SportMalta and the Maltese Olympic Committee are looking at the possibility of helping promising athletes from various sporting disciplines to turn professional in a bid to maximise their potential ahead of the 2023 Games of the Small States of Europe and beyond.
Mark Cutajar, SportMalta chief executive officer, told the Times of Malta that discussions are already under way with the Maltese Olympic Committee to identify a list of athletes that will be given the opportunity to switch to professional status and focus solely on maximising their talent in a bid to compete at higher levels.
Cutajar was speaking during a ceremony held at SportMalta offices in Cottonera were the ten local federations who will be representing the country at the 2023 GSSE in Malta signed a contract that will see them benefit from a €5 million purse that was made available by the National Development Social Fund for the technical preparation of athletes ahead of the biennial Games.
The ten federations that received funds for their athletes’ technical preparations were Athletics Malta, the Aquatic Sports Association of Malta, the Malta Basketball Association, Malta Judo Federation, Malta Rugby Football Union, Malta Squash, Malta Tennis Federation, Malta Sailing Federation and Malta Shooting Sport Federation.
“From the last time we met, when the announcement of the €5 million grant from the
National Development for Social Fund towards the athletes technical preparation for the 2023 GSSE, we moved closer to the biennial Games,” Cutajar said.
“I don’t know if that announcement acted as a catalyst but since then, we have seen a series of excellent results from various Maltese athletes who seem to have started their charge towards the participation in the 2023 GSSE.
“However, there are still two years to go and the organisational process of the Games is already in full spring, our facilities are continuously being upgraded and the local federations are working hard to ensure our athletes fulfill our medal projections.
“Results are somewhat a close box as you don’t know what will happen on the day but we can continue to groom our athletes who are guaranteed of funds until June 2023 and beyond.”
Cutajar said that SportMalta and the Maltese Olympic Committee are working towards the 2023 Games but they are focusing beyond that and in fact, plans are in place to identify the most talented athletes who will be given the opportunity to switch to professional status.
“The 2023 Games of the Small States in Malta may be a major goal,” Cutajar said.
“But our long-term goal is to see Maltese athletes compete and be successful in bigger international competitions. To reach this goal, we have already started talks with the Maltese Olympic Committee to identify the most talented athletes and offer them the chance to switch to professional status.
“Our goal is to not only win a lot of medals at the 2023 GSSE but to raise the level of performances of our talented athletes in a way that we will have the highest number of athletes ever that are able to qualify on their own merit for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.”
On his part, Julian Pace Bonello, the Maltese Olympic Committee president said that the local governing body of elite sport had been in talks with the authorities over the possibility of hosting the 2023 Games after the 2017 GSSE in San Marino.
“During those talks, we had informed the government that we were in need of a substantial increase in grants for the technical preparation of our athletes so that we could achieve Malta’s best-ever performance in a GSSE,” Pace Bonello said.
“The rise in the amount of money being put up for the athletes’ technical preparation was crucial so that they could compete in top-level competition but now this can be achieved thanks to the contribution from the
National Development Social Fund and the assistance of Dr Clifton Grima and Mark Cutajar.
“I have no doubt that these funds will be used in the best possible way and that we will not only improve our results at the 2023 GSSE but also will see a number of athletes qualify for top-level events.”
On his part, Alex Muscat, Parliamentary Secretary for Citizenship and Communities, said this injection of funds is going directly towards the Maltese athletes whose results will no doubt give a huge lift to the Maltese society.
“We are investing directly in our athletes so that they can get the best possible result,” Muscat said.
“The positive impact that good results in the 2023 GSSE will have on our society will go above the €5 million we are investing. Our goal is to boost Maltese sport and hopefully this is just the start.”
On his part, Clifton Grima, the Parliamentary Secretary for Youth and Sport, said that he is pleased that all the work carried out in the past months in collaboration with the Maltese Olympic Committee, Parliamentary Secretary Muscat, Sport Malta and the NDSF have come into fruition.
“It’s a good feeling for me to see that after months of consultation with all the bodies that are working towards the 2023 Games has come to a successful end,” Dr Grima said.
“Today’s signing of the agreement is just the start of a long process that hopefully will see the Maltese flag fly high on the podium as several Maltese athletes have done the country proud.
“This is a clear statement from the government that it has great belief in our athletes and that we are ready to give them the people’s money to maximise their potential and bring more success to our country.”