For the first time since Malta started taking part in the Olympic Games, a local athlete has managed to qualify by right rather than having to depend on the universality of athletics’ ruling to take part in the Games.
That historic feat was achieved last year by Tanya Blake when she set a new national record of 1:59 in the 800m.
It was a particularly relevant result for Blake who wanted to make sure of a berth at the Olympics as soon as possible. “Not going to Sydney four years ago was a huge disappointment. I didn’t want to miss out once again.”
“I have been working for this moment for twenty years. It will be a dream come true as well as an honour to represent Malta.”
Having more athletes who follow in Blake’s footsteps is one of the targets that David Azzopardi, the Malta Olympic Committee’s Director of Sport, has set himself. “My aim, and the dream of everyone associated with Maltese sport, is to have more athletes who get to the level where they can achieve the qualifications standards, and we would no longer have to rely on wild cards,” he says.
“I’m very hopeful that in the future we will have more athletes who can do so particularly in athletics. This year we had Tanya Blake and by the time Beijing comes around I would like to think that both male and female athletes would make it there by right.”
His faith is backed up by the results of the upcoming Maltese athletes. “Looking at the results being registered by our youths, I can see them edging ever closer to the Olympics’ qualification times.”
As it is Darren Gilford, Malta’s male representative in the 100m, was chosen after a relatively long selection process.
He is by far Malta’s leading sprinter holding the national records for both the 60m and 100m.
“So far, I’m satisfied with my overall performances. In the 60m I have reached my goal, that of running under 6.80. I managed to do 6.76s twice during one competition, which is very close of the qualifying standard for the World Indoor Championships.”
“Hopefully next year I will do the qualifying standard for the European Indoors.”
Yet the Olympic Games are, undoubtedly and understandably, the most immediate worry for Gilford. For him, the main hope is that of bettering his new personal best that currently stands at 10.55 and which, by consequence, would also mean a national record.
“In the 100m I have already managed to run 10.57 during a local meeting early this year. My overall performance was also very stable. However this year my aim is to go under 10.50. I know I can do it”
There could hardly be a better setting for him to achieve that result than the Olympic Stadium in Athens.
Paul Grech for the IAAF