SOCHI, Russia – Greece may have created the Olympics but hasn’t exactly been a contender in any of the winter versions. But now it has Nicos Polychronidis competing as a ski jumper at the games here, even though he said nobody believed him when he said he would make it.
He’s Greece’s first-ever competitor in the event and told Agence France Presse that he wants to bring attention to winter sports in Greece, which does have a number of smaller mountain resort areas.
“A lot of people in Greece are now interested in ski jumping,” he said. “Many of them follow my results and support me here in Sochi as well sending me their messages,” he said, adding that some need to be convinced still, however.
“Just last week I told a guy that I’m going to the Olympics to perform for Greece in ski jumping. He couldn’t believe it and just laughed. I told him he could watch it on TV but he still considered me to be a joker.”
Polychronidis was born in Bremen, Germany, to a German mother and Greek father. He started jumping as a six-year-old and was admitted to the famous ski jumping school at Oberstdorf at the age of 12.
He competed in the FIS Continental Cup under the German flag until 2011, when he decided to switch allegiance to Greece to increase his chances of competing at the Olympics and world championships.
“The people in the Hellenic Olympic Committee were happy to accept me,” he added. “We quickly settled all the formalities but I had to stay without any official competitions for a year. That was the most terrible and boring year in my life.”
After changing citizenship, Polychronidis continues to practice in Oberstdorf under the same coach who told him to compete for Greece because the German squad was too deep and he no chance of making it.
He’s found out just how tough it is at the Olympic level. In six training jumps at Sochi, his best performance was 52nd while his World Cup season has yielded a high of 38th on the large hill at Sapporo in Japan.
“I’m not in my best form currently and will unlikely contend for a high place, but in the recent competitions Ive been getting better,» he said. “I know Im capable of qualifying for the main Olympic tournament. It won’t be uneasy. But I’m happy being here. Every moment at the Games is great fun for me,” he told AFP.