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Last Updated: Friday, 13 August, 2004, 09:19 GMT 10:19 UK
Weightlifters shoulder the burden
By Phil Gordos
BBC Sport in Athens

Pyrros Dimas
Dimas is seeking more gold
The burden of expectation was already weighing heavily on the shoulders of Pyrros Dimas and Akakios Kakiasvili.

But should sprinters Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou miss the Olympics, the Greek weightlifting duo will come under even more pressure to deliver gold in Athens.

Dimas and Kakiasvili are already national heroes after winning gold in three successive Games since 1992.

But they will earn mythical status if they capture a fourth, an Olympic weightlifting record.

And neither of them was born in Greece.

Dimas was brought up in Albania and competed as Pirro Dhima until 1990, when he switched nationalities.

Kakiasvili, formerly known as Kakhi Kakhiachviei, hails from Georgia.

Not all Greeks are willing to revel in the achievements of Dimas and Kakiasvili because of their place of birth, although they are well and truly in the minority.

GREECE EXPECTS
Other possible medallists
Mirela Manjani, Fani Halkia, Anastasia Kelesidou, Ekaterini Voggoli, Periklis Iakovakis (athletics)
Nikolaos Kaklamanakis, Sofia Bekatorou and Aimilia Tsoulfa (sailing)
Areti Athanasopoulou, Michalis Mouroutsos (taekwondo)
Leonidas Sampanis, Anastasia Tsakari (weightlifting)
Amiran Karntanov (wrestling)
But Dimas wasted little time winning over his new countrymen and women, and has been picked as Greece's flag-bearer for Friday's Olympics opening ceremony.

"In Barcelona, when he had already won his first gold medal, he shouted 'For Greece' as he took his last lift in the clean and jerk," explains Georgiotis.

"He did not make the lift but he endeared himself to everybody."

The stock of Dimas, who will carry the Greek flag at Friday's opening ceremony, has only risen higher since.

"He is a typical example of a person who lives and works in Greece," adds Georgiotis, who writes for Ethnos, one of the biggest daily newspapers in his country.

It will be hard for Dimas and Kakiasvili to emulate their feats of previous Games.

Both are reaching the end of their careers and have struggled with injury in recent years, Dimas, who will be 33 in October, undergoing shoulder surgery and the 35-year-old Kakiasvili breaking a wrist.

But they know what it takes to win a gold medal and will be able to cope with the huge burden of expectation.

The same cannot be said for those Greeks making their Olympic debut.

With the added pressure that comes with performing in front of your own people, the likes of 400m hurdler Fani Halkia and taekwondo contestant Areti Athanasopoulou may struggle to shine.

The Greeks are certainly hungry for more sporting success in the wake of their football team's glorious and unexpected win in the European Championship.

Hence the sudden surge for tickets.

Just a few weeks ago, there were fears some stadiums would be half empty because of poor sales.

But Georgiotis says there was never any reason worry.

"Tickets are selling very fast now," he says. "The Greeks always wait until the last minute. We don't panic."

Hopefully, their Olympians will not either as they attempt to fulfil the expectations being heaped upon them.





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