Maltese deaf athlete’s national record went unrecognised for 16 years

Deaflympian’s record in Sofia 800m indoor race in 2004 recognised by national athletics association

Deaflympian athlete George Vella
Deaflympian athlete George Vella

Deaflympian athlete George Vella has been recognised for establishing a Maltese national record in the 800m indoor race for deaf athletes, 16 years after the record went unnoticed.

The Malta Paralympic Committee (MPC) vice-president was finally recognised by the Malta Amateur Athletics Association (MAAA) as having established an indoor national record for the 800m race in 2004, a record which remained unbroken for sixteen years.

A younger George Vella, one of the most prominent 800m athletes in those times, had ventured to Sofia, Bulgaria to compete in the European Deaf Indoors Championships in 2004.

“Back then not many Maltese athletes heard of indoor athletic events, let alone competed. Any athlete will tell you that running indoors is a totally different experience to that of outdoors,” MAAA president Andry Grech said.

Vella put on an excellent performance on his first journey out and ran a time national record best of 2 minutes and 4.87 seconds. This record stood for close to 16 years, after Benjamin Micallef broke it earlier this year.

Since then Vella has gone on to represent Malta in several other deaf events. Now also vice-president of the Maltese paralympic committee, Vella is carrying out administrative duties in the hope that future para-athletes never have to face the hardship of waiting 16 years for their results to be recognised.

“Unfortunately, George had to wait 16 years for his result to be recognized, but this situation is a thing of the past. We are very lucky to have an individual like George to guide us wherever and whenever local athletes and para athletes need help,” Grech said.

Prof. Joseph Grima, President of MPC, said that the Maltese paralympic community was truly honoured to have a top athlete such as George Vella as one of its top-ranking officials. “George has shown, time and time again, his exceptional abilities as an outstanding athlete and as a true gentleman. MPC also acknowledges the manner how, in recent weeks, MAAA, together with MPC, is developing Para Athletics. Both national entities will endeavour to continue working together to support Malta’s para athletes in their quest to train and compete at the highest levels.”

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