MOC defends its stance in Games selection process
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MOC defends its stance in Games selection process

Swimmer Chetcuti named as flagbearer

Andrew Chetcuti receives the Maltese flag from MOC president Julian Pace Bonello. Photos: Matthew Mirabelli

Andrew Chetcuti receives the Maltese flag from MOC president Julian Pace Bonello. Photos: Matthew Mirabelli

The Maltese Olympic Committee (MOC) mounted a strong defence of its selection policies for the Olympic Games during a media conference to announce the team for the trip to Rio at the headquarters in Tal-Qroqq, yesterday.

Seven athletes, from four different sport, were lined up to represent the country at the Summer Games to be staged between August 5 and 21 in Brazil.

Double trap shooter William Chetcuti will be making his fourth showing at the Olympics and this time he will be joined by markswoman Eleonor Bezzina.

Andrew Chetcuti and Nicola Muscat will compete in swimming events and Kyle Micallef, a late substitute for the injured Rodmar Pulis, will be in action in weight-lifting.

In track and field, Kevin Moore’s ban, after failing a doping test, forced the MOC to alter its plans.

Yesterday, it was revealed that Luke Bezzina was provisionally included in the team. If his selection is confirmed, Bezzina will be joining fellow sprinter Charlotte Wingfield in the squad.

During the meeting, it also emerged that Andrew Chetcuti will be Malta’s flagbearer at the Rio opening ceremony.

He will succeed William Chetcuti who led our contingent at the athletes’ parade in London 2012.

“The MOC has made everything in its power to present itself with the most competitive team possible for the Games,” MOC president Julian Pace Bonello told reporters.

“The Olympics are the pinnacle of international sport. We want our athletes to be fully motivated and for each and every one of them to be proud and produce their best possible performances.

“It is our hope that they will return home satisfied and with the country’s best ever overall showing in the Games.”

(From left) William Chetcuti, Andrew Chetcuti, Eleonor Bezzina and Nicola Muscat.(From left) William Chetcuti, Andrew Chetcuti, Eleonor Bezzina and Nicola Muscat.

The run-up to the team selection was jolted by the news that Moore won’t be available due to his suspension.

Pace Bonello said the dope test was a shock. Luke Bezzina has now been chosen to replace the Australia-based Moore although a final decision on his inclusion in the team will be taken next week.

“When it was confirmed that Kevin Moore had failed the doping test, the IAAF ordered us to omit him from our list. He now faces a disciplinary hearing in front of his federation,” Pace Bonello said while adding that the MOC had nothing to add at this juncture.

‘Biased’ reports

The MOC chief said the ExCo was disappointed by some reports in the media regarding the MOC’s selection policies, particularly those insisting that clay shooter Nathan Xuereb should also have been in the team.

“We went through the reports but they’re all based on unfounded allegations and far from the real facts. We also think it was unethical that the MOC wasn’t given a chance to give its version of the story before publication,” the MOC chief explained.

“During the qualifying process, we allocated the same amount of funds to William Chetcuti and Nathan Lee Xuereb. At the time we believed that the two of them could obtain a quota for the Games.

“Unfortunately, they both missed out. Then, when applications for an invitation reached us, we had to choose one and this according to IOC rules which stipulate that a country can only receive one invitation per discipline.

“After consultations with the Malta Shooting Sport Federation, the choice fell on Chetcuti. At the time of decision, he was enjoying a higher position in the rankings and he still has.”

The MOC sought other ways to get an entry for Xuereb to the Rio Games as they saw potential in the young shooter who won the world and European junior double trap titles this year.

“In April, we applied for a shooting quota that was not filled by another country but with no success,” Pace Bonello said.

“Then, when Xuereb won the world junior title we informed the IOC Tripartite Commission of his achievement and asked them to consider an extra invitation for him to participate in Rio.

“However, they rejected our application a second time as it was made clear to us that Malta could not avail itself of two ‘wild cards’ in the same sport.”

Pace Bonello said swimmer Andrew Chetcuti was the only athlete in the team to qualify on his own merit after clocking a ‘B’ qualifying time in the 50m free in Luxembourg this year.

Some had also contended that Matthew Zammit should also have been considered for Team Malta selection.

Earlier this month, the Plymouth-based swimmer matched Chetcuti’s best time of 23.04 for the 50m free and then established a new record of 22.82 at the National Championships in Tal-Qroqq.

However, his times, though good enough to make the record books, were not taken into consideration for the Olympics squad purposes as the competition was not a Rio qualifying event sanctioned by FINA, the MOC said.

In Brazil, the Malta contingent will be headed by chef-de-mission David Azzopardi.

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