When Nicos Polychronidis told people he was heading to Sochi to compete for Greece as a ski jumper, they laughed in his face.
But now the German-born athlete aims to have the last laugh as Greeces first ever competitor in the sport.
“A lot of people in Greece are now interested in ski jumping,» the 24-year-old told AFP.
“Many of them follow my results and support me here in Sochi as well sending me their messages.”
But there still remain many to be convinced.
“Just last week I told a guy that I’m going to the Olympics to perform for Greece in ski jumping. He couldn’t believe it and just laughed. I told him he could watch it on TV but he still considered me to be a joker.”
Polychronidis was born in Bremen, Germany, to a German mother and Greek father.
He started jumping as a six-year-old and was admitted to the famous ski jumping school at Oberstdorf at the age of 12.
He competed in the FIS Continental Cup under the German flag until 2011, when he decided to switch allegiance to Greece to increase his chances of competing at the Olympics and world championships.
“The people in the Hellenic Olympic Committee were happy to accept me,» he added.
“We quickly settled all the formalities but I had to stay without any official competitions for a year. That was the most terrible and boring year in my life.”
After changing citizenship, Polychronidis continues to practice in Oberstdorf under the same coach.
“I still train in Oberstdorf with my coach who has known me for 15 years. He supported my decision to switch citizenship to go to the Olympics and world championships. It would be much harder task for me beinng in the German squad.”
His performances bear out such scepticism.
In six training jumps at Sochi on Thursday and Friday, his best performance was 52nd while his World Cup season has yielded a high of 38th on the large hill at Sapporo in Japan.
“I’m not in my best form currently and will unlikely contend for a high place, but in the recent competitions Ive been getting better,» he said.
“I know Im capable of qualifying for the main Olympic tournament. It won’t be uneasy.
“But Im happy being here. Every moment at the Games is great fun for me.”