Greek weightlifters set to clash at Worlds

The national weightlifting team’s coach, Christos Iakovou, said yesterday that triple Olympic gold medalists Kakhi Kakiashvilli and Pyrros Dimas would meet in the same weight category at the upcoming World Championships in Vancouver between November 14 and 23. Until now, the two athletes have avoided head-on encounters by competing in separate categories, which has served the weightlifting team’s overall medal tally well. But Dimas, whose current weight does not permit him to register in his customary 85-kilogram category, is expected to step up to the 94-kilo division, where he will find teammate Kakiashvilli. The team’s coach pointed out that this would be a temporary arrangement ahead of next summer’s Athens Olympics, for which Dimas intends to have trimmed down and regained a place in the 85-kilogram category. Iakovou, however, did not go as far as to say that both athletes would definitely be competing in Vancouver, even though both have already been registered ahead of the November event. «If both are selected for competition, Pyrros will compete in the 94-kilogram category, as he musn’t lose weight now, because the Olympics are the main objective,» Iakovou explained. «At this stage, it would be wrong to put him on a strict diet for a loss of between 6 and 7 kilograms. He’ll do that in the coming months, gradually, so that he can be at 85 kilograms for the Olympics,» he added. For his third Olympic gold medal in Sydney four years ago, Dimas had shed 8 kilos not long before competition time. In recent months, he has claimed that weight loss ahead of next summer’s Athens Olympics would not have an adverse effect on his performance. Both Dimas and Kakiashvilli have won gold medals in their respective categories in three consecutive Olympiads. Kakiashvilli won his first gold medal as a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the brief post-Soviet alliance of former republics, at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, before acquiring Greek citizenship. Besides Dimas and Kakiashvilli, Iakovou said that for the men’s team, he has also registered Leonidas Sabanis (62kg), Giorgos Tzelilis and Valerios Leonidis (69kg), and Victor Mitrou (77kg). Iakovou added that 18-year-old Haris Hadzidis was a possible inclusion. Leonidas Kokkas, Christos Spyrou and Costas Papadopoulos, three of the team’s younger prospects, all missed selection for Vancouver due to injury. The women’s team’s ranks includes defending world champion Anastasia Tsakiri, Christina Ioannidi, and Vicky Kassapi. The later suffered a light injury at the recent European Junior Championships and is undergoing medical tests. Team officials said Kassapi would travel to Vancouver only if fully fit. Commenting on the junior team’s performance at the recent European Junior Championships, which picked up several medals, Iakovou said that his athletes «performed very well.» He described a bronze medal won by Kastritsi as «very important, as she did not train for three months because of a lower back injury.» About Kassapi, who won three bronze medals, Iakovou said that «she could have done better.»