SPORTS

Greece’s weightlifters back in training with two major objectives

Activity by the national weightlifting team returned full swing yesterday after several star members, including triple Olympic medalists Kakhi Kakiashvili and Pyrros Dimas, resumed full training programs, following extensive breaks over the past year. Just one team member, Valerios Leonidis, presently in the Czech Republic, his wife’s homeland, missed the opening training session. After a two-week preliminary phase, the program is expected to peak with morning and evening sessions on a daily basis. The team’s coach, Christos Iakovou, has set two objectives for the new year, the European Union Championships and World Championships, at both senior and junior levels. «I don’t want to make any predictions because plans are often spoiled by injuries. So the basic thing we need is to be fit,» said Iakovou, who added that these events were being treated as a forerunner to the Athens Olympic Games in 2004. «I’ll be taking part in the European Union Championships to get used to competition,» Kakiashvili said who last competed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, winning a third consecutive Olympic gold. Teammate Dimas was enthusiastic about his return. «My batteries have been recharged. We’ll do well,» he remarked. With two Olympic medals to his credit, Leonidas Sambanis already has his mind set on a third. «The idea of winning a third Olympic medal is the major motive. A difficult course begins now and will wind up in Athens,» he said. The planned closure of the Olympic Stadium and surrounding complexes for refurbishment this spring ahead of the Olympics is a major concern for the national team as, at this stage, its new temporary base remains uncertain. Officials at the General Secretariat for Sport maintain that construction of a new training center in the Aghios Cosmas district, in southern Athens, will be ready to provide shelter for the weightlifting team by spring. As a backup plan, the sport’s local federation, EOAV, has proposed the use of a gymnasium anywhere in the wider Athens region with accommodation facilities nearby.