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Zurrieq Half 2003 Report

Carol Galea - Zurrieg 2004

Carol Galea – Zurrieg 2004

Carol Galea defies fitness problems to set new course record by Paul Grech

Another half marathon, another Carol Galea win and another record. Arguably Malta’s finest ever long distance runner, Galea seems to get better every time she takes to the road and she confirmed this with another record breaking performance at the Zurrieq International Half Marathon.

Her finishing time of 1:21.11 shaved one second off her previous best at this event which, almost inevitably, was also the existing race record.

Yet, at the start of the day the possibility of Galea establishing a new mark looked highly unlikely as she herself admitted.

“My objective was to break the record and I did it, even if only just. This morning I was very sick and before the start of the race I was already dehydrated.

“In fact, I thought that I wouldn’t find the strength to do it. Still, I kept going and managed to set a new record. It was only by one second, but I made it. Hopefully next year I’ll improve it even further!”

This was her second half marathon success in the space of three weeks, having won the Palermo Half Marathon late in October.

“The Palermo half marathon was much tighter and in fact the second female runner came in a minute behind me whereas today, the gap was of four minutes. Abroad there is always much more pressure, but it is also more gratifying to win there.”

Added to the gold medal that she won at the Small Nations Games, the latest string of fine results should make Galea an early candidate for the Sportswoman of the Year.

Giselle Camilleri (1:25.19) and Carmen Hili (1:29.50) came in second and third respectively.

Earlier, Belgian athlete Christian Nemeth – one of a host of foreign participants who justified the international billing of the Zurrieq Half Marathon – had shattered the existing record in the men’s category when he finished the race in 1:10.21 well under two minutes of the previous best.

Nemeth, who represented Belgium at last month’s IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, enjoyed the challenge.

“It isn’t any easy route as there are a number of climbs but they weren’t as difficult as I expected. Still, you can never take it easy here because of the sun and it is never really flat.”

Asked about breaking the record, Nemeth said that he was satisfied but surprisingly admitted that he was looking for an even better time. “I improved the record by around two minutes which is good. This week I was feeling quite sick. Two weeks ago I raced an event in Marseille which is comparable to a half marathon and did a time of 1:03.56.”

“Given that I finished in 1:10, it means that today wasn’t a fast race. But still, I’m happy to have beaten the record.”

John Buhagiar, the first Maltese athlete to cross the finishing line, agreed that there was never any doubt as to who would emerge as the overall winner. “Nemeth is on a different level from us and at the moment we can’t compete with him. He took the lead early on but it was a very good race.”

Regardless, Buhagiar – whose finishing time of 1:13.02 was just 24 seconds over the old record – had every reason to be
Christian Nemeth
Christian Nemeth wins Zurrieq 21k 2003
Click for large image

pleased with his result.

“I’m very satisfied to be the first Maltese but also with the time. I felt that I got the time that I aimed for. The weather was very hot and the race was extremely hard. There wasn’t any moment where you felt you could ease off.”

He also took time to praise third-placed Jonathan Balzan. “It was a positive race for us Maltese. Together with Balzan we did a very good race and it was only in the last five kilometres that I opened a gap.”

Indeed, with a time of 1:13.18, the ever-improving Balzan was only 16 seconds behind Buhagiar.

“I was looking to trim one minute from last year’s result when I clocked 1:14.41 so I didbetter than expected. I also move up one place after finishing fourth last time round. So I’m very pleased.”

While thanking the large number of volunteers who had pitched in to ensure the success of the event, race director John Bezzina expressed his satisfaction with the turn-out which totalled 132, including a sizeable group of Italian runners.

“We had the best Maltese athletes, the weather was excellent and organisation-wise everything went perfectly,” Bezzina said.

Nevertheless, he could not hide his disappointment at the way foreign athletes – especially those coming from particular countries – are sometimes treated by the authorities.

“We always find the same problems with athletes from certain countries. This year we had lined up a team of eight Nigerian athletes who have extraordinary times. We had been in contact with them for two years but they were refused visa to enter Malta,” Bezzina remarked.

“On the other hand, we had a very good turn out from Italy, some athletes from England and even an American. Still, I think that there is room for improvement and we are working hard in that direction.”

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