Cypriot skiers have an anxious week ahead of them as they wait to find out whether they will participate in February’s Winter Olympic Games.
The young athletes, Christopher Papamichalopoulos, Sophia Papamichalopoulou, Photos Photiades and Constantinos Papamichael, will hear which of them has the green light to go to Canada by the end of this month.
Cyprus Olympic Committee President Ouranios Ioannides and Pavlos Photiades, head of the Cyprus Ski Federation, will attend the opening ceremony in Vancouver, where the athletes will participate in the alpine skiing events starting on February 21.
Although the names are not yet confirmed, Photiades predicts that siblings Sophia and Christopher are assured of a place in the Slalom and Giant Slalom competitions, with a third place so far unverified.
“I think it is safe to say that Sophia and Christopher are safely through,” he says, “There is a chance for the other two, it will be one or the other.”
None of the athletes are strangers to international competition. Twenty two year-old Christopher is the current national men’s champion, with four FIS World Championship starts among his numerous championship outings.
Last week he placed 83rd in an FIS Giant Slalom event at Garmisch, Germany. His twenty year-old sister Sophia is the national women’s champion and a member of the Cyprus ski team since the age of twelve.
If selected, Cyprus’ junior champion Photos Photiades will go to Canada with five years experience at national level. A member of the wealthy Photiades family – owners of Cyprus’ oldest brewery – the talented seventeen year-old took 44th place at an FIS Slalom event in Klausberg last month and is also part of the island’s national tennis squad.
With a European junior level ranking of 53, Photos shows considerable promise at international level after reaching the finals of the BMW Junior Cup under- 16’s tournament in Munich last year.
He and ski team mate Constantinos, also seventeen, are both in the running to fill a possible extra slot in the Giant Slalom event.
Cyprus has yet to win an Olympic medal since the country competed in its first Winter Games at Lake Placid in 1980.
“We have modest targets, we are not a ski nation but what we want to achieve in the male category is to get a better result in the rankings and reduce the difference in the time between the gold medal,” says Federation President, Photiades.
Reflecting on his own experiences as a competitor at the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Games, he adds, “I think they are all looking forward to it and have been waiting for this opportunity for many years. They’ve made quite a few sacrifices in their lives and this is the time for them.”
Participation will further raise Cyprus’ athletic profile on the international sports stage ahead of this year’s Commonwealth Games in Delhi, where a squad of around fifty Cypriot athletes is expected to take part.