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19980802_Precious experience for young Alexia Mallia

    The European Olympic Committee organised four Youth Olympics, better known as the European Youth Olympic days, in Europe.
    The first edition was held in Belgium, the second in Holland, who were the originators of the idea. Then England hosted the Games in Bath and last year Portugal organised the event in Lisbon. Next year the Games will be held in Denmark.
    Judo has always been included in these Games. As from next year Judo will become one of the permanent sports in these Games, as the organisers were very satisfied with the level of participants, the organisation and  the homogeneous participation of boys and girls. Out of 50 European countries last year 47 participated in Judo making it the second highest participation, although last year's entries were restricted to ten entries from a possible 14.
    World Youth Games
    It was therefore natural for Judo to be included in the First World Youth Games. The Judo event was organised between July 13 and 17, at Druzhba Sports Hall of the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, under the direction of the Russian Judo Federation.
    A total of 70 nations participated, under the newly approved International Judo Federation Rules. These events were open to boys and girls born in 1981, 1982 and 1983. 455 competitors, 281 boys and 174 girls participated together with 35 international referees who controlled the competitions. The official contest time for both boys and girls was four minutes real time and the competition formula was the KO-system with double repechage.
    Alexia Mallia 16, winner of the bronze medal in the last Games of the Small States of Europe held last year in Iceland was Malta's ambassador at these Games. Fifth place in Lisbon also last year, missing our first bronze medal against her French opponent, after eliminating by uppon her opposition from Bosnia Herzegovina. Before going to Moscow, she went through an intensive training programme. Thanks to the assistance of the Malta Olympic Committee., CONI and the Italian Judo Federation, she attended International events and trained at the International Centre in Ostia. This was even more difficult as like most girls of her age, she was also studying for her MatSec examinations.
    Alexia left for Moscow accompanied by the Russian Coach Sergei Teiluk on Aeroflot who offered 50% discount to all competitors and officials flying in to these Games. Michael Attard & Co representatives of Peugeot in Malta, and great supporters of Judo, helped with the rest of the expenses. The Russian Organisers provided full board lodging.
    On arrival the athletes and officials were ushered into a large hall where 30 networked computers registered them and issued them with the necessary passes. The process was very efficient. Security was high considering that more than 7,000 athletes and officials had to be handled.
    German opponent
    Alexia who was one of 30 participants taking part in the under 57kg category, was drawn against the German girl Von Harnie who was to win her pool. This very strongly built girl specialises in the "Kensetsu Waza" (straight-arm lock) and in face Alexia fell to her attack and had to submit to (full point). This was not only Ippon Alexia's only fate since all the other girls meeting the Harnie fell to her technique.
    Losing against the winner, in judo, means that you will fight against those who lost against her for third place (repechage). Although, Alexia was now in pain as the referee failed to stop the Harnie in time, Alexia still entered against the Croatian Girl Miskovic to succumb to the same technique. This ended Alexia's experience in the First World Youth Games and she had the opportunity to enjoy the next day of Judo competition before she returned to Malta. 
    The general comments on the Games were very good. The 4,000 seater hall was generally full and enthusiasm was great. Attending the Games was IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch together with IJF president Y.S. Park of Korea, IJF vice-president and president of the EJU Frans Hoogendijk of the Netherlands, and IJF refereeing director Jim Kojima of Canada.
    In his opening speech Mr Park emphasised that the young judokas are the future of Judo and that everybody including the IJF should give more attention to our young judokas.
    The main concern in such games is the control of the date of births. While most European countries make sure that the dates submitted are correct, ambition might prompt them to allow competitors older than the official age of the competition.
    Another dangerous possibility is allowing very young children to compete in the lower weight categories. The EJU already made it clear that they will not allow competitors younger than 15 years of age.
    This experiment seemed to be very successful and the Russian organisers have offered to host the Games again in Moscow in four years' time if  nobody is prepared to host them.
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