For prospective paralympic athletes, March is the be-all and end-all of their dreams to make it to the summer games. However, with a total ban on organised sports, Malta’s handful of talented paralympic athletes have been left stranded and frustrated knowing that they may never get a chance to compete.
“There is a deadline at the end of March to qualify for a Minimum Qualification Standard (MQS), which means you have to compete at an official event,” Julian Bajada, Secretary-General of the Malta Paralympic Committee, told Lovin Malta.
“Given that all events are cancelled, our athletes have no events to compete at and cannot record a time,” he continued.
According to Bajada, Malta has just four paralympic athletes vying for a spot to compete in the 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan.
One of them, swimmer Maja Theuma, took to social media last week to shed light on the issue and call out the double standards of the newly-implemented measures.
“International elite athletes have continued their training regime, in a safe way. Why can’t we do the same?” she said. “Having group limits of up to four people is allowed outdoors but having one athlete and one coach isn’t?”
Last week, Superintendent of Public Health Charmaine Gauci confirmed the legal notice allows her to issue an exemption to the measures for national teams in any sport, but only after a “case-by-case consideration”.
She was referring to the case of the Malta national football team which is scheduled to face off against Russia at Ta’ Qali in the first of its 2022 World Cup Qualifiers.
“It seems as if only football has international meets coming up? What about the other non-contact and individual sports?” Theuma said.
The issue is not just one of competing, but of training too.
“The training regime is disrupted totally. It puts them at a huge disadvantage to qualify at a later stage,” Bajada continued.
Prospective paralympic athletes are able to qualify for the games through a wildcard or invitation at a later stage, but that still requires recording elite times, something which is becoming harder and hard to achieve with every training session missed.
The MPC has appealed to health and sports authorities to amend the legal directive so that it accommodates prospective paralympic athletes to compete and qualify for an MQS. However, no change is forthcoming as of yet.
“Whilst we’re frustrated, these things could’ve been pre-empted,” Bajada continued. “Certain measures should’ve been implemented.”
Cover Photo Credit: Bulletproof Culture
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