Greece looking strong ahead of 2020 Olympics

Greece looking strong ahead of 2020 Olympics

AGONAsport looks at Greece’s medal hopes for the 2020 Olympics, and how they have performed so far.

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Greece won six medals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, including three golds. This was Greece’s best Olympics since the 2004 Games in Athens. Greek sports fans will have reasons to hope for an even better showing at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Shooter Anna Korakaki made history in Rio by becoming the first Greek woman to win two medals at the same Olympics, and the first Greek man or woman to do so since 1912. At just 20 years old, she won Greece’s first medal in Rio by winning bronze in the 10 m air pistol event. She would then go on to win Greece’s first gold medal since 2004, winning the 25 m pistol event just a few days later. Since then, she has continued to do well. For example, she recently won gold at the 2018 World Championships in the 10 m air pistol. She is currently ranked number one in the world in the 10 m air pistol, and number four in the world in the 25 m pistol. Since shooting is a sport that often sees surprise results, it is hard to predict how Anna will do in Tokyo. That being said, she consistently does well in almost all events that she competes in, so it is not unforeseeable that Anna can add to her medal collection in Tokyo.

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Gymnast Eleftherios Petrounias won gold in Rio in the men’s rings event. He has absolutely dominated his event, winning gold at every World and European Championship from 2015 on. As long as he can keep up this level, he will be the overwhelming favorite to defend his Olympic title in Tokyo.

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Pole vaulter Ekaterini Stefanidi won gold in Rio, and like Korakaki and Petrounias, has also consistently done well in major competitions. Before Rio, Stefanidi already had won several medals in major competitions. Since Rio, she has continued her winning ways. In 2017, she won gold at both the European Indoor Championships and the World Championships. In 2018, she won bronze at the World Indoor Championships (despite carrying an injury), and gold at the European Championships. Should she keep this level up, she will be a lock to win a medal in Tokyo, and probably the favorite to win gold.

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Sailors Panagiotis Mantis and Pavlos Kagialis won bronze in Rio in the men’s 470 event. The duo had a great 2017 season, finishing as the number two team in the world rankings. 2018 was not a great year for them, as their ranking plummeted down to 15. If they can regain their past form, they will definitely contend for a medal in Tokyo. However, Mantis will be 38 and Kagialis will be 36, so it may be difficult for them to keep up with younger athletes at that point.

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Rowers Sofia Asoumanaki and Aikaterini Nikolaidou came up just short of a medal in Rio, finishing fourth in the women’s double sculls, where they were the youngest team in the event. The pair split up afterwards, as Asoumanaki relocated to the United States to pursue her studies. However, they recently reunited to compete at the 2018 World Championships, their first competition as a team since the Rio Olympics. They finished 11th out of 18 teams, a far cry from 2015 when they won silver. As long as they continue rowing together, their results will improve again. Asoumanaki is still just 21, so the best may still be yet to come for her. At this stage in her comeback, it is tough to predict how they will do in 2019, let alone 2020. Just the fact that they are back together again is a huge plus for Greek sports.

Triple jumper Paraskevi Papachristou finished eighth in Rio, and will hope to improve on that result in Tokyo. Since Rio, she has maintained a high level. She won bronze at the 2017 European Indoor Championships, and gold at the 2018 European Championships. She also placed sixth at the 2018 World Indoor Championships. She has already established herself as one of the top contenders in Tokyo, and another good year in 2019 could give her the confidence she needs to win her first Olympic medal in 2020.

Sailor Byron Kokkalanis will hope that it is third time lucky for him, as he did not win any medals in his previous two Olympic appearances. The windsurfer finished sixth in London 2012 and fifth in Rio 2016. After a poor 2017 season, Kokkalanis bounced back in 2018 as he improved his ranking from 39 to 9.

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Pole vaulter Nikoleta Kyriakopoulou was unlucky to miss the 2016 Olympics due to injury. She had been amongst the favorites to win a medal, after taking bronze in the 2015 World Championships. She later got pregnant and became a mother, before making a comeback in 2018. Although her comeback got off to a slow start, she eventually improved and won silver at the European Championships, behind her teammate from Greece, Katerina Stefanidi. Given the fact that she will turn 34 in 2020, Tokyo may be her last chance to win an Olympic medal.

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With karate being added to the Olympics for the first time, Greek fans can also have high expectations for Eleni Chatziliadou. The 25-year-old who competes in the +68 kg event has already won three World Championship medals in her career, including a gold at the 2018 World Championships. She is currently ranked number two in the world.

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Cyclist Christos Volikakis is currently ranked second in the world in the men’s omnium. He has already been to the Olympics three times (2008, 2012, 2016), however all three times he competed in the keirin instead of the omnium. His best result was a ninth place finish in 2012, so perhaps competing in a new event is the change he needed.

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Sailor Vasileia Karachaliou did great in 2017, finishing the year ranked third in the laser radial event. Her ranking has now fallen down to 17, but at just 22 years of age, the 2017 European champion is one of the bright stars of Greek sports and will be expected to do well in Tokyo.

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Tennis’ Stefanos Tsitsipas has already made Greek history several times, despite being just 20 years old. He was ranked 324 at the start of the 2016 Olympics, and was nowhere near qualifying for the event. Now, he is ranked 15 in the world and only continues to rise. If he continues to improve, a medal in Tokyo is definitely a possibility.

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Long jumper Miltiadis Tentoglou competed in his first Olympics in 2016 at just 18. In 2018, he became the European champion. If he can perform similarly in Tokyo, he will have a great chance to win his first Olympic medal.

