SPORTS

Athletics, basketball top polls

Two track and field athletes – Pericles Iakovakis, the current European champion in the men’s 400-meter hurdles, and Chrysopygi Devetzi, the silver medalist in the women’s triple jump at this year’s Europeans – were voted the country’s best male and female athletes in 2006 by local sports journalists. Results were announced at an awards ceremony in Athens yesterday. Iakovakis and Devetzi were both clear winners in the voting cast by members of the Greek Sports Press Association (PSAT). Amassing 1,850 votes, Iakovakis ended well ahead of his nearest rival, the basketball player Dimitris Diamantidis – a key player for both Greece, this year’s runner-up at the World Cup, and domestic powerhouse Panathinaikos – who attracted 1,036 votes. Devetzi, who drew 2007 votes, finished well ahead of second-placed Fani Halkia, a silver medalist in the women’s 400-meter hurdles at last summer’s Europeans. The men’s runner-up, Diamantidis, however, was not left empty-handed. The men’s national basketball squad, which lost to Spain in the World Cup final last summer after stunning the USA in the semifinals, was named the best Greek team for 2006. The team’s coach Panayiotis Yiannakis was voted the country’s best coach. With the exception of Iakovakis, all the other aforementioned winners won their awards for the second successive year. Yiannakis and the national basketball team had topped last year’s polling for winning the European title in Belgrade. Greek basketball player Thodoris Papaloukas – a key contributor to Greece’s Eurobasket and World Cup triumphs over the past two years, and a reigning club-level European champion with CSKA Moscow – had been heavily tipped for the Best Male Athlete award. But he ended third with 869 votes, 166 votes behind Greece teammate Diamantidis. It can be assumed that many journalists saved their preferences for these two by including them in their votes cast for the national team. Swimmer Haralambos Taiganidis was named the country’s Best Disabled Athlete.