Sport in Greece
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Greece has risen to prominence in a number of sporting areas in recent decades. Football in particular has seen a rapid transformation, with the Greek national football team winning the 2004 UEFA European Football Championship. Many Greek athletes have also achieved significant success and have won world and olympic titles in numerous sports during the years, such as basketball, wrestling, water polo, athletics, weightlifting, with many of them becoming international stars inside their sports. The successful organisation of the Athens 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games led also to the further development of many sports and has led to the creation of many World class sport venues all over Greece and especially in Athens. Greek athletes have won a total 146 medals for Greece in 15 different Olympic sports at the Summer Olympic Games, including the Intercalated Games, an achievement which makes Greece one of the top nations globally, in the world's rankings of medals per capita.
Greece was home of the ancient Olympic Games, first recorded in 776 BC in Olympia, and hosted the modern Olympic Games twice, the inaugural 1896 Summer Olympics and the 2004 Summer Olympics; the country also hosted the 1906 Intercalated Games, at the time regarded as Olympic Games but not officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee today. The nation has competed at every Summer Olympic Games, one of the only four countries to have done so, and most of the Winter Olympic Games. During the parade of nations Greece is always called first, as the founding nation of the ancient precursor of modern Olympics, and its national governing body is the Hellenic Olympic Committee.
Having won a total of 110 medals (30 gold, 42 silver and 38 bronze), Greece is ranked 32nd by gold medals in the all-time Summer Olympic medal count. Their best ever performance was in the 1896 Summer Olympics, when Greece finished second in the medal table with 10 gold medals, one less than the United States, the most silver (17) and bronze (19) medals, as well as the most medals overall (46). After a long period of poor tallies, the 1992 Summer Olympics marked an uptum and Greece made successive medal-winning records (excluding the 1896 record) in the three following Olympic Games. Greek athletes have won medals in 15 different sports, but the sports in which the Greek team has won most medals are primarily athletics and weightlifting, as well as other sports like wrestling, gymnastics and shooting. In the 1906 Games, Greece finished third with 8 gold, 14 silver and 13 bronze medals, and second in total behind France with 35 medals; these medals are not officially included in the Olympic medal count though. Winter sports have not played a major role in Greece, thus the country has not won any medal in the Winter Olympics so far.
Paralympic Sports have significant grown in Greece since the late 1970s. The first participation of athletes with a disability at Paralympic Games was in 1976. The organisation of the Paralympic Games in Athens led to significant growth. The Hellenic Team participated in 17 of the 19 sports and won 20 medals (3 Gold, 13 Silver and 4 Bronze). At the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games the Greek Team made its most successful appearance ever with 24 medals (5 Gold, 9 Silver and 10 Bronze). Greece has won in total 80 medals at the Paralympic Games, participating only recently.
Association football is the most popular sport in Greece. Its national governing body is the Hellenic Football Federation founded in 1926, which is member of FIFA and UEFA. The Greek national football team rose to prominence in the UEFA Euro 2004, when they were crowned European champions in one of the biggest shocks in international football history.1 Ranked 13th in the world as of 2009,2 they have qualified two times for the FIFA World Cup in 1994 and 2010, four times for the UEFA European Championship in 1980, 2004, 2008 and 2012, and one time for the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2005. Greece has great tradition in youth teams, which have been successful; the Under-21 team were runners-up in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in 1988 and 1998, the Under-19 team were runners-up in the UEFA European Under-19 Championship in 2007, while the Under-17 team were runners-up in the UEFA European Under-17 Championship in 1985, took the third place in 1991 and the fourth place in 1996 and 2000.
The official national championship was held for a first time in the season 1927–28. Super League Greece is now the highest professional league in the Greek football league system. It is currently ranked 12th in the UEFA coefficient, while it was placed among the top ten strongest leagues in Europe from 1996 to 2006, with its peak being the 6th place in 2002 and 2003.3 The Greek Football Cup has been the main domestic cup competition, inaugurated in season 1931–32. Both competitions have been dominated by Olympiacos, which is the most successful football club in Greece, followed by the other two big Greek football clubs Panathinaikos and AEK Athens. The Greek football clubs have not won any major UEFA competition yet; the only club that have reached a final so far is Panathinaikos, who were European Cup runners-up in 1970–71, while they have also reached the semifinals in two occasions. Olympiacos and AEK Athens have made it to the quarterfinals in the top European clubs' competition, while these three clubs have reached the quarterfinals in the other major UEFA competitions as well, with AEK Athens' best performance being a semifinal appearance in the UEFA Cup.
