SPORTS

Modest hopes for swim team

Greece has sent its largest squad ever to the FINA World Championships, but only time will tell the quality of the outcome. Swimmers, divers and other water sports athletes are in Barcelona for the world championships which began yesterday and end later this month, on July 27. With the Athens Olympics now just over a year away, the event will offer evidence of the shape of the national team. The event will also provide teams and individuals with an opportunity to improve on performances at the previous World Championships in Fukuoka two years ago. The men’s national water polo team had captured its highest position ever, sixth. The women’s team ended seventh. One swimmer, Spyros Yianniotis, qualified for a final, in the 400-meter freestyle, and ended seventh. In synchronized swimming, Christina Thalassinidou and the Greek team both ended ninth in the respective solo and team competitions. In the synchronized pairs, the duet of Thalassinidou and Ftouli ended 10th. Expectations are now higher, particularly in the swimming events, which begin next Sunday, as well as in the diving and synchronized swimming events. Fine details will determine the water polo teams’ fates. Both the men’s and women’s water polo teams have changed coaches since Fukuoka. The men will be led by Italian Sandro Cabania and the women by Koulis Iosifidis, the former men’s team coach. Cabania, who debuted with Greece at the recent European Championships, noted negative elements such as inconsistency and emotional immaturity at the Europeans. His players performed splendidly in some games and atrociously in others. After failing to make the tournament’s semifinals, Greece surrendered the ensuing games for lower places, as if it were acutely disappointed. Cabania will be seeking to rectify his side’s inconsistency and lack of fighting spirit. Iosifidis, coach of the women’s water polo team, has not set high expectations for his team. His players, he said, were already focused on the Athens Olympics. «We need greater commitment, work, passion and discipline. Should we do well, the result will be gladly welcomed, but the Olympic Games are our main objective,» said Iosifidis. The diving team’s coach, Petros Fyrigos, said he believes three of his athletes can qualify for event finals. He is also hopeful of finals appearances by Greek athletes in the synchronized diving events. His pre-competition remarks were reserved, but he complained about poor training facilities «It’s an embarrassment not be able to prepare properly 13 months ahead of the Olympics,» Fyrigos, whose team lacks its own pool, said. The national synchronized swimming team’s Russian coach Olga Vasilchenko said she was hoping for an improvement on ninth place in Japan two years ago.