National Lottery plc and the Malta Sports Journalists Association (MSJA) are pleased to announce that Gianluca Barbara won the first IZIBET Elite Athlete Award for 2024, covering the months of January and February.

Gianluca Barbara, 34, forms part of the Maltese club Iron Taekwondo League who participated in the Open de Liege 2024 in Belgium, featuring 700 athletes. In the 80 kg Masters Category, he won the gold medal against Dutch Norman Hornberger and secured his second consecutive international gold medal.

“It is a great pleasure for us to support athletes that are in search of excellence in their sport,” said Franco de Gabriele, Chief Commercial Officer of IZI Group. “The achievements of Gianluca in such a competitive discipline are just the tip of the iceberg. One would need to appreciate and support the arduous process that is involved in making sure that such achievements are attained. We wish Gianluca the best of luck for his future endeavours and hope that he will be an inspiration for other athletes competing at these levels.”

Sandro Micallef, Malta Sports Journalists Association’s President, said, “As Malta Sports Journalists Association, we are glad to have an athlete from an emerging sport discipline winning this award. This award is not only the reward for the continuous improvement of Gianluca Barbara as an individual athlete, but it also reflects the commitment that the Malta Taekwondo Association is giving to this sport in Malta.”

The IZIBET Elite Athlete Award recognises exceptional performances by local athletes and is awarded every two months.

A selection board composed of sports journalists and sports observers is responsible for evaluating the athlete’s achievements during the designated review periods, ensuring a fair and thorough assessment process.

In the meantime, the official website of the Malta Sports Journalists Association provides the rules and regulations governing the award.

Photo caption: (From left) Lorraine Cunningham, General Secretary of the Malta Sports Journalists Association, Gianluca Barbara, James Morgan Brand Manager of IZI Group plc and Stephen Azzopardi Administrator of the Malta Sports Journalists Association.