Shooter Eleanor Bezzina and swimmer Andrew Chetcuti have been named Malta’s flagbearers for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. The announcement confirmed the two athletes – a new initiative for the Games – upon the fact that they are the most representative of our country in these Games, with Tokyo being the third participation for Chetcuti and the second for Bezzina.
The Malta contingent, consisting of six athletes in five disciplines, will be travelling to the Games throughout next week, and Malta Olympic Committee (MOC) president Julian Pace Bonello said they will be expecting the best performances from all the athletes.
“This is the highest-level competition that we take part in,” Pace Bonello said.
“We would like to see our athletes get national records or personal bests and eventually try to get as far forward as they can in their sport. We know that our athletes have the potential and the talent to do this.”
Speaking to the Times of Malta, Bezzina said it is a great honour for her to carry the Maltese flag.
“It’s already an honour to be taking part, but to carry the Maltese flag and represent the country together with the rest of the contingent is even greater,” Bezzina explained.
Asked about her aims, Bezzina said she wants to peak her performance on the day of the competition after a long time of preparation.
“I’ve trained and I still am, but on the day, I’ll be hoping to give the best performance. As a contingent, we are one team – Team Malta – and we have the goal of representing Malta as best as we can.”
This will be the first Olympics to see a Maltese representative in badminton with Matthew Abela confirmed in Group H of the singles event, as well as Yazmin Zammit Stevens being the first female weightlifter in the 64kg event.
The MOC president sounded his enthusiasm towards the mix of Olympians, with runner Carla Scicluna and swimmer Sasha Gatt also making their debut this month.
“It gives me great pleasure to see a contingent made up of previous Olympians as well as other athletes taking part for the first time,” Pace Bonello said.
“I want to thank all the athletes for their efforts so far. This will be the 19th time that Malta will take part in the Olympics.
“The Games are important mostly for them – they’ve made sacrifices for many years and they’ve already had the disappointment last year when the Games got postponed.
“We’ll be taking the athletes up beforehand to try and avoid any jetlag while also giving them the time to acclimatise themselves and train according to protocol.”
The contingent will be without runner Jordan Gusman for the Games. Gusman has been injured for most of the year and Director of Sport Ivan Balzan said he has not managed to recover in time.
“Obviously, we’ll miss his presence just as we would for the rest of our athletes, but I’m sure Jordan Gusman will be back,” Balzan said.
The six athletes have been invited to the Games through the Tripartite Commission and Universality Clause procedure, a joint committee formed by the International Olympic Committee, the host nation and fellow international federations.
Balzan explained that this procedure is a long process of hard work and for them to be chosen gives him belief that “they will give their best performance and make us proud”.
Asked about the worry of COVID-19, which has dominated talk ahead of the Games as Japan faces a state of emergency, the MOC emphasized that while ‘they worry all the time’, they have taken all the necessary precautions and all athletes have been fully vaccinated.