The Malta Wrestling Federation expressed its disappointment after Gary Giordmaina was not included in Team Malta for the Mediterranean Games that will be held in Oran, Algeria, this summer.
The Maltese Olympic Committee took this decision after it ruled that no athlete should be competing in both the Commonwealth Games and the Mediterranean Games that will be held in the space of four weeks, due to concerns that participants would not be able to peak in time for both competitions.
Thus, Giordmaina, fresh from his gold medal win in the 57kg category in a United World Wrestling Tournament held in Albania last week, was kept out of selection for the Mediterranean Games in Oran which get underway on June 25. But he was included in the contingent for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham between July 28 and August 8.
Pierre Cassar, president of the Federazzjoni Maltija Lotta, argued that this was the first time since 1983 that Maltese freestyle wrestlers were denied the right to compete at the Mediterranean Games.
“It is incomprehensible of the Maltese Olympic Committee to decide that athletes competing in the Mediterranean Games should not be taking part at the Commonwealth Games five weeks later,” he said.
“Although COVID-19 played havoc with the organisation of the Games, I recall what happened in 2018 when both the Commonwealth Games (Gold Coast) and the Mediterranean Games (Mersin) were organised with a seven-week time window.
“There were also other instances where athletes competing in the Games of the Small States of Europe were chosen to compete at the Mediterranean Games three weeks later.
“I called onto to the Maltese Olympic Committee to publish the scientific advice given by the Technical Committee which led to this decision but so far this information has proved elusive.
“I find it strange that elite athletes were being told that they were not capable of competing in these two Games because they are only four weeks apart.”
Cassar added that ironically, in its submission to the MOC at the turn of the year, the Federazzjoni Maltija Lotta had listed monthly international competitions for its group of four elite athletes vying to compete in the Mediterranean and Commonwealth Games.
There were no objections to this programme by the MOC which included competing at the European Championships in March in Budapest, he said.
Wrestlers are also earmarked to compete in a high-ranking international tournament in Italy (Sassari) a mere two weeks before the start of the Mediterranean Games. So, by the very same logic of the MOC, Maltese wrestlers should not have been competing at international tournaments every month, Cassar added.
“No doubt, such decisions have a devastating effect on athletes who would have been preparing for months on end and the MOC should review its decision which is costing athletes dear,” Cassar concluded.
The Times of Malta contacted MOC Director of Sport Charlene Attard who said that their recommendation of not sending athletes to both the Commonwealth Games and the Mediterranean Games was taken to ensure each athlete can perform at his/her very best when representing Malta this summer.
“When the Maltese Olympic Committee selects and sends athletes to Games the expectations for these athletes are not merely to participate but to be competitive,” Attard said.
“On rare occasions, athletes may also be selected as part of their development process which includes gaining exposure and experience in major competitions.
“With these standards in mind, discussions with the various national sports associations and federations are held.
“The standard and level of competition in both the Commonwealth Games and the Mediterranean Games is very high. Furthermore, these games are not usually held in the same year, but due to COVID-19 wreaking havoc to the sporting calendar, this time round these Games are taking place only four weeks apart.
“Competing in both Games would require athletes to peak in performance for four weeks consistently, which is extremely hard physically and mentally. Thus, the MOC Technical Commission decided to recommend that athletes be selected for only one of the two events due to them happening in quick succession.
“This is done to ensure that each athlete can perform at his/her very best when representing Malta this summer.”
Asked on the decision to send Giordmaina to the Commonwealth Games only and omitting him from the Mediterranean Games contingent, Attard said that it was the Federazzjoni Maltija Lotta itself that felt that the wrestler would stand a better chance of getting a good result in Birmingham.
“During discussions made with Federazzjoni Malta Lotta (FML), the wrestling body made it clear to the Technical Commission that Malta – if gaining a favourable draw – stood a better chance of gaining a good result at the Commonwealth Games, rather than at the Mediterranean Games, where the level is much higher.
“As regards his result at the United World Wrestling Tournament in Albania, where he won the gold medal, the Technical Commission noted that in the particular event, only three competitors took part and these athletes are not ranked in the UWW.
However, keeping in mind that he won these two fights and also won the English Senior event, the MOC decided to include Gary in the Commonwealth Games contingent.
“We reiterate that the Commonwealth Games were selected over the Mediterranean Games following the Malta Wrestling Federation’s suggestions of him having a better chance at the Commonwealths.
“We appreciate that some decisions might not be to everyone’s liking, however, these are taken following serious consideration and in the best interests of Maltese sport.”