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19950623_Dedication and hard toil are the keys to success

    Alex Vella  talks to judoka Jackie Xuereb after she had won Malta's only gold medal in the sixth Games of the Small States of Europe. She speaks about her experiences in this sport, her satisfactions  and plans for the future.
    Slimly-built and soft-spoken, Jackie Xuereb, 21, is a girl of excellent sociable disposition.  Like most other youths, she likes to keep herself fully occupied during the day. Work, attending to her normal family chores and getting involved in leisure activities are all part of her daily routine. 
    Seeking forms of entertainment, which are very normal to young people, is not alien to her. Although she gives the impression that she is more of an introvert, Jackie is very much involved in meeting people and sharing her experiences with them. 
    Judo is, of course, the main element which provides her with the energy-sparking fuel so vital for self-fulfilment. Jackie's best companion is this combative sport which has given her so much satisfaction in life. 
    She took it up when she was 12 and this through her father's acquaintance with Alex Bezzina, himself a thoroughbred in judo. Three of her other sisters - Jackie is the third of five daughters - were lured into this sport, but this venture did not turn out to be a highly-successful one for them.
    Not for Jackie though, who, since then never flirted with this healthy martial art. Her character, which according to her has certain aggressive traits, dovetailed perfectly with spirit and nature of this combative sport.
    This 'marriage' at such a tender age was a perfect one and the offspring so far - two gold medals in the Small Nations Games and lots of personal satisfaction - was more than she could have ever imagined.
    Speaking about her experiences in Luxembourg when, in the space of two minutes 55 seconds (the aggregated time for her three fights) she expended all her physical and mental energies to land Malta's only gold medal of the Games, Jackie said that the psychological build-up as advocated by the Russian coach was excellent. 
    "The whole atmosphere after my success was tremendous. The athletics contingent, gave us full backing. This was very important for us since on tends to feel lonely once out on the combat carpet."
    It was here that she remarked on the quality in her character which gives her that extra push in judo. "You don't have to possess any special quality in your mental set-up. For me that bit of aggression I have in my character gives me the necessary boost when I prepare to take on an opponent.
    "I was confident of doing well and this was the result of the mental concentration I managed to whip up thanks to our coach. He kept us mentally prepared to the highest levels and this was maintained till the very last seconds before we stepped on the mat." 
    Referring to her two medals,  one in Malta in 1993 and the other in Luxembourg this year, Jackie said that the second success in Luxembourg gave her more satisfaction. "The last medal meant more to me because there was more mental pressure after having won the gold in the previous edition of the Games."
    "Some may say that performing in front of your home crowd might put more pressure on the athlete, but for me, competing in Malta does not put any weight on my mind, even if I like support and I know that my compatriots expect a lot more from me.
    Speaking about her first experience when winning the gold medal in Malta, Jackie said that success then came as a complete surprise. "I knew it was going to be another useful experience, especially after that gained in the 1992 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff. The gold medal in the Malta Games was a totally unexpected bonus.    
    "When you are successful in international competition, the feeling is great. Dedication and hard toil are very important. Judo has now become part of my life and I will now try to keep up this success by preparing hard for the Games in Iceland in two years time.
    "After months of preparation for Luxembourg a programme will soon be devised by the Judo Federation with Iceland as the target. We want to keep Malta's flag flying high in this sport. 
    The six medals we won ( a gold, two silvers and three bronzes) will hopefully attract more young people to this sport. 
    "But it is important that we have the place where we can practise judo. I wish there would be more interest in this discipline. It gives competitors a sense of sublime felling and even if it is an individual sport, judo provides us with a sense of comradeship, especially when the game is over and teammates surround you to congratulate or encourage you."
    When she was finally asked what first thoughts came to her mind when she won the gold medal in Luxembourg, Jackie said that her feelings were all for Malta. 
    "All my efforts and my success were dedicated to my home country. I also thought I had done my part to honour the sport and at the same time my feelings were directed to my family," a very relaxed Jackie concluded.
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