Young Greek pole vaulter scaling the heights

Young Greek pole vaulter scaling the heights

Teenaged Greek pole vaulter Emmanuel Karalis is determined to scale new heights despite the negative impact of the country's financial crisis on sport.

Fresh from breaking the world youth record, a mark which had stood for 12 years, this month, the 16-year-old is being hailed as a future star of Greek athletics.

With his leap of 5.53 metres at the national indoor championships in Piraeus, Karalis finished third behind Greek champion Kostas Filippidis, eclipsing the 2004 record of 5.51 set by Argentine German Chiaraviglio.

But rather than bask in the glory of his feat, Karalis, who received his first pair of spikes from Filippidis, is not resting on his laurels.

“For a kid my age what I've achieved is huge, but to be honest I feel like now my career is starting; this is the platform I can use to train harder and improve,” he told Reuters.

Many of Greece's athletes, especially at youth level, are suffering from funding cuts made by the government due to the austerity measures prompted by the financial crisis.

The state's budget for the Greek athletics federation (SEGAS) has been slashed from 8.2 million euros in 2010 to 2.8 million in 2016, and athletes going to this year's Olympics in Rio will rely on the IOC's solidarity fund for support, just as they did in 2012.

“Look there's no hiding how difficult it is,” said Karalis.

“The facilities at OAKA (Olympic Stadium) are not the best and many athletes struggle to get by, but I'm not here to complain,” he said.

“I decided to be philosophical about it. I'll work with whatever I have; if I had to train on the street then I'd do it without complaint.”

Greek decathlete

Karalis, whose father Haris was a former Greek decathlete and mother Sara a former Ugandan long jumper, was seemingly destined for track and field from birth.

“My parents took me to OAKA in the baby stroller while they trained so from the moment I was born athletics has been part of my life,” said Karalis.

”I tried lots of sports when I was a kid, from swimming to basketball and taekwondo, but when I tried the decathlon and the first event I did was the pole vault, I just seemed to have a knack for it and loved it from the first moment – I haven't looked back since.”

Now favourite for the European Junior Outdoor Championships this summer in Tbilisi, Karalis, who cites Ukrainian pole vault great Sergey Bubka as his role model, is also targeting the 2020 Olympics.

“When we were at the world championships in Colombia last summer, he (Bubka) told me what a positive attitude I had and that I'll go very farIt's an amazing feeling to hear that from someone you idolise.

“I think for every athlete it's a dream to go the Olympics and it's definitely one of mine. I don't know if I'll make it for 2020 but the Olympics is in my sights for sure.”


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