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Latest update: 08/06/2009 18:18 +0300

Shots of Pride, With Tears in the Eyes:

BEIJING, 16 August 2008 - The tension, the emotions, the joy, the sorrow, all brought scenes from an ancient Greek tragedy at the men's Skeet final of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, today. Just one position below the podium, Antonis Nikolaidis (4th), and following him Giorgos Achilleos (5th)! The top sporting moment of Cyprus... and still, the faces were not shining. Instead, long after the last shot was fired, one could still see tears in the eyes all around.

The President of the Republic of Cyprus, Dimitris Christofias, rushed to be one of the first to congratulate the Cypriot athletes, who are going through the most intense experience of their lives. And if Giorgos Achilleos is still 27 and, as he himself said, still has three or four Olympic Games ahead of him, Antonis Nikolaidis was at once the best of Cyprus' best of all times and a tragic figure. God knows what the President of the Cyprus Olympic Committee, Kikis, N. Lazarides, whispered to his hear, as they both broke down embraced and weeping.

Even the humour of the President of the Republic was not enough to bring back the smiles. The air was so tense, that passers-by could hardly believe their eyes. Thankfully, a dozen or so friends of the Cypriot shooters came by and with their slogan-chanting lightened the mood.

The top sporting moment of Cyprus brought together the current and the ex Presidents of the Republic. Tassos Papadopoulos sat next to Christofias on the tribune and experienced the excitement together. "Only sports could bring them so close," someone said when they embraced and posed together for the photographers.

There must have been more than 50 Cypriots this afternoon at the Olympic Shooting Range, located on the outskirts of Beijing--a 40-minute ride from the Olympic Green: State officials, members of the Cyprus Olympic Committee and the Cyprus Sports Organisation, athletes who were not competing at the time, and family and friends who travelled all the way from Cyprus to give their support to the shooters.

President Christofias emphasised the importance of participating in the Games and pointed out that their results were a tremendous success for Cyprus. "We should be proud for what Antonis and Giorgos achieved today," said the President. "Just as for the rest of our team, who are giving it their very best. We may be a little sad with the way the medal was lost for Antonis, but this achievement is a great moment for Cyprus. Our small country is here and she is strong. Take a look at the countries of our opponents--then you will be doubly proud."

The President of the Cyprus Olympic Committee, who has been following Antonis Nikolaidis and Giorgos Achilleos ever since the began shooting, was especially moved: "We must congratulate them for the thrilling emotions that they offered us. Even if they did not climb on the podium. I consider Cyprus' participation at the Beijing Olympic Games to be the most successful ever. And we still have a long road ahead... The Beijing Olympic Games are a great event and Cyprus has two Olympians she can be very proud of."

The President of the Cyprus Shooting Sport Federation, Demetris F. Lordos, who is in Beijing as chairman of the Shotgun Jury for the Olympic Games, said: "Shooting, the hard currency of sports in Cyprus, is always present at all the great events. Today we wrote another chapter in the history of sports in Cyprus. Winning a medal is not as easy as it appears from the tribune or on television. They both did a great job--and congratulations to them."

 

Photos for Press Use, free of rights (click on a thumbnail for higher resolution)

Giorgos Achilleos at the Beijing Olympic Shooting Range Antonis Nikolaidis at the Beijing Olympic Shooting Range Giorgos Achilleos and Antonis Nikolaidis at the Beijing Olympic Shooting Range The electronic scoreboard at the Beijing Olympic Shooting Range during the men's Skeet finals

Giorgos Achilleos with the Head of the Cyprus Delegation in Beijing, Alecos Spanos Giorgos Achilleos and Antonis Nikolaidis at the Beijing Olympic Shooting Range The President of the Cyprus Olympic Committee, Kikis N. Lazarides, with Giorgos Achilleos at the Beijing Olympic Shooting Range State and sports officials of Cyprus at the Beijing Olympic Shooting Range

Cypriot supporters at the Beijing Olympic Shooting Range Antonis Nikolaidis at the Beijing Olympic Shooting Range Giorgos Achilleos at the Beijing Olympic Shooting Range Antonis Nikolaidis at the Beijing Olympic Shooting Range
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