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Gibraltar hosted sixteen Small States Championships teams

Gibraltar Athletics was put through the test on Saturday as they hosted the Small States Athletics Championships at Lathbury Sports Complex for the first time.
With sixteen visiting teams from across Europe, a full day of track and field events was to see the GAAA pulling on all its resources to ensure the smooth running of the event.
From live stream to a worldwide audience, to the use of electronic timings, management of a vast group of young volunteers for tasks such as kit basket carriers, to medal ceremonies, escorting athletes and preparing for each event, it was the green and blue shirts of the GAAA which were to be the main focal point for local athletics.
The one-day international event, which was to start with the 8am Rock Race, was successfully completed, with few hiccups and many a lesson learnt locally on the key points in running an international event of this magnitude.
It was however, to be a disappointment in parts for local athletics with low attendance for races during the course of the day and a reduced participation of local runners. Many of the latter not having met the qualification timings required, or in some cases not having had the numbers to participate.
The Small States of Europe Championship was to see some exhilarating races, with teams from Albania, Armenia, Georgia, Iceland, Andorra, Cyprus, Kosovo, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Montenegro, San Marino, Moldova, Malta, Monaco, North Macedonia and Vatican City all competing on the day alongside Gibraltar.
Gibraltar was to take the first medals of the day, albeit these being non-competitive medals, with a strong team showing in the 8am Mountain Rock Race.
The race, an invitational race saw just a handful of visiting athletes taking part with the bulk of runners coming from Gibraltar.
Kelvin Gomez was to be first across the finish line, followed by Andrew Gordon and Arnold Rogers. Gibraltar also taking the next two spots as they dominated the steep hill climb.
In the women’s category Kim Baglietto, who had the previous evening finished second in a 7km race in Algeciras, was to go one better finishing first in in the early morning race, less than twelve hours since she had last run.
Gibraltar was also to take third place with Kayrn Barnett.
Although the event was not to count as part of the points tables these were to be the first medals Gibraltar had won in the Small States Championships bringing some cheers to what was to be a day in which Gibraltar athletics finished looking at its future with greater realism.
The first official races of the day, the 100m women’s heats was to be the first indicators of how Gibraltar athletics has fallen behind in recent years with a huge gap in the development of youth runners after the ages of 14.
A lack of Gibraltar participants was further highlighted by the finishing times of competitors in which the top Small States Championship 100m winners had a comparable time to Gibraltar men’s best runners.
Whilst those watching enjoyed what were highly competitive races, the talk among local athletes was one of concerns for the future. A youthful participation from the visiting teams contrasted, as many local athletics observers pointed out with the 30 year old plus average age Gibraltar’s athletics was now seeing, which mainly focused around road racing.
Top local athletes who at one stage in recent years would have been in line to compete against the visiting athletes such as Jerai Torres and Sean Collado, among others now stood on the sidelines, no longer competing. The gap in the number of young runners entering the senior ranks against those who were now entering their latter stages of being able to compete widening as the impact of a lack of opportunities, inadequate running track until the recent opening of the Lathbury Sports Complex and reduced level of development opportunities in the past alongside a change in behaviours across sports which has also impacted other organisations such as swimming has started to take its toll.
Whilst a new era has now been entered with the Lathbury Sports Complex providing a new breathe of fresh air to the sport, the immediate impact on local youth development in athletics is seen by many as one of the most crucial areas of concern. Many on Saturday expressing their concerns that unless something is done immediately to address the situation Gibraltar athletics would be looking at many years before it recovers.
Saturday was, nevertheless, to provide its silver lining. Gibraltar for the first time since the official opening of the Lathbury Sports Complex, and after many years of waiting, hosting a major international event. The facilities receiving the thumbs up from many of those participating and signalling hope towards future events.
With European Athletics supporting the GAAA, the sport hopes set a new route into the future, with the hope it can overcome some of the impact of past years which has seen the sport reduced in numbers within a crucial age-level, and which it hopes to regain.

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