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Lefteris Stefanoudakis, a giant title in Greek weightlifting within the Seventies who competed on the Munich and Montreal Olympics, would like to have been a part of an Athens Video games however he’s completely happy to have left the every day hardships of high competitors behind him.

The coaching for as much as 12 hours a day introduced its rewards, together with a gold medal within the Mediterranean Championships and several other nationwide data. But it surely additionally got here with the fixed menace of harm, all the time watching your weight-reduction plan and frequent journeys to the sauna earlier than an occasion to make your weight class – that was earlier than you had even stepped on to the rostrum. And that is not all.

“The game has as a lot to do with the ability of the thoughts than the physique,” says Lefteris, a stocky character who appears good for his 54 years and who nonetheless works out “for enjoyable”. “Throughout a raise I used to be concentrating so arduous that you can have hammered a nail into my arm and I’d not have felt a factor.” And judging by the facial expressions in his pale black-and-white competitors images on the partitions of his cramped workplace displaying him in numerous vein-popping poses, I can imagine it.

That psychological stress is certain to be even better for this summer time’s Greek athletes, given the excessive expectations of the house crowd, says Lefteris.

“The Greek’s shall be below nice stress to carry out. Having stated that, everybody appears to be below stress to succeed nowadays due to the reliance on sponsorship. After we went to the Olympics we had an excellent sense of feat as a result of we had paid for every thing ourselves – our equipment and tools and journey bills to occasions.”

And despite the fact that Lefteris returned residence with out a medal, he was completely happy to bask within the easy honour of heading the athletes’ parade through the opening ceremony.

“I could not imagine it when the Greek workforce was requested to steer the athletes across the stadium due to our nation’s Olympic heritage,” stated Lefteris. “It was an emotional second as a result of Greece is such a small nationwide and we had been forward of the likes of America and the Soviet Union. It was one of many proudest moments of my profession.

“It was nice to be amongst so many similar-minded folks from all around the world, particularly for me coming from a small Cretan village. Everybody was smiling and hugging and we even exchanged small items.

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“I keep in mind in Montreal, there have been crowds of supporters outdoors the stadium ready to ask us into their houses to eat,” he says. “Sadly, that form of factor is unlikely occur this time due to the terrorist menace. Safety shall be so tight that I doubt any of the athletes will get an opportunity to see the true Greece.”

In fact, terrorism is just not a modern-day phenomenon and the killing of 11 Israeli athletes in Munich after an Arab group calling itself Black September broke into Olympic Village and the took them hostage shook the world. It additionally left its mark on Lefteris.

“I could not imagine what I used to be seeing after I turned on the tv,” he says. “The day earlier than we had been on a bus with the Israeli weightlifters coming back from coaching. We had been chatting to them about their progress then they obtained off the bus and stated goodbye. We by no means noticed them once more. That was the worst second of my profession and compelled me to place numerous issues into perspective.”

It could have accounted for his disappointing 18th place general. However the tragedy appeared to convey folks nearer collectively, forcing them to overlook their variations slightly than put up limitations. It additionally sparked Lefteris’s shut friendship with a German safety guard, whose father had been among the many occupying pressure in his residence village of Polemarhi, west of Hania.

“Day-after-day we went to the athletes restaurant, the place a safety guard checked our ID playing cards on the door,” says Lefteris. “Someday this guard, seeing that I used to be Greek, requested the place I used to be from. Once I instructed him I used to be from Crete, he was to know the place precisely as a result of his father had served there through the Second World Battle. And after I instructed him, it turned out that his father used to indicate cine movies at my father’s kafenion. It was unbelievable.

“So we hugged and have become good buddies. But it surely nonetheless did not cease him sending me again to my room the subsequent day after I forgot my cross. I revered him for that, particularly after what had occurred with Israelis.”

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A 12 months after disappointing ends in Montreal, Lefteris stop to focus on serving to the subsequent technology of Greek weightlifters. Ever acutely aware of the assist he had been given as a teenager, he wished to repay his sport in variety.

For him it had all began on the age of 13 after a recreation of soccer within the Hania stadium – a few 100-metre sprint from his sports activities store Stefan Athlitika – when he was transfixed by a room filled with muscular weightlifters figuring out in a aspect room.

“I stated to myself, ‘I can do this’ and after speaking my manner inside, proved it by lifting 55kg,” says Lefteris. “They requested me to hitch them in Athens the next week on the junior championships, which I did and I carried off the Greek file.”

From then on he was hooked, even making his personal weights out of cement. However he charges the Olympics is more likely to be an excellent alternative missed to make sure Greece’s future stars by no means have to scrimp on tools like he needed to.

“Sport must be pushed in faculties as a result of the schooling it gives is extra than simply bodily,” add Lefteris. “Nevertheless, I worry that after the Olympics the nation will not have any cash to make the most of any elevated curiosity. It appears the Olympics nowadays is extra about tourism and than about sport.”

So Lefteris has no intention of boosting the Athens vacationer economic system this summer time. He intends to comply with the fortunes of as we speak’s Greek weightlifting heroes Pyrros Dimas and Kakhi Kakiasvilis, who’re each bidding for his or her fourth Olympic gold medals, from the large TV display in his store. Drop in in case you are passing, if solely guarantee your self that even in Hania, the Olympic spirit continues to be very a lot alive.

1896 AND ALL THAT...

Ten belongings you did not find out about Athens’ final Olympics Video games.

1. The First Fashionable Olympiad opened in Athens on April 6, however solely after a wealthy native architect donated a million drachma to revive the 330BC Panathenaic Stadium when the Greek authorities had been unable to finance a brand new one.

2. The 245 rivals, greater than half of them Greek and all male as ladies weren’t allowed to compete, got here from simply 14 nations. The primary Olympic champion for greater than 1,500 years was American James Connolly, who received the triple soar.

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3. Winners had been introduced with a SILVER medal and an olive crown, whereas runners-up acquired bronze medals and a laurel crown. Third-placed rivals acquired nothing.

4. Athletes competed as people slightly than for his or her nation. And a few, like Oxford scholar John Boland, went to Greece as a spectator and return as an Olympic tennis champion – regardless of taking part in in odd leather-soled footwear.

5. German athlete Carl Schumann stored himself busy. His gymnastic endeavours earned him victories within the particular person horse vault in addition to within the horizontal bar and parallel bar workforce occasions. However whereas he missed out on the medals within the lengthy soar, triple soar, shot put and weightlifting, he carried off the highest prize within the Greco-Roman wrestling.

6. Greek shepherd Spyridon Louis received the marathon, beating his 16 co-competitors by greater than seven minutes carrying footwear given to him by his fellow villagers. Other than his medal and olive crown, he additionally received free meals from an Athens eating places and free shaves from a patriotic barber till his loss of life in 1940.

7. Britain’s Launceston Elliott received two medals within the weightlifting, coming first within the one-hand raise with a weight of 71kg and second within the two-hand raise with 111.5kg.

8. Within the rope climbing, Greek Nikos Andriakopoulos took first place after being the one particular person to achieve the highest of the rope, which was not shocking since rivals may use solely their palms and needed to go away their legs prolonged.

9. In 1896 there have been no worries in regards to the Olympic Pool – as a result of there wasn’t one. Swimmers had been dumped within the sea in temperatures of 13 diploma C off the port of Piraeus and needed to make their approach to shore. Hungarian Alfred Hajos, who regardless of profitable the 100m and 1,200m freestyle occasions, stated afterwards that through the races he was extra involved in staying alive {that a} want to win.

10. Eight of the ten rivals in 100km observe biking occasion failed to finish the required 300 laps after complaining of dizziness.


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