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Greece’s men’s basketball team has greatly underachieved on the big stage in recent years, narrowly missing out on Olympic qualification in both 2012 and 2016. With the rise of Giannis Antetokounmpo and with other players gaining more experience, Greece should finally end their Olympic qualifying drought. If they can do so, they will undoubtedly be medal contenders in Tokyo.

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Greece’s men’s water polo team has the unique distinction of being the only Greek team to qualify for every Olympics since 1980. Since they have many strong young players, many of whom were on Olympiacos’ 2017-2018 Champions League winning team, it’s hard to see them not qualify for Tokyo. Greece finished a disappointing sixth place in Rio, but have since finished fourth at the 2017 World Championships, after finishing third back in 2015. Their players are constantly improving, and it is almost impossible to see them not reaching at least the quarterfinals in Tokyo. Whether they go further than that may be hard to predict, but this team has shown that they belong at the top, and they are due for a big breakthrough after many tough losses in the later stages of major tournaments.

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Greece’s women’s water polo team won the 2011 World Championships, but have since been shockingly unable to qualify for the Olympics despite winning silver back in 2004. Most of the players from that 2011 team have since retired, but the new generation of players is arguably even better. With the women’s water polo event finally being expanded from eight teams to 10 in 2020, they have a great chance to end their Olympic non-qualification streak. They finished second overall at the 2018 European Championships, which was their best result since also finishing second back in 2012. These youngsters have dominated the major competitions at the junior and youth levels, and now it’s their time to shine at the senior level. With the way they have been playing, a medal in Tokyo is definitely a possibility.

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Greek sports fans had high hopes for pole vaulter Kostas Filippidis at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. He finished sixth in 2012 and seventh in 2016. In total, he has finished in the top 7 at 16 different major competitions at the senior level throughout his career. The two results which stand out the most are his two medals, gold at the 2014 World Indoor Championships and silver at the 2017 European Indoor Championships. In 2018, he finished seventh at the World Indoor Championships and sixth at the European Championships. Could 2020 be his year?

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Sprinter Maria Belibasaki represented Greece in London 2012 (100 m and 200 m) and Rio 2016 (200 m). In 2018, she decided to switch to the 400 m event, where she achieved great success. She reached the final at the World Indoor Championships, only to be disqualified for lane infringement. At the European Championships later in the year, she won silver. Perhaps switching to the 400 m is exactly what she needed in order to reach her full potential.

Swimmer Kristian Gkolomeev also represented Greece in London 2012 and Rio 2016. His best Olympic result to date was a 10th place finish in Rio with the men’s 4 x 100 m freestyle relay team. However, his best chance to win a medal would be in the men’s 50 m freestyle, where he finished 13th in Rio. Bulgarian-born Gkolomeev captured a silver medal in the event at the 2018 European Championships, with a national record of 21.44 seconds. That time would’ve been good enough for bronze at the 2016 Olympics, and silver at the 2012 Olympics. Gkolomeev also finished seventh in the event at the 2017 World Championships.

Wrestler Maria Prevolaraki won bronze in the 53 kg category at the 2017 World Championships. She was also a bronze medalist at the 2017 and 2018 European Championships. She finished 15th in London 2012 and 10th in Rio 2016, both times competing in the 55 kg category. With the 53 kg category now being added to Tokyo 2020, she has an outside chance of winning her maiden Olympic medal.

Karateka Giorgos Tzanos has won six medals in his career in European Championships, including two golds. However, he has failed to win a medal at the World Championships. It would be unfair to expect an Olympic medal from him in Tokyo, but given his past success at the European level, it would be safe to say that he has an outside chance of sneaking a medal.

Swimmer Kalliopi Araouzou finished 11th in the women’s 10 km open water event in Rio. At the World Championships, her best results were finishing fourth in 2013 and eighth in 2015. She also won a silver in the 5 km (not an Olympic event) in 2015. She is another Greek athlete with an outside chance of winning a medal in Tokyo.

High jumper Kostas Baniotis is another athlete with an outside chance of getting a medal in Tokyo. He has never won a medal in a major competition, but has been close several times and is surely due for a medal. He finished fourth at the 2011 European Indoor Championships and at the 2012 World Indoor Championships. He came fifth at the 2016 World Indoor Championships, and sixth at the 2009 European Indoor Championships and at the 2016 European Championships.

Sailors Maria Bozi and Rafailina Klonaridou will be representing Greece in the women’s 470 event in Tokyo, having already qualified. The duo won the 2017 Junior European Championship, and have since been able to translate this success to the senior level. They finished in the top 10 at the World Championships in both 2017 and 2018. Currently ranked 12th in the world, they will not be amongst the favorites to win a medal in Tokyo at the moment, but they might be if they can continue improving in 2019.

Javelin thrower Ioannis Kyriazis could also sneak a medal if in form. He finished sixth at the 2017 World Championships. The 22-year-old missed most of the 2018 season due to injury, but is expected to come back better than ever in 2019.

Sailor Ioannis Mitakis is another Greek athlete with an outside chance of winning a medal. Competing in the men’s finn class, he finished 14th in London 2012 and 11th in Rio 2016. After a poor 2017 season, he rebounded in 2018 by improving his world ranking from 26 to 4. He is currently ranked 11 in the world.

So far only five Greek athletes have qualified for the 2020 Olympics. They are Korakaki in shooting, and Karachaliou, Kokkalanis, and the duo of Bozi/Klonaridou in sailing. With much time still to go, and many qualification events yet to start, this number will certainly multiply.

 

by Andrew Stamas

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