Medalist cites inspiration from past

Striving to rebuild the national weightlifting team into a global force following major international success for over a decade beginning in the mid-90s, Greece coach Christos Iakovou will be counting on 21-year-old athlete Nikos Kourtidis, who acknowledged being inspired by past greats following a bronze medal win at the World Championships in Chiang Mai, Thailand on Tuesday. «It’s a great joy because with these types of successes we’re trying to be resemble the old team – winning medals like they used to, even if they’re not gold,» said Kourtidis, referring to the country’s recent golden era in the sport that was fronted by the retired triple-gold Olympic medalists Pyrros Dimas and Kakhi Kakhiashvili. Kourtidis, who shone at last year’s European Junior Weightlifting Championships, winning three gold medals in the 105-kilogram category, won bronze at these Worlds in the men’s 105-kilo category with a 226-kilo lift in the clean-and-jerk section. It was Greece’s first medal in major international competition since Dimas’s bronze at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and, moreover, the young athlete’s first senior-level medal in major competition. Kourtidis also set a new national record, eclipsing a 220-kilo performance set by Costas Garipis late in 2001, as well as a new Greek record in the aggregate category. He totaled 403 kilos for fifth place. Kourtidis’s 177-kilo lift in the snatch gave him seventh place in the category. Weighing in at slightly over 100 kilos, Kourtidis was the lightest entrant of his category. Both the gold medal winner, Bulgaria’s Alan Tsagaev and the runner-up, Belarus’s Andrei Aramnau, who lifted 231 and 228 kilos respectively, registered at about 104 kilos each. Kourtidis’s fifth place in the aggregate category provided the national men’s team with 21 points in qualifying competition for next year’s Beijing Olympics. «I really wanted the gold medal and believed I could win it with my 226-kilo lift. Christos Iakovou had told me that I stood a 90 percent chance for a medal with a performance of that kind. We took a conservative approach. My coach told me to ‘start off with a legitimate lift and then you can do as you please.’ The most important thing of all is Greece’s ranking. We couldn’t risk elimination. I felt really good. It had been a while since I last made three legitimate lifts in the clean and jerk,» Kourtidis said. He acknowledged that the presence of his older brother at the Worlds offered invaluable psychological support. Competing yesterday, teammate Dimitris Papageridis captured fifth place overall in the super-heavyweight division. The former World and European junior champion set personal bests and national records in both the snatch and clean and jerk with lifts of 195 and 231 kilos respectively.

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