SPORTS

Improvement on Sydney tally is possible

Basing his judgment on the national track and field team’s performance at last summer’s World Championships in Paris, a squad coach contended that Greek athletes could improve on their impressive showing at the 2000 Sydney Olympics at this summer’s Games in Athens. «Following Sydney, we wanted to improve our standing by 20 to 30 percent. There is potential for the four medals won at the Worlds in Paris to be boosted to seven,» noted coach Odysseas Papatolis, presuming the return of several star members in time for the Athens Olympics this August. Costas Kenteris, an Olympic, World, and European champion in the men’s 200 meters, traveled to Paris to defend his world title, but pulled out just prior to competition, citing an injured inner thigh muscle. Fellow sprinter Katerina Thanou, the current European champion and silver medalist at the Sydney Olympics in the women’s 100 meters, competed carrying a minor injury, and, consequently, ended fifth in the final. It was her first failure to win a medal at a major track and field event since 1997. Javelinist Costas Gatsioudis, twice a medalist – silver and bronze – at world championships, and the long-sidelined triple-jumper Voula Tsiamita, a gold medalist in Sydney, both missed the Paris Worlds due to injury. They expect to be fit for the Athens Olympics. «I’m certain we will achieve a record number of placings. We will succeed, as long as there are no injuries,» said Papatolis. He said that track and field’s next major event, the World Indoor Championships, in Budapest between March 5 and 7, were not being eyed as an objective by Greece’s athletes. «We’re going to field a small team there,» said Papatolis. Among the limited number of participants for the Budapest event, Papatolis named Niki Xanthou, a silver medalist at the Worlds in 1997 and a European indoors champion, and triple jumper Olga Vasdeki, a bronze medalist at the Worlds in 1999. «According to indications by their individual coaches, our athletes will take part in many meetings, but will peak in August,» Papatolis noted. The national volleyball team’s coach, Stelios Prosalikas, said he was eagerly waiting for domestic club-level competition to end before he rounds up the squad for its Olympic preparations. Plans include fitness training in Metsovo, northwestern Greece, as well as friendly matches against Australia and, most likely, Cuba. «The new year’s objectives begin with the first round of qualifiers for Euro 2005,» said Prosalikas, while adding that his team looked forward to playing against the world’s top team, Brazil, in World League play. «Then, we’ll be left with a month to prepare exclusively for the Olympics, and, in September, will travel to Bulgaria for the second round of Euro 2005 qualifiers. It’s a demanding schedule but the prospect of the Olympic Games will provide our players with strength and motivation,» he added. The Greek men’s basketball team coach, Yiannis Ioannidis, said his aim was to help the side regain its place as a national favorite. In its most recent major outing, Greece ended fifth at last summer’s European Championships, a vast improvement on its ninth place at the Europeans in 2001. Two years before that, Greece was among the bottom-placed sides. Yesterday, responding to rumors that he could be listed as a main opposition New Democracy party candidate for upcoming national elections ahead of the Olympics, Ioanndis said: «What I want, and which is very clear, is to take the national team to the Olympics Games of 2004. We’ll discuss the rest when the time comes.» Greek law does not permit serving MPs to practice other income-generating professions.