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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 10 October 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 10 OCTOBER 2015 29 SPORT Greek Olympic weightlifting legend and national team coach flies in to Sydney Expo GEORGE STOGIANNOU In the popular imagination, superman normally flies out of a booth, but in Sydney next weekend, it will be a case of superman flying into a booth … a booth at the Sydney Fitness and Health Expo. It's Superman in the guise of Greek Olympic weightlifting legend Valerios Leonidis, who arrives from Greece this weekend to appear at the UESAKA booth at the Expo from 16-18 October. The 49-year-old head coach of the Greek national weightlifting team will also be presenting workshops in the city for which he retains fond memories. Valerios last visited Sydney in 2000 as part of the Greek Olympic weightlifting team when he competed well despite being hampered by injuries. "I really like Australia as a country and the people,” he told Neos Kosmos. “I would have loved to come more often but the distance is great. I look forward to catching up with friends." Four years prior to those games, Leonidis shot to world fame at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics when he and world champion Turkish lifter Naim Suleymanoglu fought a titanic contest for gold, which caught the imagination of not only weightlifting fans, but sporting fans in general. Each man lifted nearly 190kg, almost three times their own body weight, and broke four world records en route to Suleymanoglu narrowly beating Leonidis to the gold medal. The Russian-born son of Pontic Greek parents grew up living a disciplined life and making many sacrifices in his bid to become an elite weightlifter in the Soviet Union. When the Union collapsed, the system could no longer support his dreams of becoming a champion weightlifter. Valerios migrated to the land of his forefathers, in 1991, to continue to develop in the sport he loves, and competed in his first Olympics for Greece at the Atlanta Games. The epic contest with Naim in Atlanta, seen by a worldwide TV audience, changed his life in many ways, immeasurably raising his public profile and winning him the respect of his countrymen. On his return to UESAKA, weights equipment company, says " young people lose their motivation when they see that things like this happen and of course, after the crisis comes, there is even less motivation because you cannot be a professional athlete". Weightlifting, Leonidis style. Greece he was made an officer in the Greek Navy. As well as becoming an Olympic silver medallist, he won two silver medals and a bronze for Greece at the World Championships before retiring in 2004. He soon moved into coaching becoming an assistant to head coach of the national team, Christos Iacovou. South dream turns to Postecoglou reality James Meredith’s Socceroos callup has a South Melbourne flavour Bradford City defender James Meredith's call up to the Socceroos squad that faced Jordan early Friday morning saw him live a distant South Melbourne dream. Growing up, Meredith longed for playing for the NSL giant, and despite seeing that dream wane with the introduction of the A-League and spending 11 years in the UK, the opportunity to play for Australia, under South champion and current Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou, isn't one he is playing down. "It's something I've always aspired to do and dreamt of doing," he said. "To then be on the training pitch with the players, it's fantastic. The ones you look up to or you've seen on the telly over the years, through the Asian Cup or even the World Cup, it's a real delight for me and I'm really happy." The 27-year-old said despite South not being in the top tier of Australian football anymore he dreams of playing in front of a Melbourne crowd in the future. "Growing up as a kid the only team I ever wanted to play for was South Melbourne," he said. "I'm very grateful and I feel blessed to be where I am now, that's still the thing I want to do. "Obviously South Melbourne are in a different division but I'd like to play for one of the Melbourne teams certainly. Australia’s next World Cup Qualifier is against Kyrgyzstan on November 12 in Canberra. Source: FourFourTwo South Melbourne link, Socceroos coach Ange Postecoglou. PHOTO: EPA/UWE ANSPACH. PHOTO : GETTY IMAGES. When Iacovou was caught up in an infamous doping scandal in 2008, Leonidis became head coach of the national team, a position he holds to the present day. The doping scandal of 2008 did untold damage to the reputation of the sport of weightlifting in Greece. Anastasios Pappas, a good friend of Leonidis and spokesperson for Leonidis says that under the current dire financial situation in Greece, it's impossible to foresee a time when the sport of weightlifting in Greece might once more reach the heights it achieved before the doping scandal. "The crisis in Greece at present has had a devastating effect on sport and the arts. We can't plan or foresee anything given the current financial state. We can't afford the proper preparation of athletes for competition let alone send them to competitions. It's a very difficult time for athletes. Two or three will go to Houston for the World Weightlifting Championships in November. I can't even say if we'll manage to send anyone to the Olympics in Brazil next year." Sydney will no doubt be a welcome escape for him from the gloomy scenario back home. Anastasios Pappas of UESAKA says that Valerios' workshops will offer people a chance to learn the details of Olympic weightlifting from an experienced coach. This will appeal to not only weightlifters, but to young people involved in strength and conditioning programs like Crossfit, where Olympic weightlifting is a component. They are also hoping to offer a workshop for coaches wanting to know how to prepare athletes for big events. Leonidis believes that learning correct weightlifting techniques can benefit everyone, not just elite athletes. "The correct movements of weightlifting are therapeutic. They help develop the right anatomical form of the body. They help correct distribution of weight across the body. Helps the back, joints and shoulders, helps prevent injuries and exercise safely. The skills and techniques are useful to everyone." For workshop bookings and further information, contact Martin Harlowe (UESAKA) Ph: 0401 515 550, email: martin@ uesakabarbell.com.au FIFA suspends Sepp Blatter FIFA president Sepp Blatter and his possible successor Michel Platini have been provisionally suspended for 90 days by the global soccer body's ethics committee, after they were named in a Swiss corruption case. The committee also handed a similar suspension to FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, who had already been put on leave by the soccer body. It also banned former FIFA vice-president Chung Mongjoon for six years and fined him about $140,000. The suspensions mean Cameroon's Issa Hayatou and Spain's Angel Maria Villar are in line to take over as interim heads of soccer's world and European governing bodies. FIFA's statutes say that the most senior vice-president will stand in for the president of the organisation. That position is currently held by Hayatou, president of Africa's football confederation (CAF). Spanish Football Federation president Villar is positioned to take over from Platini as he is the European governing body's highest-ranking vice-president. Sepp Blatter walks past Prince Ali and Michel Platini. Kyrgios beats Roberto Bautista Agut in Tokyo Nick Kyrgios brutalised Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut, with the muscular Australian taking less than an hour to complete a 6-4, 6-2 second-round victory in Tokyo with some strong-arm tactics. Meanwhile, Marin Cilic also produced a masterclass on Thursday as he overpowered American Steve Johnson 6-3, 6-3 to set up a Japan Open quarter-final against defending champion Kei Nishikori. Kyrgios was introduced by the local Japanese cable broadcaster when he showed up at the Japan Open this week as: "Genius? Or problem child?" But despite the controversy that follows the temperamental Aussie around the men's ATP Tour, he behaved impec- cably against Bautista Agut, the highlight a between-thelegs half volley to secure a break at the start of the second set. Kyrgios, fined recently for a sexual insult aimed at Stan Wawrinka's girlfriend during a match against the Swiss, closed out the match with a pummelling serve down the middle after just 56 minutes on court.
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