Luiza Gega claims Albania’s first European medal ahead of Olympics debut

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 11, 2016 11:02

Luiza Gega claims Albania’s first European medal ahead of Olympics debut

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  • Gega's medal comes at a time when Albania's top athlete is facing tough training conditions at home after the demolition of the country's national stadium which housed the only tartan track in Tirana, forcing the athlete to train in the capital's national park in an improvised running track for amateurs

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TIRANA, July 11 – Albania’s Luiza Gega has finished second in the women’s 3000m steeplechase as she prepares to make her debut at the Rio 2016 Olympics, winning Albania’s first ever European medal.

The 27-year-old runner who will be Albania’s flag bearer at the Rio Olympics and is the only Albanian athlete to have directly qualified for next August’s Summer Olympics, claimed silver at the European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam on Sunday, setting a national record of 9:28.52 in the women’s 3000m steeplechase.

Gega’s medal comes at a time when Albania’s top athlete is facing tough training conditions at home after the demolition of the country’s national stadium which housed the only tartan track in Tirana, forcing the athlete to train in the capital’s national park in an improvised running track for amateurs.

Albania’s Qemal Stafa national stadium is being demolished to pave the way for the construction of a controversial new stadium and commercial center under a public private partnership but will have no tartan track when it is finished by 2018.

“When I learned from the media that the stadium would be demolished I didn’t believe this could happen before the Olympics. I have trained here for years and don’t know what I will do now. I am the only Albanian athlete who managed to qualify and this is my first Olympics Games appearance. I am looking forward to it but I have to work hard,” Gega has told Italian media.

The construction of a new stadium without a running track will probably force the athlete to move to Elbasan, central Albania, where a tartan track has been built in the newly reconstructed stadium.

“I have lived here in Tirana for seven years, but now without a stadium I have to move to another city. Currently, there are only two stadiums with a running track in Albania,” she told Italy’s Askanews agency.

Runner Luiza Gega is the only athlete to have directly qualified for the Olympic Games after finishing first in the Women’s 1500 meters in the Baku 2015 European Games and is the country’s only hope to bring home a first ever Olympic medal. Gega, 27, will Albania’s flag bearer at the Rio Olympics.

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.

Financial support for sports other than football where Albania achieved a historic milestone with its first-ever participation in the latest European championship in France, is really modest, which has led a considerable number of Albanian athletes to switch to other national sides.

Three former Albanian athletes will represent the United States, Australia and Bulgaria in the Rio 2016 Olympics where Albania will be participating with a reduced number of athletes.

 

 

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 11, 2016 11:02