National championships to test Greek athletes and the Olympic complex

Most of the country’s leading track-and-field athletes will compete in the Greek national championships tomorrow through Saturday at the main Olympic stadium. The event, the latest in a series of test events ahead of the Athens Olympics, will be held parallel to test events at the Olympic complex’s velodrome and swimming facility. The three-day national championships will be the first event held at the refurbished Olympic stadium where workmen have reached the final stages of their effort to put its monumental roof into place. Some 8,000 seats of the 80,000-capacity Olympic stadium will be available for spectators, free of charge. Booths where the free tickets can be obtained from will operate at the stadium’s nearby train station. The national team’s coach, Odysseus Papatolis, said yesterday that Costas Kenteris, probably Greece’s best chance for a gold medal in the track-and-field events at the Athens Games, who has not competed since July, 2003, will run in the men’s 100 meters at the national championships, instead of the 200 meters, his strongest discipline. Papatolis said that Kenteris, who won gold in the 200 meters at the Sydney Olympics and repeated the achievement with gold at the ensuing World and European Championships, can be expected to be chosen for the 2004 Games by Greek officials. Kenteris has run sparingly since his post-Olympic triumphs, which has prompted criticism in Greece and elsewhere. He dropped out of last year’s world championships in Paris at the last minute, blaming his absence on a lingering thigh injury. Pericles Iakovakis, a surprise success at last summer’s World Championships with a bronze in the 400-meter hurdles, rejected an offer to compete at a Golden League meeting in Norway this Friday. «I didn’t even think about it,» said Iakovakis. «I want to get the feel of the track, the wind, everything.»