Greece has a long tradition and history of success in basketball, which is very popular in the country. Greece was one of the eight founding members of FIBA in 1932 and the national governing body is the Hellenic Basketball Federation, member of FIBA Europe. The Greek national basketball team is considered among the world's top basketball powers; ranked 4th in the world,4 they are the current FIBA World Championship silver medalists since 2006 and the EuroBasket bronze medalists since 2009. They have been crowned European champions twice, in 1987 and 2005, and they have also won two more medals at European level, the silver in 1989 and the bronze in 1949. At the Olympic Games they have been placed 5th in three occasions. The 1987 gold medal was the first win for a Greek national team in a major tournament in any team sport, thus basketball became extremely popular in Greece after that achievement. The youth national teams of Greece have also enjoyed great success, having won a lot of medals in the respective World and European tournaments.
The Greek Basket League is the top professional basketball league in Greece and one of the strongest in Europe, while several Greek clubs have won major European titles. AEK Athens was the first-ever Greek team, not only to reach a European Cup Final, but also to win a European title. On April 4, 1968, AEK defeated Slavia Prague by a score of 89-82, in Athens before 120,000 spectators, 80,000 watching from inside the stadium and 40,000 watching from outside (the Guinness world record in basketball attendance). Panathinaikos, one of the most successful European clubs with six Euroleague titles, and Olympiacos, three times European champions and three times runners-up, are considered among the top basketball powers in Europe. Aris, AEK Athens, PAOK and Maroussi have also won at least one of the rest of the European cups, such as the Saporta Cup, the Korać Cup and the EuroCup Challenge, while all of them - except for Maroussi - have made it to the Euroleague final four. In women's basketball, Athinaikos have won the EuroCup. A number of Greek players have gained notability for their achievements such as Nikos Galis, widely regarded as one of the all-time greatest players in international basketball history, Panagiotis Giannakis, Panagiotis Fasoulas, Fanis Christodoulou, Theodoros Papaloukas and Dimitris Diamantidis. The Greek players that have played in the NBA are Efthimios Rentzias, Vassilis Spanoulis, Antonis Fotsis, Andreas Glyniadakis, Jake Tsakalidis and Greek Americans Kosta Koufos and Kurt Rambis. Anastasia Kostaki and Evanthia Maltsi are female Greek professional basketball players that have played in the WNBA.
Volleyball is a notable sport in Greece controlled by the Hellenic Volleyball Federation, member of CEV. The major achievements of the Greek men's national volleyball team are two bronze medals, one in the European Volleyball Championship and another one in the European Volleyball League, a 5th place in the Olympic Games and a 6th place in the FIVB World Championship. The Greek league, the A1 Ethniki, is considered one of the top volleyball leagues in Europe and the Greek clubs have made significant success in European competitions. Olympiacos is the most successful volleyball club in the country having won the most domestic titles and being the only Greek club to have won European trophies; they have won two CEV Cups, they have been CEV Champions League runners-up twice and have also played in many final fours in the European competitions, making them one of the biggest volleyball clubs in Europe. Iraklis, Panathinaikos and Orestiada have also made it to the final in continental tournaments.
Greece is often regarded as an international powerhouse in both men's and women's water polo, with its clubs and nationals teams having achieved a great number of distinctions in international competitions. The Greek men's national water polo team have won a silver medal in the 1997 FINA World Cup, two bronze medals in the FINA World League in 2004 and 2006, a bronze medal in the 2005 World Aquatics Championships and the 4th place in the 2004 Olympic Games. The Greek women's national water polo team's most important achievements are the gold medal in the 2011 World Aquatics Championships, the silver medals in the 2004 Olympic Games, 2010 European Championship and 2012 European Championship, as well as a gold and three bronze medals in the FINA World League in 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2012 respectively.
