finished fourth in 47.92 seconds.
Malta’s chef de mission Paul Sultana was delighted with the efforts of the Maltese athletes who are close to handing Team Malta one of their best results in a GSSE away from our shores.
“It was an historic day for our sport today where we won a lot of gold medals,” Sultana said.
“We won gold and silver in double trap while in athletics we added two more gold medals and two silver and seeing the Maltese flag being flown high on the podium is a great feeling.
“Now we look forwSWard to tomorrow where we can add a bronze in basketball and who knows a gold in tennis. We just have to wait and see but I sense that we will have a great party on Saturday night.”
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