Greek medal hopefuls will face European competition today

Two of the national weightlifting team’s prime medal contenders at the current European Championships in Greece – Anastassia Tsakiri, a world title and world record holder in the 63-kilogram division, and teammate Haricleia Kastritsi, a silver medalist at last November’s World Championships in Warsaw – go into action today. Tsakiri, who won a gold in the clean-and-jerk at the Warsaw event with a world record lift of 136 kilograms in the 63-kilogram division, as well as a silver in the snatch and overall, will test her strength against fellow Europeans at 5.30 p.m., in the 63-kilogram category. Earlier today, at 3 p.m., Kastritsi, who returned from Warsaw with a silver in the snatch and bronze overall, will compete in the 58-kilogram division. Tsakiri, who has been recovering from a knee injury since the World Championships, noted yesterday that her physical condition was below that period’s standard. «Despite having had an arthroscopy conducted on my right knee, and not being up to last year’s condition, I am looking at this competition positively,» Tsakiri said. Her teammate, also back from injury, said she felt anxious but keen for success. «I am anxious, but it’s positive. I want to win medals at home, despite having missed several months of training because of a lower-back injury,» said Kastritsi, who holds the European senior and junior records in the snatch. The competition, which began on Monday and ends on Sunday in Loutraki, west of Athens, has already produced record-breaking lifts from one athlete, Turkey’s Nurcan Taylan. Competing in the 53-kilogram division, she broke European records in both the snatch and clean-and-jerk, at senior and junior level, with 95 and 115 kilos, respectively, as well as a junior world record for her total (210 kg). Returning to the Greek team, Leonidas Sambanis, an Olympic silver medalist in Atlanta and Sydney, has decided to skip competition as a result of a nagging lower-back injury, which he has not properly rested. The athlete, who was hoping to compete, will instead take a two-month rest. Though Sambanis’s back condition has proven persistent, team physicians believe that an absolute break from lifting – including any form of training – should steer him back toward competition. «I love the sport and really wanted to take part in these Europeans. But, finally, I did not manage. I’ll stay on the outside for a while before I continue,» Sambanis remarked, while noting that the Athens Olympics were his primary objective. «Sambanis’s absence is a loss because he would have won a medal,» contended the Greek team’s coach, Christos Iakovou.