Albania to send reduced team of athletes to Rio 2016 Olympics

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times February 19, 2016 09:38

Story Highlights

  • With preparations already underway, Luiza Gega is the only athlete to have qualified for the Olympic Games after finishing first in the Women's 1500 meters in the Baku 2015 European Games

Related Articles

luiza gegaTIRANA, Feb. 18 – Albania is expected to send a limited number of athletes to the Rio 2016 Olympics after a doping scandal in late 2014 that saw three weightlifters banned.

With preparations already underway, Luiza Gega is the only athlete to have qualified for the Olympic Games after finishing first in the Women’s 1500 meters in the Baku 2015 European Games.

“For the first time Albania received a medal in an Olympic event such as the European Games. The gold medal won by Luiza Gega makes us optimistic about Rio 2016,” says Viron Bezhani, the president of the Albanian Olympic Committee.

An internationally successful athlete, runner Luiza Gega won a 1500m silver medal at the 2013 Mediterranean Games and a 1500m bronze medal at the 2013 Universiade.

Officials of the National Olympic Committee say Albania could send only six athletes to the Rio 2016, almost half of its number in the previous London and Beijing Olympics. Four athletes, two runners and swimmers, will get invitations while the other athletes will have to qualify for the Olympic event.

“We are hopeful about weightlifting as the European Championship is ahead and Albanian weightlifters have to finish in the top three to qualify for the Olympics,” Stavri Bello, the secretary general of the Albanian Olympic Committee has said.

Previous medal winners Erkand Qerimaj and Briken Calja are the favorite weightlifters to represent Albania.

In late 2014, Albania’s weightlifting was hit by a doping scandal which saw three weightlifters, two of whom medal winners at the world weightlifting championship in Kazakhstan, suspended for testing positive for banned substances.

Weightlifting has traditionally been Albania’s best performing sport in international competitions.

The London 2012 was Albania’s sixth participation in the Olympic Games since its debut in 1972. Albania sent a team of four shooters and a weightlifter to the Munich 1972 Olympic Games but the team did not reappear at the Olympic Games until 1992 when the communist regime collapsed.

In 1972, Albania’s Ymer Pampuri broke the Olympic record for the press at featherweight and finished ninth overall. More recently, Ilirjan Suli finished fifth in the men’s middleweight category at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and Romela Begaj was sixth in the women’s lightweight at Beijing 2008. In Beijing, Albania’s team of 11 was the largest in their history.

More than 10,000 athletes from 206 countries will be participating in the 2016 Summer Olympics that will be held in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro from August 5 to 21. Kosovo is also making its debut participation after becoming a member of International Olympic Committee in late 2014.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times February 19, 2016 09:38