The Greek water polo leagues in both men and women are among the top European leagues, while several Greek clubs have enjoyed international success. In men's competitions, Olympiacos is one of the biggest European water polo clubs having won one LEN Euroleague title and a European Super Cup in 2002, the only Greek club to have been crowned European champions, while they have also participated in three more finals, one in the LEN Euroleague and two in the LEN Cup Winners' Cup; along with Ethnikos Piraeus, they are the most successful water polo clubs in the country. Vouliagmeni won a LEN Cup Winner's Cup in 1997 and they have also been runners-up one time in the LEN Trophy, such as NO Patras and Panionios. In women's competitions, the Greek clubs have dominated the European competitions in the 2000s (decade); Vouliagmeni, three-time European champions and LEN Trophy winner once, and Glyfada, with two European championships, are two of the most successful European women's sides. Ethnikos Piraeus have also won a LEN Trophy, while Olympiacos have made it to the final in the same competition.
Kickboxing is the sport that Greece has produced multiple all time great fighters in the sport. It is one of the smallest sports in Greece, but it has its followers.
- Greece's 'Iron' Mike Zambidis is the current world's welterweight Kickboxing champion with the King Of The Ring belt and he is a 15 time world Kickboxing champion. Pound for pound, he is considered to be one of the best kickboxers in the world, under International Kickboxing rules.
- Stam 'The Showman' Bitakos is the current world's Muay-Thai champion with the King Of The Ring belt and is famous as the person that brought Muay-Thai in Greece
- Stan 'The Man' Longinidis, who's a former 8 time world champion, and is regarded by many as the best kickboxer (under international rules) ever
- Tosca Petridis, who's a former 7 time world champion.
- 'King' Arthur Tsakonas, who's a former world champion.
- As well as other greats such as Louie 'The Ice' Iosifidis, Evangelos Goussis, Nick 'Thunderkick' Talakouris, and many others.
Weightlifting has been the most successful individual sport for the Greeks, with the national team regularly winning gold medals at the Olympics and the rest international competitions. Greek weightlifters have won a total 15 medals at the Olympics with 6 of them being gold, 5 silver and 4 bronze medals. In the World Weightlifting Championships Greek weightlifting team has won a total 111 medals (70 in men and 41 in women) with 26 of them being gold. Greek weightlifters have set many world and Olympic records during the years which forced the sporting world to name the Greek weightlifting team of the mid-1990s, the "Dream Team" of the sport. Some of the greatest weightlifters in the history of the sport include Greek legends such as:
- Pyrros Dimas, a Greek weightlifter from Northern Epirus. A three-time Olympic champion, multiple World and European champion. He is considered worldwide one of the greatest athletes in the history of this sport.
- Kakhi Kakhiashvili, another all time great of this sport. He is one of only four weightlifters to have won three consecutive gold medals at Olympic Games.
- Viktor Mitrou, a retired male weightlifter from Greece. He became an Olympic medalist during the 2000 Summer Olympics when he claimed the silver medal in the men's – 77 kg class and
- The legendary Greek weightlifter Dimitrios Tofalos. He was a member of both Gymnastiki Etaireia Patron and Panachaikos Gymnastikos syllogos, that merged in 1923 to become Panachaiki Gymnastiki Enosi. Arguably the greatest weightlifter of the early 20th century, he won the gold medal in the 1906 Intercalated Games, setting a world record that lasted until 1914.
The forms of wrestling we know today as Greco-Roman and freestyle found their origins in the lands on the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. These lands are where the Ancient Greeks resided, and developed the art of wrestling. Wrestling to the Greeks was not only part of a soldier's training regimen, but also a part of everyday life. Even in modern days, Wrestling has been one of the most significant Olympic sports in Greece, which has produced many Olympic and world champions and has given moments of glory to the country. Greece has won 11 medals at the modern Olympics and multiple medals in the World and European championships, a fact that makes the sport as one of the most successful for the country on a global stage. Some of the most significant Greek wrestlers are:
- Stelios Mygiakis, who competed at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow and won a gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling, the featherweight class.
