Malta Marathon

1999 Flora Malta Marathon

14th Malta Marathon - February 28, 1999

Percy Dunn triumphs

Overall winner Percy Dunn, from South Africa, was rewarded for his superbly timed race which took a most dramatic turn as the runners were approaching the last feeding station at the 39kms mark.

By the half-way mark, Kenyan David Opiro, the favourite, had established a most comfortable 500-metre lead, but as he sped downhill from Hal Muxi, on the outskirts of Zebbug towards Qormi and Marsa, he must have burnt all his reserves and when he tackled the Marsa-Blata l-Bajda hill, be looked a spent force and was tiring fast.

It was here that Egypt-based Dunn took over from Opiro and never looked back to finish in easy fashion a full one minute 26 seconds from his nearest rival, Stefan Wohllebe of Germany. Six runners pulled away from the 268 strong pack soon after the start from Mdina Gate. Opiro, Wohllebe, Dunn, John Buhagiar (Malta), Rainier Muller (Germany) and Gerhard Neubauer (Germany).

The position was unchanged as the runners completed the Dingli loop except for pacemaker Opiro whose intent was to dictate matters by increasing his rhythm and establishing a 20-metre lead.

At the third feeding station (14 km) the Maltese pair Carmel Vella and Adrian Bonello, together with Hamilton (UK) and Leipner (Germany), were at the head of the second group.

Meantime, leading the ladies were two Germans, Tanya Schaefer and Dagmar Schoeke as well as last year's winner, Daphne Farrugia who were some 12 minutes behind front runner Opiro.

Tackling the huge inverted giant 'S' at the Ta' Qali plain, Opiro opened a 200-metre gap on Wohllebe and Dunn with the tenacious. Buhagiar not far behind.

Everyone thought that Opiro had the race all sewn up as he appeared all alone at the Mdina Road-Zebbug junction on the way to Hal Muxi. These feelings were further strengthened as Opiro relentless punishing pace earned him a half-a-kilometre lead.

But this mistaken foregone conclusion soon made way for a most exciting turn of events. Profiting from Opiro's debility at such a crucial stage, Dunn brushed past his erstwhile runaway for a free run downhill towards Pieta, Msida and Gzira to breast the tape in a time of 2:26.03 to the thunderous cheer of the big crowd present at the Sliema Strand.

Third overall and first Maltese home, Buhagiar, deservedly earned another big applause for his great run against more quoted opponents stopping the clocks at 2:28.10. This was Buhagiar's third participation in the Malta marathon and his times continue to improve which augurs well for the future.

Opiro had to be content with a fourth placing, 47 seconds behind Buhiagiar. Bonello and Vella grabbed the second and third placings for Malta.

The two German women continued with their good work and they were joined by another compatriot Sandra Janisch as our tiny, but tenacious, Farrugia had to briefly stop twice with an upset stomach.

Schaefer had the distinction of finishing first overall in a time of 2:51.43. Her emphatic win can be gauged by the wide gap over Schoeke who was some 19 minutes further behind (3:10.44). Janisch was third (3:12.03).

Another deafening ovation was awarded to the determined Farrugia who ploughed on doggedly against adversity to hoist the Maltese flag high. Though finishing fourth overall in the women's section and the first Maltese, her performance grows in stature as her time of 3:14.29 was some 10 minutes better than last year. No wonder she could hardly contain her joy.

Anna Lungaro was second in (4:08.38) and Lydia Deguara third (4:18.39) for Malta.

Half Marathon

Maroccan Said Bahssi, though leading from the start to finish the 470 field, was given a tough time by Italian Calogero Interrante who was breathing down his back.

So much so, that in the end only two seconds separated Bahssi (1:05.40) and Cologero (1:05.42). Third was Graham Hill (Britain) the son of Ron Hill, the famous ex-international marathon runner.

The evergreen Joe Pace (1:10.51) performed the shorter distance this year and had the satisfaction of finishing fourth overall and first Maltese home. Peter Azzopardi and Chris Attard were second and third Maltese respectively. Odds-on favourite Kevin Zammit had to give up after seven miles due to a calf injury.

I must admit I have run out of superlatives for the green-eyed goddess of the roads, Carol Galea. Her overall eight consecutive win in the half-marathon consolidates in a most awe-inspiring fashion a record which, I dare to predict, will never be broken.

The crowd's undisputed favourite did not fail them producing another performance of the highest order in a time of 1:16.20, which although not improving on her record, was nevertheless impressive.

Carol was followed by Margarete Staggl (Austria). Angela Sammut (1:29.46) and Daniela Casha (1:34.20) chalked up the second and third placings for Malta.

A word of praise must also go to our great-hearted Joseph Cardona and Michael Cutajar, who in their wheelchairs, displayed grit and scope in life. Another well-known face, Albert Dimech, was unlucky this time as one of his wheelchairs's wheels broke down.

Mention must also be made of Charles Darmanin, Konrad Ciappara and Charlie Herd who have, so far, taken part in all the 14 editions of the Malta Marathon.

Both Articles were taken from "The Times" - Monday March 1, 1999