With the Summer Olympics fast approaching, athletes around the world are fighting tooth and nail for a chance to represent their home country in the prestigious games.
Malta is no different, with a handful of local talent sacrificing their all to qualify for the games and seek glory on the tracks of Tokyo.
This year will look starkly different to other editions of the prestigious multi-sport event with the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting athletes’ preparations while also being the reason why Japanese authorities have disallowed international fans to be present at the Games.
Nonetheless, there’s a lot to be excited about now that qualification events are coming to a close next month and the Olympics set to begin on 23 July.
In the run-up to the Games, Lovin Malta will take a deep dive into the local athlete prospects with a fighting chance to make it to the Olympics through a series of interviews and in-depth analysis – so you can show your support for those who are representing Malta on the main stage.
One of Malta’s most promising, young stars bound to make a splash at the Summer Olympics is 15-year-old Sasha Gatt who has already broken a number of national records and obtained qualification time, in the run-up to the Games.
“I am hoping to qualify for the 1500 metre freestyle,” she told Lovin Malta. “That’s the event I have the highest FINA points in.”
At 15-year-olds, Gatt is the first and only Maltese swimmer so far to achieve an Olympic qualifying time. Her time of 17:01.80 in the 1,500 metres at the Slovakian Grand Prix earlier this year qualified for Olympic B Standard with the Maltese swimmer just 21 seconds off from A Standard.
“I train 14 sessions a week, 11 sessions take place in a pool and the remaining three at a gym,” she continued.
“A typical day for me would start at 4:30am with a training session before school. I’m back to training after school and each session is very intensive, usually covering five to seven kilometres.”
“The high mileages are important since my events are in the longer distances – 400 metres, 800 metres and 1,500-metres freestyle,” she said.
In addition to obtaining Olympic B timing, Gatt has also smashed a number of age group and national records…
… and let’s not forget the fact that she’s just 15-years-old.
Last March in Slovakia, Gatt improved on her own age group records and national records in the 800 and 1,500-metre freestyle with an impressive time of 16:53:35 in the latter.
Last February in Malta, Gatt broke her own national record in the 400m freestyle by a margin of five-second with a time of 4:23:33.
“I train the hardest I can and keep on pushing myself to my limits. It is important to never give up. I always give my utmost in training so I feel better prepared and confident for when I race,” she continued.
The Covid-19 pandemic meant that local sports came to a grinding halt, with health authorities taking drastic measures, including a ban on organised sports, that greatly hindered the ability of athletes to train and prepare.
Nonetheless, Gatt was able to make the most with the cards she was dealt.
“I tried to train from home and also, when possible, swim in the sea,” she said. “Obviously it’s never the same as the pool, but it’s better than doing nothing and I felt quite fortunate to have this opportunity since other athletes abroad did not have access to any of this”.
All the early mornings, late nights, sea swims and sacrifices have positioned Sasha so that she has a good shot at making it to the Olympics – the ultimate goal.
“It would definitely be an unforgettable experience, representing my country at the highest level of sports as well as the possibility to meet and compete against other high-level athletes from all over the world,” she said.
“My priority is to make Malta proud and leave the competition with my head held up high, knowing that I have given it my all and my best.”
Malta usually tends to send one male and one female swimmer to the Olympic Games. With Gatt already achieving an Olympic B timing, it would come as no surprise if she was chosen to make the trip east.
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