Greek children flock to rowing

Greek rowing sends a message of optimism for the future of sports in Greece: While the economic crisis affects the lives of families, and the children’s occupation with any sport is considered by many parents a luxury, rowing registered a decade-high figure of new athlete registrations, as the federation received in the course of last year the applications of as many as 514 new athletes from 31 clubs.

The international success and the ethos of top Greek rowers, along with the relatively affordable registration and monthly fees are the main reasons why parents encourage their children to get into rowing.

The monthly fee in most clubs is under 30 euros, while there are also offers for the registration of two children from the same family; and if some parents cannot afford even that amount, several clubs accept children without paying at all!

“The successes of Greek rowing have made the sport familiar to many more people. Children need role models, after all,” champion Giorgos Tsilis, who was fourth in the London Olympics last summer, told Kathimerini.

“What is more, rowing is not an expensive sport. At the Nautical Club of Ioannina, where I belong, there is no monthly fee. Boat, training, are all for free. The only thing a young rower will buy is the appropriate clothing,” Tsilis adds.

Out of the 514 new registrations last year there was only one in the veterans’ category. The previous record had been in 2006 with 584 registrations, but that had included 75 from the veterans’ category. In 2005 the number of new registrations had come to 525 including 56 veterans. This dropped to 361 registrations in 2008 before climbing to 400 in 2010 and to 443 in 2011.

“I have asked the representatives of rowing clubs for their views on the increase in registrations and they told me that other sports have upped their fees,” said the head of the rowing federation, Yiannis Karras.

“We are trying to retain the sport in its amateur form. Our responsibilities are greater now. There is a potential for growth and despite the difficulties we will fight for it. We have an obligation to deliver the best we can to these children.

“Our clubs do not just offer sports training, but also education. We have to breathe into the young rowers the sporting ideals and real values. Our aim is not to produce champions, but good people for our society. Now if some of these children go on to become champions too, then the benefit will be twice as big,” Karras told Kathimerini.

In the last few years Greek rowers have become regular medal bearers. In Olympic Games as well as European and world championships the country’s athletes are among the best: “It is normal that rowing should be on a rising course. Parents want their children to get into a sport that has not had any negative publicity. All these years there has been nothing mentioned either for use of banned substances or about any mismanagement,” said federation coach Sakis Athanasiadis.

”Our athletes have a certain level, they know how to speak, they are active in the society and do not spend themselves in seeking to be champions. All this contributes in the good image of the sport,” Athanasiadis told Kathimerini.

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