Greece to send biggest ever squad to Olympics abroad, Thanou too

Greece will send 156 athletes to the Beijing Olympics, its largest delegation since the Athens 2004 Games, including controversial sprinter Katerina Thanou, the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) said yesterday. In total, 84 men and 72 women will represent Greece in 23 disciplines, the HOC said. One of Greece’s best sprinters and a silver medalist in the women’s 100 meters at the Sydney Olympics, Thanou caused a major doping furor at the Athens Games when she missed a test along with training partner Costas Kenteris. They were both provisionally banned by athletics governing body IAAF, sat out competition for over two years and eventually admitted missing a total of three doping tests prior to the Athens Olympics. Whether she actually competes is up to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which is set to discuss the matter this coming weekend. Thanou, 33, returned to competition in February 2007 but her results have been a far cry from her past performances. She narrowly qualified for Beijing after finishing fifth in the 100 m in 11.39 seconds at a recent sports meeting on Crete, under the 11.42-second threshold demanded for the 2008 Games. Thanou has threatened to take legal action should the IOC attempt to prevent her from competing in Beijing. The Greek athletics squad for Beijing also includes Athens 2004 women’s triple jump silver medalist Piyi Devetzi, 2006 European men’s 400 m hurdles champion Periklis Iakovakis and Athanassia Tsoumeleka, the defending Olympic champion in the women’s 20 km walk. In the women’s 400 m hurdles, the relevant committee of the Greek athletics federation (SEGAS) proposed the inclusion of Fani Halkia, gold medalist in Athens four years ago, ahead of Christina Hantzi, who had registered a better time this year. Judoka Ilias Iliadis, a gold medalist in the 81 kg category in Athens, will carry the Greek flag at the Olympics opening ceremony. Greece had fielded 436 athletes during the Athens Games. (AFP, Kathimerini)