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Malta looking for a championship legacy

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In the next part of our series focusing on European Athletics' Member Federations, we meet Edwin Attard, the President of the Malta Amateur Athletic Association.

It is a huge summer for track and field, with the European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam just a few weeks before the Olympic Games in Rio. But there is always room for something new, which is why the excitement is building in Malta.

On June 11, the archipelago in the central Mediterranean will host the first Championships of the Small States of Europe and for a college Head of English, it will be a landmark moment.

Edwin Attard, 57, is one of Malta’s most renowned athletics names and after a career as an 800m runner, his passion for the sport has taken him all the way to the top as President of the national federation.

One of his aims when he took over was the development of the national team and he hopes the second Saturday in June will be a day to remember as Malta compete against 17 other European Athletics Member Federations.

As a runner, Attard became the first Maltese man to break two minutes for 800m when he ran 1:59.8 in 1983. Now it is about different challenges.

'I have had a passion for athletics for a long while,' he said. 'Even prior to being general secretary (at the Association), I was always involved in athletics at club level or even as a road race organiser.

'It is hard work (as President). You are running the show and I try to embark on new initiatives and they have borne fruit.

'One of the things is our national team. I wanted to bring momentum to it.

'Since I have been President, we have been taking part in the European Team Championships Third League with a full team. We have been trying to field athletes in those events where traditionally we have encountered problems, like pole vault, hurdles, high jump. We have managed to create this possibility for our athletes to branch out and specialise.'

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In an Olympic season, with no European Athletics Team Championships, a gap has appeared in the calendar and here is the chance to nurture and build an event that Attard hopes will become a regular on the athletics map once every four years.

It is something he has long hoped would happen - as he previously discussed with former European Athletics President Hansjörg Wirz.

'I remember speaking about the possibility of this competition back in 2011 with Hansjörg,' said Attard.

The reason is simple. The greater the amount of competitions, the more chances there are for the sport to grow among the smaller states.

The southern region of Marsa will welcome teams from European Athletics federations including Andorra, Cyprus and Moldova who will compete in 22 events on one day to find the inaugural 'Small States Champion'.

Attard, who has been President for two years, said: 'Apparently some federations are looking at this competition for their athletes to get qualifying marks for the European Championships and perhaps even the Olympics.'

He never competed at the Olympics himself, but he did run in the stadium in Mexico which staged the 1968 Games when he competed in the 1979 University Games. It was one of the biggest moments in the track career of a man whose full-time job also involves teaching and drawing up the national English syllabus and examinations.

Malta is expecting around 230 athletes and officials for the championships, which have official European Athletics affiliation, and as Attard said: “Athletics over here is more or less voluntary. Without the help of volunteers the sport in our country would be threatened. But thanks to them and the increasing number of athletes, our sport continues to grow.”

By 12 June, that interest might have grown even more.

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CHAMPIONSHIPS OF THE SMALL STATES OF EUROPE (11 June 2016)

Competing Federations:

Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Cyprus, FYI Macedonia, Georgia, Gibraltar, Iceland, Kosovo, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro and San Marino.

Events:

Men: 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 3000m, 110m hurdles, Long jump, High jump, Discus, Shot put.

Women: 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 3000m, 100m hurdles, Long jump, High jump, Discus, Hammer.

Men and Women: Swedish relay (1000m).

Venue:

Matthew Micallef St. John Stadium, Marsa.

Format:

The top three in each event will receive medals and team standings by country.




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