SPORTS

Action and medals on the side

Mainstream sports aside, it was a fruitful year for many Greek athletes in various less popular disciplines. No doubt gymnast Demosthenes Tambakos’s gold medal at the World Championships in Anaheim, California ranks as a major highlight. His achievement provided some compensation for the Greek gymnastics team’s failure to qualify for next summer’s Athens Olympics. Participation was determined at the Worlds. The men’s and women’s national volleyball teams had lackluster years. Both performed poorly at the European Championships. The men’s team ended 11th at the Europeans in Germany, while the women fared slightly better by narrowly missing qualification in the competition’s last stage. The men’s team, however, reached the lucrative World League finals for the first time in its history but did not make an impact at the competition in Madrid. The country’s leading beach volleyball duo, Efi Sfyri and Vasso Karantasiou, maintained their 16th place in the world rankings. The established pair was joined by newcomers Thalia Koutroumanidou and Vicky Arvaniti, ranked just a place below. To little fanfare, the Greek sailing pair of Sofia Bekatorou and Emilia Tsoulfa ruled the waves yet again for their fourth successive world title in the women’s 470 double-handed dinghy event at the World Championships in Cadiz, southern Spain, last September. They also won at the Olympic test event for sailing in Athens. Windsurfer Nikos Kaklamanakis, a gold medalist at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, won a silver at the World Championships to remind critics who had written him off as a likely contender in Athens next summer. Greece, for the first time ever, emerged as an international table tennis force with Kallinikos Kreanka winning a silver medal at the World Cup and bronze at the World Championships. In tae kwon do, Areti Athanassopoulou was crowned world champion in the 59-kilogram category at the worlds in Germany, while Elli Mystakidou and Kyriaki Kouvari each picked up a bronze in the 67 and 72-plus categories, respectively. The women’s national team ended an impressive third, tied with Spain, and the Greek team – men and women combined – ended seventh overall among a field of 108 teams. Greco-Roman wrestler Alexandros Kardanov won a silver medal in the 55-kilogram category at the Europeans and came in sixth at the worlds. Teammate Xenophon Koutsioubas, competing in the 120-kilogram division in both these championships, ended third and fifth, respectively. Tennis player Lena Daniilidou peaked at No. 13 – between May 18 and June 22 – in the women’s rankings, but has now slipped to 26th position. In weightlifting, the women’s team proved a success at the Europeans this year, held locally in Loutraki. Natasha Tsakiri won a gold overall and in the snatch, as well as silver in the clean-and-jerk. Christina Ioannidou won a gold in the clean-and-jerk and ended third overall, while Vassiliki Kasapi and Harikleia Kastritsi ended third in the clean-and-jerk in their respective categories. The men’s cycling team won a bronze in the sprint event at the Europeans.