- Georgios Tsitas, who won a silver medal at the 1896 Summer Olympics
- Petros Galaktopoulos, who won 3 medals at the FILA Wrestling World Championships and 2 Olympic medals, a bronze at the 1968 Summer Olympics and a silver at the 1972 Summer Olympics.
- Ioannis Arzoumanidis, a two time bronze world champion
- Artiom Kiouregkian, is a Greek-Armenian wrestler, who won a bronze medal at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Greco-Roman wrestling.
Athletics has been another very successful individual sport in Greece. Greek athletes have won 29 medals in total, at the Olympic games for Greece and 19 medals in the IAAF World Championships in Athletics, while some Greek athletes have reached world stardom with their achievements such as:
- Fani Chalkia who won the gold medal in the women's 400m hurdles at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. During the semifinals Halkia set an Olympic record of 52.77 seconds.
- Niki Bakoyianni won a silver medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics after a tough competition with Stefka Kostadinova.Her personal best jump of 2.03 metres is the current Greek record.
- Periklis Iakovakis who won the gold medal at the World Junior Championships in Annecy, France with 49.82 seconds, and five years later he won the bronze medal at the 2003 World Championships in Athletics in Paris-Saint-Denis, France. Iakovakis achieved his personal best of 47.82 seconds on 6 May 2006 in Osaka during the IAAF World Athletics Tour. He became European Champion in Gothenborg, Sweden finishing at 48.46 seconds in the final.
- Anastasia Kelesidou is a retired Greek discus thrower best known for winning silver medals at the 2000 and 2004 Summer Olympics. During her career she set seven Greek records in discus throw, the best being 67.70 metres.
- Konstantinos Kenteris won gold medals in the 200 metres at the 2000 Summer Olympics, the 2001 World Championships in Athletics and the 2002 European Championships in Athletics. Kenteris became the first White male to win a 200 meter sprinting medal at the Olympics since Pietro Mennea achieved the feat by winning gold at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. He is one of the very few elite runners who have run the 200m distance under 20 seconds, with a personal best 19.85 sec.
- Haralabos Papadias won the gold medal in 60 metres at the 1997 World Indoor Championships, in a time of 6.50 seconds (NR),the first and only white man to do so until today.
- Voula Patoulidou became a Greek sporting legend in 1992, when she was the surprise winner of the Women's 100 m hurdles race at the Olympic Games in Barcelona.
- Ekaterini Thanou won the silver medal in the women's 100 metres at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. Although Marion Jones admitted to steroid use prior to and during the Sydney Olympics and had her gold medal withdrawn by the International Olympic Committee, Thanou's silver medal was not upgraded to gold because she committed a doping offense herself in 2004. In 2002 she won the 100 m gold medal at the European Championships in Munich.
- Louis Tsatoumas is a Greek long jumper who on 2 June 2007 in Kalamata jumped 8.66 metres, achieving a personal best. The performance was the best in the world since Iván Pedroso leaped 8.70 m to win the gold medal at the 1995 World Championships. Tsatoumas ranks as the eighth best long jumper in history and holds the European record in the event at low altitude.
- Anna Verouli is a retired Greek javelin thrower who won the gold medal at the 1982 European Championships in Athletics, and a bronze medal at the 1983 World Championships in Athletics.
- Hrysopiyi Devetzi won the triple jump silver medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics with 15.25 and the triple jump bronze medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics with 15.23 m. At the 2004 Summer Olympics semifinal she set a Greek record of 15.32 metres. This performance ranks her in the fourth place of all time triple jumpers, after the world record holder, Inessa Kravets, her greatest rival Tatyana Lebedeva and Françoise Mbango Etone.
- Konstadinos Gatsioudis is a Greek javelin thrower, set a world junior record in 1990, and eight national records during his career. His personal best throw is 91.69 metres, achieved in June 2000 .
Other notable Greek athletes include Sofia Sakorafa who broke the world record on 16 September 1982 with a throw of 74.20 metres. Lambros Papakostas a retired Greek high jumper who won two silver medals at the World Indoor Championships in 1995 and 1997, with a personal best, achieved in Athens in 1992, 2.36 metres. Konstadinos Filippidis, Konstadinos Koukodimos, Christos Papanikolaou (who jumped 5.49 metres in Athens to capture the world record in 1970), Paraskevi Tsiamita, Niki Xanthou and Mirela Manjani. Also legends of the past include the legendary Spyridon Louis and Konstantinos Tsiklitiras.
