St Moritz – Greek skier Vassilis Dimitriadis surprised himself, national team officials, and the international skiing community by capturing 39th place in the giant slalom at the world championships yesterday. The performance exceeded the expectations of a national team without a winter sports tradition and still hovering at amateur level. The 24-year-old Dimitriadis went to the event ranked 74th. «Not even I expected it,» uttered a beaming Dimitriadis afterward. «I now believe that with systematic work, greater help from officials, and participation in European Cup events, I can get a place among the world’s top 30. I think the time has come to view skiing as a professional sport in Greece,» the skier said. Besides Dimitriadis, younger teammate Pavlos Tripodakis, just 18, ended in 53rd place, which is considerably higher than his ranking in 97th place. Tripodakis went into the event having just overcome an injury. A third Greek entry, Costas Starkas, strayed off course in the first leg and was disqualified. A considerable number of the giant slalom event’s 127 racers hailed from lands where snow is virtually, if not totally, unknown. Senegalese pair Leyti Seck and Lamine Gueye are just one example. The more aspiring exotic entrants ventured out to the Swiss slopes, hoping to nudge their way up the rankings. Others went along fueled by the personal challenge of simply completing the course, as was the case with Kuwait’s Bashar al-Huneidi. Despite registering a time that was about half a minute slower than those of the leading pack to get a low place, the 41-year-old Kuwaiti did wear a smile as he crossed the finish. Two Americans dominated the event with places among the top three. Bode Miller won gold and and Erik Schlopy took bronze. Austria’s Hans Knauss came in second. Miller, the first American to win the giant slalom world title in 21 years, also became his country’s first skier to win two gold medals and a total of three medals in a world championship. Prior to the giant slalom event, the Greek team’s Bosnian-Serb coach Alexander Miskovic underlined the huge gap separating Greece’s amateur skiers and the sport’s professionals. In comments to Kathimerini, Miskovic said his objective, at this stage, was to establish Greece as a Balkan force in winter sport. Dimitriadis’s 39th place surpassed the expectations of Miskovic, who was hoping for a place about halfway up the event’s 127-athlete starting list.