Julian Pace Bonello is confident Team Malta are prepared to produce a strong performance at the upcoming Games of the Small States of Europe in San Marino as the Maltese Olympic Committee yesterday unveiled its contingent for the 17th edition of the GSSE between May 28 and June 3. Team Malta will be travelling to San Marino – the world’s oldest republic – with 88 athletes. They will participate in 12 different sports.
Two years ago in Iceland, the MOC returned home with a modest 31 GSSE medals – four gold, nine silver and 18 bronze.
Expectations are high this time, however, with competitions like clay shooting and bowls, where our athletes traditionally do very well, are back on the programme.
“We will be heading to San Marino with high hopes,” Pace Bonello told reporters yesterday.
“We only accepted nominations from the associations involved of those athletes we believed could challenge for a medal or establish a new national record at the Games.
“Our intention is clear… we want to improve on the result achieved in Iceland two years ago but it will not be easy.
“True, the GSSE programme in San Marino is more favourable to us than two years ago but we have also lost some key performers including Kevin Moore, winner of two gold medals in 2015.”
A quick glance at the list of athletes for San Marino shows some familiar faces will return to the GSSE fold.
Seasoned shooter Frans Pace, a multiple medal-winner in trap competitions, was selected in the team along with double trap favourite William Chetcuti.
The women’s volleyball team will also make a return after a 14-year-absence. Their last participation at the Games was in Malta 2003.
The MOC will also field a strong cycling squad in both men’s and women’s categories as the Aquatic Sport Association will be represented by the biggest squad ever in the GSSE – 12 swimmers.
Charlotte Wingfield will again play a leading role in track and field after racing to two gold medals in Iceland.
The Maltese Olympic Committee highlighted her importance in the squad when naming her the country’s flag bearer for the opening ceremony in Serravalle on May 28.
Australia-based sprinter Kevin Moore, gold medal winner in the 200m and 400 metres in 2015, is out of the equation despite successfully clearing his name following doping violations charges last year.
Meanwhile, Maltese archers will be making their debut in the GSSE later this month with a men’s team formed of Daniel Schembri and Patrick Zammit.
Pace Bonello pointed out that the number of foreign athletes in the other countries’ selections was a major concern for the MOC, adding that the stance is leaving a negative effect on the Games.
“We have been active speakers in meetings with GSSE delegates about the number of foreign athletes in these Games,” he said.
“Monaco, for instance, will field a team of 120 athletes and only 20 of them are based in the principality. The others are all foreigners. We will continue to raise awareness on this situation. But in San Marino we must keep all this in mind when discussing the quality of other countries and the opposition our athletes will have to compete against to seal podium positions.”
The MOC, Pace Bonello added, are also eyeing the 2019 edition of the Games, in Montenegro.
He said local associations have already received notification of the budget they can allocate on the technical preparation for their athletes following an agreement between MOC and SportMalta.