Isabelle Zarb places first in Gozo-Malta swim
Birkirkara St Joseph Sports Club signed off its Open Water Swimming commitments on Saturday morning when the Coros Malta-Gozo-Malta and Coros Gozo – Malta Open Water Swimming competitions took place.
The seemingly calm waters belied the strong currents that the Channel is notorious for, however all swimmers managed to finish racing.
The 11km Malta-Gozo – Malta swim, started at the crack of dawn with eight swimmers taking part.
Out of the eight taking part – three were undertaking the distance for the first time.
The route took swimmers out from Marfa towards the shortest possible route towards the island of Comino on to a turn-around point at Ras il-Qala in Gozo and back on the same route to finish on the sandy beach from where they started.
Sarah Demicoli, was the first swimmer out of the water, having positioned herself in the front from the word go. Demicoli’s first foray in this race was in 2017, where she also emerged as the female winner. Her finish time of two hours 35 mins four seconds beat Neil Agius’ time in 2015 by two minutes and 26 seconds.
Second to finish, and the first male out of the water was Stefano Debono Grech who undertook this distance for the first time.
Despite not having years of experience in open water swimming, Debono Grech has been carving a good name for himself with some very solid performances.
Third out of the water and second female was Leah Satariano, winner of the 2019 edition. Satariano had a serious challenge from Hannah Cutajar who was behind her throughout the whole race. In the end only five seconds separated the two, with Satariano securing second place.
The males’ podium was completed by veteran Robert Vella, who finished in second place and Gilbert Bartolo in third. Vella and Bartolo have competed in this event five times with both winning this event once in the last six years.
Swimmers taking part in this year’s Gozo-Malta race could opt to take part in any of the three possible segments – Category A (swimmers without an escort boat), Category B (swimmers accompanied by an escort boat) and Category C (Group swimmers accompanied by an escort boat). The latter was open to swimmers who just wanted to take on the challenge of swimming the channel.
Category A had by far the largest group and swimmers in this group had to find their way back to Malta with no personal assistance even though this group had a number of stationary boats placed along the route.
Andre Camilleri was the outright winner clocking a time of 1 hour 20 minutes 54 seconds.
Camilleri’s previous participation was in 2017 when he placed second.
Completing the podium were Bernard Sant and Andrew Azzopardi.
Meanwhile veteran club swimmer Isabelle Zarb, who has countless number of races to her name won the female category.
Johanna Galea took second place, whilst newcomer Petra Grech completed the podium.
The Category B podium was made up of first-time participants.
Martina Micallef, another up and coming open water swimmer, took the honours finishing the race in 1 hours 25 minute 47 seconds. She was followed by Luca Vella.
Mark Grech and Amand Veranneman joined Vella on the men’s podium taking second and third place, whilst Callie Hock and Gail Gauci took the remaining honours of the females’ podium.
“Due to COVID-19 the expected foreign participation was non-existent, this of course affected participation numbers,” said Euchar Camilleri, Birkirkara St Joseph SCC secretary general.
“Yet, the club is still very satisfied with the outcome of Saturday’s race. We are very much aware of these Challenging times, so we are grateful to have the possibility of offering swimmers the opportunity to race.
“It was also interesting to see such a good mix of veteran and young swimmers bringing together experience and promise for the future in such an event”.
In a statement, Birkirkara St. Joseph Sports Club, who this year is celebrating its 45th anniversary, said that it is grateful for the support of Coros Malta – main sponsor of the event, proteinmalta.com, Transport Malta, Malta Police Force, Armed Forces of Malta, Emergency Malta as well as its club events management team for all their support and hard work which contributed towards the success of this event.
Men’s race: 1. Stefano Debono Grech 2:50:54; 2. Robert Vella 2:59:24; 3. Gilbert Bartolo 3:02:39.
Women’s race: 1.Sarah Demicoli 2:35:049; 2. Leah Satariano 2:57:50; 3. Hannah Cutajar 2:57:55.
Gozo-Malta (Category A)
Men’s race: 1. Andre Camiller 1:20:54; 2. Bernard Sant 1:37:48; 3. Andrew Azzopardi 1:51:02.
Women’s race: 1. Isabelle Zarb 2:10:00; 2. Johanna Galea 2:27:06; 3. Petra Grech 3:24:30.
Gozo-Malta (Category B)
Men’s race: 1. Luca Vella 1:48:47; 2. Mark Grech 2:09:32; 3. Amand Vernneman 2:36:25.
Women’s race: 1. Martina Micallef 1:35:47; 2. Callie Hock 2:08:53; 3. Gail Gauci 2:21:30.