Success on the world stage

Reflecting the country’s improving international stature in various sports, Greek athletes currently competing at concurrent world championship events in weightlifting, gymnastics, and tae kwon do have captured 10 medals in all three sports over recent days. The latest good news came in from Antalya, Turkey, last night with three medals, including Greece’s first gold at the 14th World Weightlifting Championships, courtesy of 22-year-old weightlifter Natasha Tsakiri, who raked in three medals. Competing in the women’s 63-kilogram category, the young athlete lived up to her promise to win gold with a 125-kilogram lift in the clean-and-jerk, silver in the snatch (102.5 kg), and another silver for overall performance (227.5 kg). A day earlier, teammate Giorgos Tzelilis also conjured up a three-medal tally – two silver and one bronze – in rebounding from a poor showing at the less prestigious Mediterranean Games held recently in Tunis. Tzelilis, whose career had been written off by certain critics as a result of his failure in Tunisia and nagging injury woes, had the last laugh by winning a silver medal in the clean-and-jerk with a 185-kilogram performance, bronze in the snatch (150 kg), and silver overall (335 kg). He competed in the men’s 69-kilogram category. With several stars sidelined by injury, including triple Olympic gold medalists Pyros Dimas and Kahki Kakhiasvili, the national weightlifting team’s coach, Christos Iakovou, is using these World Championships as a testing ground for younger, up-and-coming athletes with the Athens 2004 Olympics in mind. Thrilled by his comeback, Tzelilis, fourth at the Atlanta Olympics, credited both Iakovou and Yiannis Sgouros, president of the sport’s national federation, for his resilience and thanked them for their support over what he described as a difficult past couple of months. The euphoria is also running high amid the ranks of the national gymnastics team following a gold-medal performance in the single bar last weekend by newcomer Vlassis Maras at the World Championships in Ghent, Belgium. Demos Tambakos, a silver medalist on the rings at last year’s Sydney Olympics, ended fourth in the same event. Another promising youngster, Vassilis Tsolakidis, ended seventh in the parallel bars. Tae kwon do, a relatively unknown sport in Greece, which produced an Olympic gold medalist in Michalis Mouroutsos in Sydney, has produced three more medals, all bronze, at the current World Championships in South Korea. Elli Mystakidou, a gold medalist at the Europeans in 2000, ended third in the women’s 72-kilogram category yesterday. Her feat had been preceded by teammates Magda Seirekidou and Thanassis Balilis.

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