Greek Rowing Continues to Impress Entering 2011 European Rowing Championships
Granted, the Greeks have been at it for a long time (harkening back to the Battle of Salamis and beyond), but the squad from Hellas is looking deeper than ever on both the men's and women's sides this year, with the European Championships rolling and London looming on the horizon.
The men's team has built momentum since the Athens Olympics, where an outstanding performance (and fantastic sprint) from Nikolaos Skiathitis and Vasileios Polymeros resulted in a bronze medal in the LM2x. Next came the Gkountoulas brothers -- identical twins from Servia (northern Greece), who began their international rowing careers as lightweights, winning the LM2- at the 2008 non Olympic World Championships, and followed that up with a bronze medal in the heavyweight men's pair the next year in Poznan, and a silver as part of the M4- last year in Karapiro. This year in Bled, the Gkountoulas brothers placed fourth, just outside the medals in the M2-, as Italy's Niccolo Mornati and Lorenzo Carboncini, who have moved up in the event. The M4- once again took silver, with Under 23 standout Stergios Papachristos in the bow (having taken fourth in the BM1x in Amsterdam earlier this summer), 2008 U23 World Champion in the BM2- Ioannis Tsilis in the two seat, and last year's bronze medalists in the M2- in Karapiro Georgios Tziallas and Ioannis Christou in the stern pair (Christou also won Worlds in the M2x in 2007, and placed 10th in the M1x in Beijing).
Over the past few years, the Greek women's lightweights have stormed onto the scene, and Alexandra Tsiavou and Christina Giazitzidou made this year's LW2x a race for second place in Bled, having won the same event together in 2009, and having taken third in Karapiro. Over the past several years, Tsiavou has been nothing short of phenomenal. Tsiavou took third in LW2x with Chrysi Bizkitzi at Eton Dorney in 2006, while just 21 years of age, and following her gold medal performance in the BLW1x in Hazelwinkel earlier that summer (she also won the BLW1x in 2007 in Strathclyde). Tsiavou and Bizkitzi would later place sixth overall in Beijing. Giazitzidou is also a former U23 World Champion, winning the BLW2x in 2009 just before jumping into the senior LW2x with Tsiavou and winning gold in Poznan.
All this from a country of 12 million people. The results are proof of the progress of the Greek Rowing Federation, and it will be very interesting to see the combinations that come through internal trials for London next year, though, in light of the above, there are a number of names that appear to be stamped on seats for 2012.
For more video from the Greek national team, check out their YouTube Channel: