Albania claims first Mediterranean Games medal at Tarragona 2018

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 29, 2018 14:06

Albania claims first Mediterranean Games medal at Tarragona 2018

Story Highlights

  • The 29-year-old Albanian middle distance runner completed the women's race in 9:27.73, finishing seven seconds faster than her Tunisian silver medalist rival to claim her second personal Mediterranean Games medal

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TIRANA, June 29 – Luiza Gega has claimed Albania’s first medal at the 2018 Mediterranean Games that are taking place in Spain’s Tarragona, winning gold for Albania at the women’s 3000m steeplechase.

The 29-year-old Albanian middle distance runner completed the women’s race in 9:27.73, finishing seven seconds faster than her Tunisian silver medalist rival to claim her second personal Mediterranean Games medal.  Albania’s most successful athlete of the past five years had earlier claimed silver at the 2013 Mediterranean Games in Turkey’s Mersin competing in her women’s 1,500m specialty.

She will also be targeting another medal on Saturday, June 30 at the women’s 1,500m final.

The International Association of Athletics Federations, described Gega’s win as unrivalled.

“Albania’s Luiza Gega was a commanding winner in the women’s 3000m steeplechase. The 29-year-old took charge of the race from the early stages with a 3:03.32 opening kilometre, with none of her rivals daring to join her at such a frantic pace. Not even Tunisia’s 2012 Olympic champion Habiba Ghribi, who travelled 30 metres behind the Albanian by then,” wrote the athletics governing body.

Gega, who was the sole Albanian athlete to directly qualify for the 2016 Olympics, was unlucky in the women’s 3,000m steeplechase in Brazil’s Rio due to a last minute injury.

She had previously finished second in the women’s 3000m steeplechase at the European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam ahead of the Rio Olympics and claimed gold in the Women’s 1500 meters in the Baku 2015 European Games.

Meanwhile, Albania’s flag bearer Izmir Smajlaj finished fourth in the men’s long jump at the second qualification round of Tarragona 2018 to easily qualify for the June 30 final where he will have to do much better for a medal.

A 25-year-old jumper who in March 2017 was crowned European long jump champion at the Belgrade Indoor Championships, Smajlaj is Albania’s last hope for another medal at a time when Albanian authorities have handed the country’s elite weightlifters a 2-year ban from international competition over a doping scandal.

The country’s National Olympic Committee said it made the drastic decision last May, fearing any new doping case could lead to the suspension of Albania’s weightlifting by the world weightlifting body and in a bid to teach a lesson to weightlifters over doping consequences.

Athletics is emerging as a new success in Albania where weightlifting and wrestling have been the traditional best performing Olympic disciplines, but poor financial support to athletes and improper training infrastructure remain a huge barrier.

Albania is participating with 60 athletes competing in 13 individual sports disciplines and in volleyball at the Tarragona 2018 including archery where three athletes made the country’s debut.

Albania have claimed 43 medals in their eight Mediterranean Games appearances since the late 1980s, most of which in weightlifting.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times June 29, 2018 14:06