[WATCH] Hero’s welcome for Maltese Special Olympians

Maltese participants in the 2019 Special Olympics received a jubilant welcome as they returned back home triumphant

Maltese Special Olympians received a hero's welcome as they returned to Malta with 40 gold medals. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Maltese Special Olympians received a hero's welcome as they returned to Malta with 40 gold medals. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Hero’s welcome for Maltese Special Olympians

Maltese participants in the 2019 Special Olympics in the United Arab Emirates received a hero’s welcome on Friday, as they landed back in Malta, having won 40 medals, 12 of which were gold.

Amid jubilant scenes at the airport’s arrivals lounge, the Prime Minister’s wife Michelle Muscat congratulated the 28 Maltese athletes, who managed to win medals for each of the nine sporting disciplines they competed in.

A total of 7,500 athletes from 190 countries competed in the multi-sport event, which lasted from 14 to 21 March, at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City Stadium.

(Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
(Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
(Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
(Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)

The Maltese group of athletes won 12 gold, 13 silver and 15 bronze medals, with Philip Gruppetta having been the most successful amongst them, receiving three gold medals for bowling. Another four athletes also went on to receive the top award for bowling.

The rest of the gold medals won by the Maltese contingent were in the cycling, golf, table tennis, swimming, gymanstics and sprinting events.

(Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
(Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)

Enrique Scerri, winner of six medals for gymnastics, told MaltaToday - as he was greeted back by his proud family at the airport - that he had suffered a wrist injury during training for the event, and described the run-up to his win as having been very difficult.

(Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
(Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)

“Sport is beautiful and needs to be given a large priority in my opinion,” he said.

Another gymnastics medalist, Anne Marie Bugeja explained how she had trained every day after school, and remarked that the competition had not been at all easy, though in the end she was very happy to return home with her medals.

“My advice to people who want to become athletes is to never give up. It was a beautiful experience and the Summer Games were a great opportunity,” Bugeja said.

Positive results a testament to athletes' discipline - Michelle Muscat

In comments to this newspaper, Muscat, who acts as the president of Special Olympics Malta, said she was very happy with the young athletes' performance.

(Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
(Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)

“The results are a testament to their discipline. This was just the culmination of a number of games that the athletes continuously compete in,” she said, adding that despite the limited resources Malta had when facing large countries such as the United States, our tiny island had achieved remarkable results.

(Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
(Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)

“It all starts from the parents. They entrust us with their children even though they might be overprotective, and they understand the discipline that goes behind the sport,” Muscat said.

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