MaltaToday | 2 March 2008 | Albert Rizzo, champion water treader and Gzira politician

NEWS | Sunday, 02 March 2008

Albert Rizzo, champion water treader and Gzira politician

Matthew Vella

Gzira’s prolific mayor and world champion water treader Albert Rizzo, passed away on Friday at the age of 60.
The Nationalist candidate was an auctioneer by trade but known for his world water treading record of 72 hours and 3 minutes. A leading auctioneer and antiques dealer by profession, he was in his youth a well-known sportsman in Malta, having been voted Sportsman of the Year in 1980.
Born in 1947 in Gzira, he was the second of five brothers, and would later attend nautical school to follow his dream for a life at sea. In 1962, his family left for Australia, where at 16 he met his wife, Mary Borg. He was about to be called up for service in the Vietnam War at 19, but an exemption clause ensured that he could skip service if he got married within a certain time. A year later, Elisabeth was born. He returned to Malta in 1969. Three more children were born in Malta for Rizzo. He turned to his father Effie’s antiques business, establishing himself by 1972.
Promoter Billy Apap urged him to attempt to break his grandfather Turu Rizzo’s water-treading record of 68 hours. He broke the record on 25 September 1980 by staying in the open sea for 72 hours, becoming the only Maltese to have his name listed in the Guinness Book of Records. He bettered his record in 1983 with 108 hours, and again in 1984 with 132 hours. In 1983 he registered another world feat staying 36 hours in the open sea with hands and feet bound together.
He was awarded the Midalja ghall-Qadi tar-Repubblika in 2001.
Despite his declared activism for the PN, Rizzo was never asked to contest the local council elections and instead made a name for himself as an independent councillor who was elected Gzira mayor in 1994. He later was asked to contest for the PN during the 2003 councils.
Rizzo’s name was inexorably tied to that of personal friend Louis Bartolo, the PN activist who shot dead the notorious Labour thug John Bondin ‘il-Fusellu’ for taunting Bartolo’s wife. Rizzo said of Bartolo, a family friend, that he had never wanted to kill anyone but had been intimidated by Bondin. “He had no choice and I am certain that even God knows. But life must go on.”
Rizzo’s life was dedicated to the wellbeing of the Gzira community and was also very much involved in philanthropic and voluntary work.

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