SPORTS

Top weightlifters will focus on preparing for Olympics

The national weightlifting team, the source of much of Greece’s international sporting success in recent years, will not be setting big competition objectives for the new year, but instead intends to focus on the Athens 2004 Olympics, Yiannis Sgouros, president of the national weightlifting federation (EOAV) remarked yesterday. «Whatever is related to the big objective of 2004,» was how Sgouros, also the general secretary of the International Weightlifting Federation, described the national team’s plans for 2003 at a news conference. The national team’s coach, Christos Iakovou, who also attended, stressed his squad’s need to move into the new Olympic weightlifting facility in Nikaia, close to Piraeus, which is currently under construction. «We’re hoping to be there in May. The adjustment period is extremely significant,» Iakovou noted. «For the Olympics in Atlanta, we had begun preparations [on location] in 1994. At the time, some had considered this excessive, but the results spoke for themselves,» he added. The national weightlifting team’s five medals (two gold and three silver) at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, brought Greece under the sport’s international spotlight. Iakovou called for authorities to help his national team move into the Nikaia facility as swiftly as possible. «Besides being completed, the stadium must also be operational,» he stressed. The Olympic test event in the new venue, the Tofalos-Kakousis Grand Prix, originally scheduled for December 12 next year, would instead be held either two days earlier or later, Iakovou said. Efforts were being made by Greece’s weightlifting federation, Iakovou said, to increase the awareness of athletes and coaches of regulations regarding performance-enhancing substances. «We don’t only want powerful games, but clean ones as well,» Iakovou said. Competition for squad members in 2003, Iakovou said, would be restricted to athletes considered entirely fit. EOAV officials also presented a new CD-ROM on Greek weightlifting. It contains abundant information, statistics, and excerpts of videos showing career highlights of Greek athletes. Some 5,000 copies will be distributed, free, to schools, journalists, and various other agencies. A second edition will be released next March.