Malta’s Ryan Gambin (photo) yesterday became the first Maltese swimmer to qualify for the Olympic Games.
Taking part in the 100m butterfly in the European Championships in Eindhoven, in the Netherlands, he finished 30th from a field of 56 swimmers, clocking 54.33 seconds for the event in his heat.
It was a personal triumph for Gambin who broke his own previous national record of 55.74 seconds set a few weeks ago at the Tal-Qroqq pool. Not only, but it also meant that he obtained qualification for the Beijing Olympics next summer. The qualifying time set by the organisers was 54.71 seconds.
In this race, Ryan swam faster than swimmers from Denmark, Latvia, Hungary, Israel, Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Switzerland.
On Thursday, Gambin had also taken part in the 50m backstroke event where he finished 25th out of 35 swimmers, clocking 26.78 seconds, another national record. He therefore broke his own record, again set a few weeks ago at Tal-Qroqq pool, which was on 28.37 seconds.
This was a magnificent week for Gambin in Eindhoven as on Tuesday he had also set a new national record for the 50m butterfly when he clocked 24.81 seconds, that is .25 of a second better than his own previous record of 25.06.
This morning, he will also be trying to qualify for the 50m freestyle event. He has got to do better than the 23.13 seconds set by the organisers to qualify for this event in Beijing.
Speaking to The Malta Independent on Sunday, MOC representative Marie Therese Zammit, was jumping with joy at the results achieved by Gambin, especially that obtained yesterday which earned him his qualification.
She said: “Obviously I am very happy as is the swimmer himself. He was also crying with joy at having become the first Maltese swimmer to qualify for the Olympic Games. I am confident he can even do a lot better as he was very nervous, especially yesterday.
“Anyhow, I can only say that I am surprised how patriotic Gambin is. He even has a tattoo on his body with a Maltese Cross and the words ‘Repubblika ta’ Malta’ (Republic of Malta) imprinted on it. He is very fond of his nanna who lives in Malta.”
Ms Zammit added that Ryan is staying in Malta not only till the Olympic Games, but till next year as he is now definitely on board Malta’s contingent for the Games for European Small States to be held in Cyprus in 2009.
The MOC also announced yesterday that the International Olympic Committee has confirmed the invitations for double trap shooter William Chetcuti and judoka Marcon Bezzina as competitors for the Beijing Games.
The MOC still has to choose other athletes to form part of the small Maltese contingent at the Beijing Games, among them two shooters and two more swimmers.