Australian Olympian Georgia Bohl Returns to Competition in Malta One Year After Retiring

More than a year after announcing her retirement from competitive swimming, 26-year-old Australian Olympian Georgia Bohl returned to the pool this week representing host Malta at the 2023 Games of Small States of Europe (GSSE).

The daughter of Michael Bohl, one of the most accomplished Australian coaches ever, Georgia Bohl also has Maltese descent that allowed her to be eligible for the meet. The breaststroke specialist brought home gold medals in the 50 breast (32.04) and 100 breast (1:09.49) while adding a silver in the 200 breast (2:33.81).

In the heats of the 50 (31.80) and 200 breast (2:30.89), she was even faster, crushing Maltese national records in all three breaststroke events. Bohl shaved more than five seconds off the previous 200 breast record (2:36.00) belonging to Amy Micallef from 2019, more than three seconds off the previous 100 breast record (1:12.79) belonging to Micallef from 2017, and more than a second off the previous 50 breast record (33.44) from 2018.

She was about a second off her best time in the 50 (30.58), three seconds off her best time in the 100, and seven seconds off her best time in the 200 (2:23.95). All three of those personal bests are from 2016.

Before this year, Malta hadn’t won a swimming gold medal at the GSSE Games in nearly two decades.

“I am very excited and happy to be going home with two gold medals around my neck,” Bohl told the Times of Malta. “It has been a great week for all of us and I am so proud to be part of it. The Maltese team has taken me with open arms and they made me feel at home. I’ve had an amazing week and I’d love to compete again for Malta in the future.”

In an Instagram post, Bohl wrote that “my Nan was watching from above in her homeland.”

The GSSE Games marked Bohl’s first competition in two years since the 2021 Australian Trials, where she missed out on qualifying for her second Olympic team with a 1:07.13 in the 100 breast before retiring in January of 2022. Notably, that time would have made her Australia’s fastest breaststroker at this year’s Australian National Championships, where Abbey Harkin captured the title in 1:07.77. The Aussies’ top two breaststrokers, Jenna Strauch (knee injury) and Chelsea Hodges (hip surgery), are both out of commission this summer.

Bohl represented Australia at the 2016 Rio Olympics Games, competing in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke. In Rio, Bohl’s highest finish came via a 22nd place finish in the 200  breast, while she finished 24th in the 100 breast. After Rio, Bohl did not represent Australia internationally again until the 2018 Commonwealth Games, where she placed 3rd in the 100 breaststroke, earning a bronze medal in the process. She earned a gold medal at that same competition as a member of the Australian 4×100 medley relay contingent.

In regards to Bohl’s potential Maltese eligibility on the international stage, World Aquatics recently increased the waiting period from one year to three years for anyone seeking to change sporting nationalities. However, there is an exception if an athlete can prove by the end of this calendar year that they initiated the sporting nationality switch prior to the rule revision on Feb. 21.

Funny enough, Bohl wasn’t the only Australian-turned-Maltese swimmer to win a gold medal this week. Kyle Micallef, a Maltese-Australian swimmer who just wrapped up his junior season at Division II Florida Southern College, triumphed in the 50 free with a winning time of 22.68. The time marked a new Maltese national record, taking .14 seconds off Matthew Zammit’s previous mark (22.82) from 2016. Micallef dropped over half a second off his 23.21 from January.

Five other Maltese national records fell at the 2023 GSSE Games. Nathan McCleave became the first Maltese swimmer under 59 seconds in the 100 back, clocking a 58.88 to take down Dylan Cachia’s previous mark (59.60) from last July. Cachia lowered two of his own national records in the 800 free (8:22.73) and 1500 free (16:06.96), dropping nearly 20 seconds in the latter event. Victoria Balderacchi also broke a pair of national records in the 100 back (1:05.83) and 200 back (2:23.14). Mya Azzopardi held the former marks at 1:06.62 and 2:25.16 from 2019.

Malta topped the overall standings across 10 sports with 38 gold medals and 97 total.

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3 months ago

Maltese Swimming Federation doesn’t ratify any of Nathan McCleaves swim. Any ideas, why?

Carmen Wareing
3 months ago

59.60s in 100 backstroke belonged to Thomas Wareing and not to Dylan Cachia. Thomas lowered that to a 59.52 in the GSSE meet in Malta. Thomas Wareing also broke the national record of 200m backstroke clocking 2.07.39 this was previously Dylan Cachia (2.08.35)

Springfield's #1 Athlete
3 months ago

Australian Trials is only on 9Now, as expected.
Olympic Trials should be given the big spotlight next year so keeping it modest is fine now.

3 months ago

Well that certainly wasn’t on my bingo card. But hey, looks like it’s a win-win for her and Malta.

3 months ago

Does Malta have a long course pool? It is beautiful there and I’d take a family training trip there if possible.

Reply to  Jenswimga
3 months ago

They do, at the National Pool Complex at the Tal-Qroqq Sports Complex in Msida.

Carmen Wareing
Reply to  Jenswimga
3 months ago

Yes we have an outdoor and indoor long course pool. We also have an indoor short course pool

Reply to  Carmen Wareing
3 months ago

and a fairly large sea surrounding you 😉

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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