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[Athletics] Sprints Change Does Portelli Good

Unknown Tuesday, June 30, 2009 , ,
When looking for reasons as to why the number of people that are attracted to athletics is so limited, football invariably always gets the bulk of the blame.

Such is its popularity and the riches on offer that it is very difficult to resist its lure. So, it is that most individuals go for football irrespective of whether it is the best suited for their abilities.

Occasionally, however, that trend is reversed. As a boy, Nicolai Portelli tried his hand at any sport that came his way before ultimately narrowing down his choice to football and athletics. When pressed to decide between the two, he opted for running.

"I miss football and the camaraderie that comes from being in a team," he admits.

"Yet, the beauty of athletics is that whatever you do, you're doing it for yourself. The more effort you put in the more likely you are to reach your targets. If things go wrong you've got no one to blame but yourself."

And Portelli has certainly achieved quite a lot of late. Fresh from collecting three medals at the Games for the Small States of Europe, he was one of the few bright spots of a track and field team that didn't perform up to expectations.

"What I was really looking for was my time," he says, repeating what is a mantra among athletes.

"I wanted good runs and good times. Of course, the fact that I won the medals was an added bonus, the cherry on the cake if you want."

What makes Portelli's achievements all the more remarkable is the knowledge that he switched events during the season. Predominantly a 400m runner, he suddenly decided to shift his attention to the lower sprints.

"Towards the end of last season we started working on different things and that led to the choice to focus on shorter distances," he said.

"On my part, I always considered the 400m as a sprint, so for me it was simply a case of doing what I did before but on a shorter distance. I have to say that my coach Vladimir Douchenkov planned the whole process brilliantly."

Whatever he did worked and helped to re-establish the credentials of this unassuming athlete who had come for something of a battering last year. Chosen to take part in the Olympics, what should have been the culmination of a dream ended up leaving him with a bad taste.

"The experience of the Olympics itself was great," he says.

"I think I learned a lot simply from being there. What I didn't like was the comments that were made afterwards. People who should know better came up with statements that I didn't think were fair.

"When I went out to compete, I knew that the athletes next to me were of world class stature. Even so, I was not overawed. If you don't have such attitude I don't think that you can achieve anything."

Next up for Portelli is the European Cup where he has been chosen in the team hailing from the GSSE group except Cyprus.

"It is an important event. For me it is an exciting competition even if it is difficult to keep your peak. We have been trying to tailor my training in such a way so that I can keep the good condition that I'm in," Portelli said.

This article originally appeared on the Times of Malta of the 16th of June 2009. Photo is by Darrin Zammit Lupi
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Copyright 2010 Paul Grech: Writer