The Games of the Small States of Europe (GSSE) came to close on Saturday 1st June with Team Malta bringing home 27 medals – six gold, 12 silver and nine Bronze.
A total of 80 athletes took part in Athletics, Basketball, Beach Volley, Judo, Shooting, Swimming, Tennis and Table Tennis. Despite the total medal tally falling short of two medals, when compared to Malta’s performance in San Marino two years ago, the colour of medals won has improved significantly – six gold compared to four and 12 silver compared to 9 in 2017.
An improvement in this sport has been registered – this is thanks to the changes implemented in the past two years which has seen local operations strengthen and better synergies created between coaches and athletes in the various track and field disciplines. Lisa Marie Bezzina was truly the golden girl of the games having fulfilled her promise of bring gold in the 5000m and 10000m – her commitment and dedication to bring this result home has been unwavering since her return from a disappointing San Marino two years ago. Jordan Gusman, a Maltese athlete living away from our shores brought home two Golds (5000m and 10000m) and a Silver in the 1500m, which in his very own words is not his race. Positive performances were provided by Claire Azzopardi and Ian Paul Grech, both of whom brought home a silver medal in the triple jump. Meanwhile Ian Grech also brought a Bronze medal in the long jump. Damien Mizzi, a newcomer to Team Malta secured a Bronze in the 400m. A disappointing performance from Charlotte Wingfield meant that no medals were secured in the 100m and 200m, however Wingfield was just returning from an injury. Having brought 4 gold and 2 silver medals in the past, Wingfield is certainly not one to be discarded.
The improvement in this sport is a testament to the good management and coaching teamwork. A total of ten medals, 5 silver and 5 Bronze were brought home. Harry Stacey narrowly missed out on a gold. Alexandra Mcgonigle took silver for the 50m Breaststroke. Strong performances from Mya Azzopardi who claimed three Bronze medals and three national records. One of the youngest competitors Sasha Gatt who made her GSSE Debut this year broke her own national record in the 800 metre freestyle by 7 seconds, and also took home a Bronze medal in the 4 x 200m Freestyle. Medals were won in the 4x100m and 4 x 200m relay teams for both men and women, whilst Andrew Chetcuti took home silver 50m butterfly whilst Michael Umnov took two Bronze in the 100m and 200m butterfly.
This sport shows that the investment is money well spent. With just a team of five athletes, the sport brought home 4 medals. Eleanor Bezzina upped her game to win a Gold Medal in air pistol shooting in what was a nail biting finish. William Chetcuti showed his prowess when he won two silver medals – in Double Trap and Trap – despite only taking up the latter only recently Chetcuti was able to leave a mark, playing for Gold and just missing one shot in the end. Gianluca Chetcuti retained the Gold Medal won in San Marino to bring the fourth medal in shooting home! The honour of being flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony was certainly well deserved.
Elaine Genovese provided that her experience and dedication completed the right formula to take home two medals. A Bronze in singles and silver in ladies’ doubles with the ever improving, sixteen-year-old, Francesca Curmi. Although cruising to potential victory Matthew Axiaq suffered a hamstring injury in the quarterfinals which resulted in the potential loss of three medals.
Jeremy Saywell returned to his winning ways, earning a silver medal for Malta. Isaac Bezzina gave a fine performance yet was robbed of a Bronze medal by the Montenegro referee who dismissed an ippon on his throw complete with a 3 second overlap to hand the opponent a win. Nevertheless, it was positive to have a full team be present in Montenegro as this will surely help with the development of a core team for Malta.
Similar to Judo, Malta was represented by generally a young team who lack experience. Viktoria Lucenkova brought her years of experience to the court yet three tough draws, including a Chinese player representing Monaco who is ranked 50th in the World were not conducive to a medal. However, Anthea Cutajar is definitely one to watch, with Sascha Genovese close behind. Positive prospects are in line for the boys especially Daniel Gambina. Yet the formula to a good performance in Malta in 2023 is definitely in the making here.
After winning Gold in San Marino, the women’s team were one to watch however having key players out due to injury and draws against some very strong teams hampered the possibility of such a result this year. Having said that the team narrowly missed out on a Bronze medal in their final game against Luxembourg. The men’s team had a tough draw with no rest day in between and it was evident that the Montenegro team were out to win Gold thus pushing all medal winners down a notch.
Despite an injury earlier on at the start of the Games and battling bravely throughout their campaign, all in all it was a disappointing performance from both the women’s and men’s teams with both winning just one game which justifies the decision not to include this sport in Malta 2023.
If one had to compare this year’s results in relation to medal colour, barring the Liechtenstein Games where Squash was included, and four Gold medals were won, these are the best results Malta has achieved since 2005.
“This year’s results are part of a work in progress that the Maltese Olympic Committee is focusing on, especially in view of the 2023 Games in Malta. Including youngsters as part of the contingent was a risk, we were willing to take but the outcome has been positive and has definitely motivated these athletes to continue working hard”. – Ivan Balzan, Director of Sport, Maltese Olympic Committee
“The objective for Malta was that of bettering the colours of the medals won in San Marino two years ago, and we managed to do that. But we. still have a lot of work to do if in four years’ time, Malta is to get the results we have set ourselves to achieve. The results achieved in athletics, shooting and swimming have justified the huge investment put in by the local governing bodies in the last few years” – Julian Pace Bonello, President, Maltese Olympic Committee
“In order to achieve this, it is important that the Government ensures that we start working immediately as we need to help our elite athletes much more and in a number of different ways. We also must increase the number of high–performance athletes in our contingents. We look forward to be given the necessary tools for us to achieve the goals set in the ten-year plan” Julian Pace Bonello, President, Maltese Olympic Committee
GSSE 2019 Montenegro Medal Tally
Triple Jump, Silver
Ian Paul Grech
Long Jump, Bronze
Triple Jump, Silver
Air Pistol – Gold
Double Trap, Gold
Double Trap, Silver
100m Butterfly, Bronze
200m Butterfly, Bronze
100m freestyle, Silver
200m Medley, Bronze
50m butterfly, Silver
50m breast stroke, Silver
4 x 100 m Freestyle Relay Women – Bronze
Mya Azzopardi, Francesca Falzon Young, Martina Valletta, Michee Van Rooyen
4 x 200 m Freestyle Relay Women – Bronze
Mya Azzopardi, Michee Van Rooyen, Sasha Gatt, Francesca Falzon Young
4 x 200 m Freestyle Relay Men, Silver
Andrew Chetcuti, Harry Stacey, Matthew Galea, Dylan Cachia
4 x 100 m Freestyle Relay Men, Silver
Matthew Galea, Harry Stacey, Andrew Chetcuti, Dylan Cachia
Elaine Genovese / Francesca Curmi
GSSE 2019 Photo Gallery
Photos Courtesy – Matthew Mirabelli/Times of Malta