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Watch: Team Malta looking to inspire young athletes at Tokyo Paralympics

Team Malta chef de mission Julian Bajada (right) alonside Joseph Grima, president of Malta Paralympic Committee.

Team Malta will have more than one athlete at the upcoming Paralympic Games in Tokyo for the first time after 41 years as the Malta Paralympic Committee announced the contingent for the quadriennial Games during a news conference on Tuesday.

The Paralympic Games in Tokyo will be held between August 24 and September 5 with Malta being represented by Vladyslava Kravchenko in Para swimming and Thomas Borg in the para athletics events.

The Malta contingent, which will be spearheaded by Julian Bajada who will act as chef de mission, will leave Malta on Friday before taking part in the Games opening ceremony on Friday, August 24 at the National Stadium in Tokyo.

“For us this is an historic participation at the Tokyo Paralympics,” Profs. Joseph Grima, president of the Malta Paralympic Committee said.

“This is the first time since the Arnhem Paralympic Games, held in 1980, that Malta is being represented by more than one Paralympic athlete at the Games.

“It was one of our committee’s objectives that unlike other editions we head to the Games with a community of athletes and not just one. There was fierce competition to earn a place on the team and we’re pleased that we have achieved that goal.

“Added to that, this year our team will be led for the first time by a chef de mission who is also a para athlete, Julian Bajada, and that mirrors the Malta Paralympic Committee’s vision of sports leadership.”

For Kravchenko this is the second time that she will be representing Malta at the Paralympic Games after her appearance in the Rio Games in 2016. The 29-year-old, who joined the High-Performance Para Swimming programme at the Loughborough University in the UK for 2020-21 season under the Malta Sports Scholarship, will be competing in the S5 50m butterfly and the S5 50m backstroke.

Kravchenko earned her Paralympic Games berth after clocking a Qualifying B Standard earlier this year.

On his part, Borg will be taking part in the 100m and the 400m Para athletics events in the T47 classification category.

Recently, Borg clocked a time of 12.4s in the 100m which is 0.8s shy of the minimum entry time for Tokyo 2020 and subsequently further lowered his personal best to 12.16 seconds during the Athletics Malta National Championships last month.

Antonio Flores was also due to compete at the Tokyo Paralympic Games but an Achilles injury ended his dream.

On his part, Bajada said that Malta’s participation at the Games should inspire upcoming para athletes to use sport as an opportunity to showcase their talent.

“Malta’s participation in the Paralympics is essential as it is an opportunity for our para athletes compete in the biggest Paralympic sporting event in the world,” Bajada, a para swimmer himself, said.

“Besides, it will be an opportunity for young para athletes to be motivated and inspired so that in the future they too reach higher levels in their sport and they don’t see their physical disability as an obstacle but an opportunity and sport surely can help them in this regard.”

Bajada said that the MPA is looking to increase the diversity of disciplines where Maltese para athletes can shine on in the near future.

“One of our objectives for these Games was that we have more than one athlete to compete in this Games,” Bajada said.

“But we are not happy with just reaching that goal. In fact, we are looking at other disciplines apart from para athletics and para swimming where we too can have athletes that can represent our country in these Games.

“In this regard, we are looking at disciplines such as para rowing, boxing, judo, taekwondo and karate and try and attract more young athletes to inspire them towards a future participation in these Games.”

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