Greece has three bordering seas, the Aegean Sea, Ionian Sea and Mediterranean Sea, so it not surprising that sailing is a popular sport. Greek athletes have won 7 medals in sailing and 2 in Rowing at the Olympic games and also numerous gold medals in the world and European championships. Some of the most notable Greek athletes in the sports of sailing and rowing include world and olympic champions such as:
- Nikolaos Kaklamanakis, a Greek Gold-medal winner in windsurfing, who lit the Olympic torch in the opening ceremony of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.
- Anastasios Bountouris, a Greek sailor who competed at six Olympics between 1976 and 1996. He is the first Greek to compete at six Olympic Games, an achievement so far matched only by shooter Agathi Kassoumi. He won a bronze medal in the 1980 Olympics in the Three-Person Keelboat with Anastasios Gavrilis and Aristidis Rapanakis.
- Sofia Bekatorou, who has participated in over 470 main class events including 2004 Summer Olympics sailing competition, where she won gold medal in the women's double-handed dinghy event in the 470 with her pair Emilia Tsoulfa. She has also won 4 world championships.
- Georgios Zaimis, a Greek sailor and Olympic Champion, who together with Constantine II of Greece and Odysseus Eskidioglou competed at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome and won a gold medal in the Dragon class with the boat Nirefs .
- Vasileios Polymeros, a Greek rower who won the bronze medal in men's lightweight double sculls with Nikolaos Skiathitis at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, and the silver in men's lightweight double sculls with Dimitrios Mougios at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. He has also won one gold and 3 silver medals in the world championships.
- Dimitrios Mougios is a Greek rower, who won the silver medal in men's lightweight double sculls with Vasileios Polymeros at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, two-times European champion and a silver world champion.
In the European Rowing Championships, Greece has won more gold medals all-time than any other nation, and is tied with Germany for the second-most medals of all time (behind Italy). In fact, Greece has finished first in the medal count 50% of the times it has been held, and has been in the top 4 of the medal count every single time!
Swimming and Diving are two sports that Greek athletes have achieved significant wins at the Olympic Games, World championships and European Championships. Some notable Greek swimmers are the Olympic champions of the past Spyridon Chazapis and Efstathios Chorafas and present World and European champions such as Romanos Alyfantis, Ioannis Drymonakos, the world champion in the 50 m backstroke event of the 2005 World Championships Aristeidis Grigoriadis and silver world champion Spyridon Gianniotis. Thomas Bimis and Nikolaos Siranidis made history winning Greece's first-ever gold medal in diving and the hosts' first gold of the 2004 Athens Olympics. The diver pair therefore became very popular in Greece.
Tennis has been growing in Greece over the past decade Eleni Daniilidou has had a lot of success, winning 5 WTA Tour titles in her career. Several players with Greek ancestry, such as Pete Sampras and Mark Philippoussis have become very famous around the world. Greek-Cypriot star Marcos Baghdatis has many fans in Greece. Greece also has several other players at the international level, like Konstantinos Economidis, Anna Gerasimou and Irini Georgatou.
Handball is one of the most popular team sports in Greece. The Greece national handball team finished 6th out of 24 teams in the 2005 World Men's Handball Championship, in their first (and so far only) time competing. In the 2004 Summer Olympics, Greece finished 6th. Greece finished 4th out of 6 teams in Group B, with wins over Brazil national handball team and Egypt national handball team, before losing in the quarterfinals to eventual gold medalists Croatia national handball team, and then beating South Korea national handball team, before losing to France national handball team.
