The first week of the Rio Olympics has had its share of ups and downs for Greek and Greek-American athletes, but the silver medal won by Greek-American Alexander Massialas was a high note.
One of the highlights every Olympics is the Parade of Nations led by Greece and this year the march into Maracana Stadium was particularly historical as it featured the first ever woman flag-bearer for Greece, Sofia Bekatorou. The sailing champion won gold at the Athens 2004 Olympics with Emilia Tsoufla in the women’s double-handed dinghy event in the 470 class, and won bronze in Beijing 2008 in the Yngling Keelboat class with Virginia Kravarioti and Sofia Papadopoulou. This year, Bekatorou is paired with Michail Pateniotis in the mixed Nacra 17 event. This is the first Olympics with a mixed sailing event and the first with the Nacra 17 which replaces the multihull discipline dropped for 2008. The Paralympic Games already had mixed sailing, requiring at least one female crew in the two person keelboat discipline introduced in 2008. The sailing events began on Monday, August 8.
Anna Korakaki was the first Greek athlete to medal at the games with a bronze in the women’s 10 meter air pistol shooting event on August 7. The Drama native came in third after gold medalist Zhang Mengxue of China and silver medalist Vitalina Batsarashkina of Russia. At only 20 years of age, Korakaki is coached by her father Tasos Korakakis. The medal marks the first for Greece in Olympic shooting since the Greek national team won the silver medal at the Antwerp 1920 Olympics. Korakaki’s next event is the 25 meter pistol competition on Tuesday, August 9.
Eleftherios Petrounias finished second in the qualifying round for the still rings in the gymnastics competition. The finals take place on Wednesday, August 10. The reigning World and European champion in the event, Petrounias was also the first torch bearer in the relay after the torch lighting ceremony on April 21 at Olympia.
In water polo, the Greek national team is at the top of the standings for Group A in the preliminary round. Winning the first match against Japan, 8-7, the team tied with the tough Serbian team, 9-9. The next opponent for the water polo team is Hungary on Wednesday, August 10.
In fencing, Massialas picked up the silver medal for the United States in the men’s individual foil event on Sunday, August 7. He made it to the final against Italian Daniele Garozzo, who bested him 15-11. Massialas is also competing in the men’s team foil competition with US teammates Gerek Meinhardt and Miles Chamley-Watson. They face Egypt in the quarterfinals onFriday, August 12.
Even before the Rio games began, three athletes were sent home after failing drug tests. Irish boxer Michael O’Reilly was the first sent home on Thursday, August 4, for failing his drug test. Then, on Friday August 5, it was announced that Cypriot weightlifter Antonis Martasidis tested positive for a banned substance as did an unnamed Greek athlete and both were expelled from the games. The Olympic Committee of Cyprus noted that the sample from Martasidis was collected in Athens on July 25 and tested positive for a banned substance. He was stripped of his credentials and told to return to Cyprus. Martasidis had qualified for the Olympics while competing for Greece, then received Cypriot citizenship and was to represent Cyprus in Rio. The Hellenic Olympic Committee said that the unnamed Greek athlete who had tested positive in early July for a banned substance left the Olympic village on Friday before the opening ceremony. In happier news, Greek archer Evangelia Psarra was added to the Olympic team at the last moment when an archer from Cote d’Ivoire had to withdraw from the games. This marks Psarra’s fifth Olympics and she is scheduled to compete in the women’s individual archery competition on Tuesday, August 9.
Silver medalist in sailing at the 2012 London Olympics Games, Pavlos Kontides was the flag-bearer for Cyprus. The island nation has a total of fifteen athletes competing in Rio, six of whom are women. On the first day of the games, swimmers Sotiria Neofytou competed in the women’s 100m butterfly, and Iacovos Hadjiconstantinou competed in the men’s 400m freestyle, and gymnast Marios Georgiou competed in the men’s individual all-around competition. Cypriot athletes will also compete in cycling, sailing, shooting, and track and field.