Deaflympics – George Vella

Following my performances at the 22nd edition of the Deaflympic Games held in Sofia, Bulgaria, I am honoured to have represented Malta in athletics. I was also the delegate for the Deaf Sports Association of Malta during the Annual General Meeting held just few days before the games started.

I participated in both the 400m and 800m. Since I am a triathlete and there was no Triathlon in these games, it was quite hard for me to adjust back to middle distance running with spikes shoes. Since I used to run track races 13 years ago, I had enough experience and benefited from it. Under the guidance of a coach, I qualified successfully for these games according to Deaflympics’ Minimum Qualifying Standards in a local 800m race by mid-April 2013.

Planning for 800m race in Deaflympics involved a lot of tactical training. It consisted a lot of speed strength, speed endurance, speed drills and so on. I arrived one week before Deaflympics’ races began in order to settle into the city of Sofia and at the same time to be able to attend the Annual General Meeting of Deaflympics as a delegate for Malta. Apart from the 800m event, I also applied for the 400m event, which took place just 3 days before my main event of 800m. This was also helpful for me to get accustomed for my 800m race especially with regards to approaching to the race from warming up and preparations on the track area, just before the race.

My 400m race was not as good as I wished although I ran my very best. I ran almost the same time as I did in the local races – 54.49. I was hindered by waiting for about an hour under the scorching sun between warming up and the race because there were delays in the preceding races. This made me plan better in case there also were delays in the 800m event 3 days later.

In my 800m race I was placed in a tough group for the heat which included some good athletes from Kenya, Russia, Germany, Spain and Algeria.  The qualifying process for the semi-finals was as follows: only the 1st three athletes from each heat (4 heats in all), together with best 4 overall times would qualify. I decided to run for myself ensuring I wouldn’t slow down in the qualifying times just in case I did not come in 1st three positions.  The start of the race was signaled by means of flashing lights for Deaf athletes. My 1st 100m was fast, and I was followed by others until I ended up behind the Kenyan, Russian and German. Tactically they slowed down purposely, as I knew they have a fast sprint at the finish.  I decided to move to the front from the 2nd curve so I won`t risk a slow time. Then these three again overtook me increasing the pace gradually and I ended up boxed in lane 1 (see picture below), slowing time too. After 500m I had to follow these three athletes who sped up to the finish. I kept struggling with Spanish and Algerian still behind me to the finish. I finished the race in 2’01.44, and as I came 4th in my group I had to depend on best times from other heats.

George Vella 800m Deaflympics 2013

After 1 hour of waiting anxiously for official results, I was informed that I was just 0.3 sec away from 4th best time of an athlete from another heat.  This time, with disbelief, I felt disappointed but knowing these tactical games and luck are part of Deaflympics’ sports, I had to accept it reluctantly after a few days.

Moreover, due to the fact that I did not have an official, I had to pay for my participation, which was an extra pressure for me. I had to deal with all the difficulties personally as well as taking care of myself but thanks to some of my foreign friends, I coped well during my stay at the Deaflympics.

I missed Triathlon, my favourite sports, at the Deaflympics. Hopefully in 4 years’ time, in the Deaflympics that will be held in Turkey, they will propose to include Triathlon depending on enough number of participants and also countries together with continents. I am working on this proposal together with some Deaf athletes worldwide and also I discussed this matter during the Annual General Meeting.