- Pete Sampras - tennis player, considered one of the best tennis players in history
- Chris Chelios - NHL hockey all time great player
- Peter Angelos - MLB owner of the Baltimore Orioles
- Anton Christoforidis - professional boxer, NBA World Light Heavyweight Champion 1941
- Chris Karamesines - racecar driver
- David Batista (Bautista) - WWE SmackDown!, professional wrestler (Greek mother)
- Kosta Koufos - player for the Utah Jazz in the NBA and the Greece national team
- Dean Karnazes - ultramarathon champion, writer, businessman
- Alex Karras - NFL player with the Detroit Lions, wrestler and actor
- Lou Karras - NFL player with the Washington Redskins, older brother of Alex Karras
- Ted Karras - NFL player with the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions, older brother of Alex Karras
- Alexi Lalas - soccer player for the L.A. Galaxy, U.S. national team
- George Kottaras - currently starting catcher for the Milwaukee Brewers
- Laird Hamilton (born Laird John Zerfas) - surfer
- Matt Stover - NFL player, kicker for Baltimore Ravens
- Jim Londos - champion wrestler during the 1930s
- Greg Louganis - Olympic diving champion
- Harry "the Golden Greek" Agganis1 - college football star and professional baseball player for the Boston Red Sox
- Nick Markakis - MLB outfielder who currently plays for the Baltimore Orioles5
- Tino Martinez - former MLB first baseman for the N.Y. Yankees (Greek mother)
- Milt Pappas - MLB pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles and Cincinnati Reds and other teams
- Tom Pappas - Track & field decathlete, 2003 world decathlon champion and 2-time Olympian.
- George Parros - NHL hockey player
- Kurt Rambis - former NBA player, won 4 championships with the L.A. Lakers (birth name Kyriakos Rambidis)
- Alex Spanos - NFL owner of the San Diego Chargers
- Trish Stratus - WWE diva
- George Theodore - MLB outfielder for the New York Mets
- Craig Titus - American bodybuilder
- Lou Tsioropoulos - former NBA player with the Boston Celtics
- Garo Yepremian - NFL player (Greek Cypriot origin)
- Braith Anasta – Rugby league
- Anthony Koutoufides- a former Australian rules footballer with the Carlton Football Club. One of the most powerful and athletic players of all-time, he played in almost every position and was often called the prototype of the modern footballer.
- Ang Christou – Australian rules football player
- Angelo Lekkas – Australian rules football player
- Lou Richards – Australian rules football player
- David Zaharakis – Australian rules football player
- Michael Katsidis – Professional Boxer, former WBO lightweight world champion
- Stan Longinidis- a retired Australian Heavyweight kickboxer and 8 time Kickboxing World Champion. Born in Australia of Greek ethnicity, Longinidis is one of the few fighters to have won World titles in three different styles, International Rules Kickboxing, Full Contact and Muay Thai.
- Tosca Petridis - a former 7 world Kickboxing champion
- George Sotiropoulos – mixed martial artist
- Glen Lazarus – player Canberra Raiders, Brisbane Broncos and Melbourne Storm
- George Peponis – former Australian captain
- Willie Peters – player, South Sydney Rabbitohs
- Michael Diamond – shooter – Olympic gold medallist, Sydney 2000
- Lydia Lassila (née Lerodiaconou) – skier – Winter Olympian (gold medalist)
- Mark Philippoussis – tennis player
- Andres Labrakis aka Spiros Arion – wrestler
- Joseph Pilates
- Nicolas Macrozonaris
- Dave Nonis
- Dominic Filiou
- George Athans
- Bret Hart
- Stanley Christodoulou
- Nic Pothas
- Eder Jofre
- Emanuel Moriatis
- Oscar Panno
- Kyriakos Ioannou
- Superleague Greece (top football league)
- HEBA A1 (top basketball league)
- Hellenic Football Federation
- Greece national football team
- Greece national basketball team
- Greece at the 2004 Summer Olympics
- Rugby union in Greece
- Sport in Greece
- McNulty, Phil (2004-07-04). "Greece win Euro 2004". BBC Sport (news.bbc.co.uk). Retrieved 2010-07-04.
- "FIFA World Rankings". FIFA. www.fifa.com. December 2009. Retrieved 2010-07-04.
- "UEFA Country Ranking 2010". www.xs4all.nl. 2010-05-22. Retrieved 2010-07-04.
- "FIBA World Ranking for men". FIBA. www.fiba.com. Retrieved 2010-07-05.
-  "Markakis, who is half Greek and half German, led the Greek Olympic team..."