Written by Alex Hickey
Should it be seen as totally obvious that Malta holds such little representation in the Winter Olympics because of its lack of access to snow?
Hi, I am Alex Hickey and I’m reporting from one of the furthest corners of the globe as far as Malta is concerned and faced with questions which perhaps we don’t consider as Maltese people and especially as Maltese sportspeople.
Being the son of an Olympic Athlete who represented our country myself; sports has always been an integral part of my life, despite not being particularly sporty. However having sports in your life is an important standard to have as it develops a good ethical core, teaches you determination and to keep aiming higher and working together to achieve common goals and in Malta this stands as particularly true.
People are hardly surprised when that time comes every four years and Malta fails to win any medals, but that does not bring our local spirit down, we still root with fervor for our local boys and girls down on the track and field, in the swimming pools and various sports pitches. But on the other hand we forget about the events which come every other couple of years during the Winter Olympics. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people are even unaware entirely in Malta that these events actually occur, why would anyone care, the majority of Maltese people have never even seen snow and surely not on our islands. But I can give you one reason why we should care about the Winter Olympics, and that is Elise Pellegrin, a French born with Maltese ancestry who practices and participates in the Giant Slalom (Or Alpine Skiing) event. She first competed in the Sochi Olympics in Russia in 2014. But more about her later.
I had the opportunity to cover the Opening Ceremony of the games this past weekend in the center of Seoul up close and personal. In the middle of Gwanghwamun square the atmosphere was upbeat and slowly building, you could feel the excitement in the air and among the small pockets of people around the square.
We ran about interviewing people on their views and feelings about the games and a particular topic which was brought up was the question of North Korea jumping into the games at the last minute. Though a contentious subject and one that we knew not everyone was willing to participate in or answer honestly but it was interesting to see, that even people who wouldn’t have ordinarily thought about the subject or would have genuinely been worried about the threat that the North held over this region, people were optimistic about the subject. They all subscribed, as we all should to the ideal that the Olympics are not a mechanism for politically fueled ambitions or media attention, in the eyes of the people, peace is in fact the ultimate message of these games. Prosperity and uniting of people to a single cause, solidarity in our nation to be proud and put aside our petty internal squabbling and put aside our difference however big or small with our neighboring nations and enjoy the products of dedication, determination and effort on the part of the ordinary people among us who strive for greatness every day, as was reflected in the mayor of Seoul’s speech and the organizer of the Olympic Games here before the arrival of the torch.
So how does this all come back home to us in Malta and why is this a crisis? Well, we come back to Elise, the lone wolf of Malta, holding the responsibility of our nation on her shoulders. Being the child of a French family, she could have just opted to compete against and for the French, but she bares the red and white of our nation and without her we wouldn’t have a team at all. Which is concerning to me because I have recently learned of the majesty that is snow and I don’t think many Maltese take advantage of the good time that can be had in the snow. Just like the tortoise and the hare, demonstrated ever so aptly by someone who took his two pets for an Olympic walk (somewhat hap hazardous in my opinion but never mind) as seen above, and if we remember that story it teaches us that slow and steady wins the race but I think we can also take that no matter the odds, we should participate, try and ultimately enjoy, not just for ourselves but for our nations.
And in the end this brings me to a more sentimental note as a sendoff, in 1984 my mom represented Malta in one of the most highly anticipated Olympic Games in recent history, the Los Angeles Games. And there’s no doubt in my mind that she was skeptical of her odds of coming away with the gold, but that didn’t matter, with the cold war at large and the super powers constantly aiming to one up each other I feel skeptical that most countries felt particularly confident of their chances to win. But who cares? We’re here for the game not for the gold. And when it comes down to it, my mom didn’t win gold during those games, but that is how she met my father and when you have odds like that, who’s really taking notes of medals won anyway? So yeah, things do happen when you’re not paying attention.
Everyone’s a winner, if you have the right mind frame and I’m more than sure that there are a bunch of Maltese people out there who would love to try their hand at snowboarding or skiing or even Giant Slalom, so my hat’s off to you Elise Pellegrin, I hope our sisters and brothers back home walk (or ski) in your direction and take up doing if not more winter sports, more sports in general.