SPORTS

Cold casts a spell on dancers

Local travelers who are currently stranded as a result of the current wave of bad weather around the country are not alone in their woes. Indoors, but far from cozy, the national rhythmic gymnastics team – whose splendid performances in international competition over recent years have provided Greece with considerable sporting glory, including a bronze medal for the ensemble at the 2000 Sydney Olympics – is finding it difficult to practice because of chilly temperatures that have set in at its Olympic Stadium training facilities in Athens. With temperatures inside the team’s gymnasium falling to 8 degrees Celsius, the team’s coach, Marina Fateeva, said she was deeply concerned about the increased risk of injuries under the unfavorable conditions. Our athletes are not performing leaps because they may get injured. Their fingers are frozen, Fateeva said. Moreover, some members of the team, which is focused on fine-tuning its way toward Olympic glory before a home crowd at the Athens Olympics in 2004, are currently out of action, struck by bouts of the flu. Under these conditions, the routines are not being executed properly. When team members are away, it’s impossible to complete versions of the choreographies with the rest, Fateeva remarked. We’ve had problems with low temperatures before, but this time the situation is frightening. The heaters are switched on at eight in the morning for morning training sessions, but the gym doesn’t warm up, she added. Members of the sport’s federation have informed stadium officials about the problems being encountered, but at best the planned improvement plans will boost temperatures to just 15 degrees Celsius, Fateeva said. I had a cold for a week. When the body is warm and the air around you is freezing, it comes naturally to catch a cold, said one team member, Irini Aindili. The Olympic Stadium will close down for renovation work next spring, and, if promises are kept, the gymnastics team will continue training at Peristeri Stadium in western Athens. Until then, however, it could be a very long winter. Being the mother of two young daughters, Kourkouli feels a natural connection with youngsters. I’ve made sacrifices for my family. But dance is a part of my life, Kourkouli said. If I were to stop, I’d lose my equilibrium.