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Small States of Europe Champs

19 May 2006 by ITU Admin

For the first time in the seven-year history of the Triathlon Championships of the Small States of Europe (TCSSE), Malta finished on the top podium in the Women’s and the Team’s Events while also claiming a creditable second in the Men’s. Danika Spiteri fulfilled a dream that Malta has been craving for, for the past 7 years. The highest podium finish was that of Maria Mifsud Bonnici who had mounted the podium for second placing for five consecutive times. Spiteri’s win was unexpected because until the very last few minutes of the Race, the then leader, Jackie Komes from Luxembourg, looked set to reclaim the crown she had forfeited to her compatriot, Liz May, in last year’s edition of the TCSSE held in Luxembourg. However, the heat left its toll on the Luxembourg athlete and she collapsed from dehydration 4kms from home. The Saint James Hospital Ambulance took her to hospital where she soon recovered. In the Men’s Team Event, Malta has twice placed second in the past so it was another jubilant moment for home country when it was announced that the combined times of Malta’s leading trio: Mark Zammit, Michael Gellel and Dermot Galea was 9 minutes better than that of Monaco and 26 minutes better than Liechtenstein’s time.

Twenty-four athletes from 5 different nations – Cyprus, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco and Malta – plunged into the placid and clear waters of Salina Bay at 8.00 o’clock sharp, with the Women’s Race starting 3 minutes ahead of the Men’s. Jackie Komes took the lead at once setting a spirited pace which saw her cover the 2 lap 1500m course in 20m.12s, over 3 minutes ahead of Danika Spiteri. In 3rd place was Kelea Quinn while Gaby Andres also from Luxembourg finished 4th. Spiteri had a superb cycle, covering the 6-lap 40km course in 1hr.11m.20s, 40 seconds better than Komes’ time. Gaby Andres moved up one position to 3rd place while Alexandra Barbero from Monaco came into transition hard on the heels of Quinn. In the 3-lap 10km Run, Komes looked as fresh and light as ever but appearances are deceptive and when disaster struck in the last lap, Spiteri, who was looking ever more confident with every pace, took the lead and went on to win in a time of 2hrs.20m.23s. This was the crowning moment in the career of the young Maltese athlete, who has been in Triathlon for over 10 years and who only 2 years ago qualified as a Medical Doctor, thus proving, if proof was ever needed, that sport is not incompatible with a demanding University course or with a professional career. In second place was Gaby Andres in 2hrs.30m.23s while Barbero finished 3rd in 2hrs.35m.35s.

In the Men’s Event there was another runaway leader: Malta’s promising young athlete, Mark Zammit. covered the Swim course in 18m.49s. – one minute ahead of Monaco’s Bruno Fiore and 1m.30s better than Luxembourg’s Tom Carrier. At the end of the Cycle segment, Zammit was still leading the Race though his advantage had been whittled down to just 45 seconds by the Luxembourg athlete. Bruno Fiore had to retire after the second lap due to pain in his forearm. In the meantime a peleton of 9 cyclists had formed behind the leading duo. In this peleton, which came into transition 5 minutes behind the leader, were Paul Lanat from Monaco as well as 3 other Maltese athletes, Dermot Galea, Keith Galea and Nicky Farrugia. In the Run Segment, it took Tom Carrier one lap to overhaul Mark Zammit, who was clearly wilting beneath the mid-morning sun. Carrier, coming from a cold country. looked in no way fazed out by the heat and went on to win in 1hr.58m.46s. – 1m.50s. ahead of Zammit. In 3rd place was Monaco’s Paul Lanat in 2hrs.05m.07s, but the fastest Run Time belonged to the Maltese athlete, Michael Gellel who finished 2nd Maltese and 4th overall. 2005 Malta Champion, Dermot Galea, clearly not having the Race of his life, finished 3rd Maltese and 7th overall.

Soon after the Race, Tom Carrier underwent a doping test at the Coastline Hotel in the presence of officials from the Anti-Doping Agency in Malta. The doping test was made possible thanks to the Kunsill Malti ghall-iSport and it was carried out at the express wish of the Malta Triathlon Association who wish to make it clear to its athletes that it will not condone or tolerate the intake of illegal substances.

The International Triathlon Union’s Chief Technical Delegate, Mr Enrique Quesada, was in Malta expressly to advise the organizers on issues pertaining to the actual organization of an international event and also to help clarify the issues which these championships must face in the future.

The Awards Ceremony was presided over by Judge Lino Farrugia Sacco, President of the Malta Olympic Committee. He was assisted by Dr Deguara, Mayor of the Naxxar Local Council and by Mr Enrique Quesada.

The main sponsor of last Sunday’s race was Joseph F. Spiteri (1927) & Co, agents for KEE KLAMP, without whose help the race would simply not have been held. The other sponsors were Kristal Water, Powerade and the Plum Tree Restaurant, Qawra. The Malta Triathlon Association would also like to thank the following for their invaluable help: the Ministry for Urban Development for the resurfacing of the road, the Kunsill Malti ghall-Isport, the Malta Olympic Committee, the Police and the Maritime Authority.

Emmanuel Azzopardi
Malta Triathlon Association

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