It’s lonely at the top

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY COSTIS FAFOUTIS

A bright mo­ment is a rare but wel­come oc­cur­rence in a coun­try go­ing through the sev­enth year of a mul­ti­fac­eted cri­sis and whose res­i­dents are sick and tired of the re­peated dead­ends they come up against. Greek pole vaulter Ka­te­rina Ste­fanidi win­ning the gold medal at the IAAF World Cham­pi­onships in Lon­don on Sun­day night was one such mo­ment. The coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship has­tened to con­grat­u­late her, as is cus­tom­ary on such oc­ca­sions, stress­ing it was a “suc­cess of Greek ath­let­ics,” as well as her own per­sonal achieve­ment. How­ever, Ste­fanidi win­ning the gold medal had noth­ing to do with the qual­ity of sports in Greece. Her achieve­ment should, in­stead, have caused peo­ple to think and worry about the way that the state deals with am­bi­tious ath­letes and, by ex­ten­sion, young Greeks that want to achieve things. If this great sportswoman rep­re­sents some­thing, it is cri­sis-era Greece, a coun­try which sees its chil­dren head abroad be­cause they hope to make a bet­ter life for them­selves. Of course this does not ap­ply just to sport, but in other walks of life as well. Ste­fanidi made a con­scious de­ci­sion to go to the US, where she stud­ied and trained, be­cause she knew that there she would find what is not on of­fer here, in her own coun­try. In the US, she found the nec­es­sary con­di­tions to help her ful­fill her am­bi­tions. It was there that she en­coun­tered the sup­port and the en­cour­age­ment she needed to at­tain her goal, which was to fly higher than all her com­peti­tors. She got to where she is with hard work and per­sis­tence amid ex­cel­lent con­di­tions, wor­thy of in­ter­na­tional ath­let­ics. In a cruel twist of fate, an­other pole vaulter who was car­ry­ing Greek hopes for a medal in Lon­don, Konstantinos Filip­pidis, wasn’t able to take part in the World Cham­pi­onships. The rea­son for his ab­sence was that he was in­jured due to a lack of main­te­nance at the fa­cil­i­ties he was us­ing at the Olympic Sta­dium (OAKA) train­ing cen­ter in Athens. As far as the train­ing con­di­tions for Greek ath­letes are con­cerned, it’s worth pay­ing a visit to the so-called fa­cil­i­ties they use, such as those in Aghios Cos­mas in south­ern Athens. What you will see there can only cause de­spair. So let us not con­tinue to cry crocodile tears for the young Greeks who choose to leave the coun­try. If they re­ally want it, and if they put ev­ery­thing into it, they will progress and achieve their goals. Th­ese are ex­actly the things that we do not ask of them here, where the norm is to get com­fort­able and bring stan­dards down.

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