Sat, Feb 08, 2014 - Page 20 News List

Greek ski jumper no laughing matter

AFP, ROSA KHUTOR, Russia

The ski jump is seen reflected in Nico Polychronidis of Greece’s goggles as he prepares to jump during the men’s ski jumping individual normal hill training at the Winter Olympics in Rosa Khutor, Russia, on Thursday.

Photo: Reuters

When Nico Polychronidis told people he was heading to Sochi to compete for Greece as a ski jumper, they laughed in his face, but now the German-born athlete aims to have the last laugh as Greece’s first ever competitor in the sport.

“A lot of people in Greece are now interested in ski jumping,” the 24-year-old said. “Many of them follow my results and support me here in Sochi as well, sending me their messages.”

However, there still remain many to be convinced.

“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,” he said.

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, Germany, at the age of 12.

He competed in the Continental Cup under the German flag until 2011, when he decided to switch his allegiance to Greece to increase his chances of competing at the Olympics and world championships.

“The people in the Greek Olympic Committee were happy to accept me,” he said. “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.

“I still train in Oberstdorf with my coach, who has known me for 15 years. He supported my decision to switch citizenship to go to the Olympics and world championships. It would be much harder task for me being in the German squad.”

His performances bear out such skepticism.

In six training jumps at Sochi on Thursday yesterday, his best performance was 52nd, while his World Cup season has yielded a high of 38th on the large hill in Sapporo, Japan.

“I’m not in my best form currently and will unlikely contend for a high place, but in the recent competitions I’ve been getting better,” he said. “I know I’m 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.”

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