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Latest update: 08/06/2009 18:17 +0300

Panos Eracleous: Eight Gold In Eight GSSE

NICOSIA, 30 May 2009 What do the Games of the Small States of Europe mean to the athletes themselves? How do they feel taking part in such an event and what can they gain? To find the answers to those questions, we turned to the captain of the National Volleyball Team of Cyprus, Panos Eracleous. And he turned out to be the right man to approach.

Asked about his unique record of having taken part in the GSSE on eight separate occasions and always emerging a winner, he modestly confirmed, "It is true. I didn't take part back in '89, though, because I was 14 and in 2001 because I was studying."

Asked if the GSSE were in some ways like an Olympic Games event, only for small states, he said, "Personally, I can never remember a stadium being half full. That has been the case from the first time I took part in Andorra back in 1991, at just 16. There were definitely top-level athletes at the GSSE, like, for example, Iceland's swimmers who were firm contenders at the Olympic Games. Basically, I can say that for those athletes who are not involved in football, these Games are a celebration--perhaps even an anniversary for all the other teams and individual sports. It is a reminder that there are other sports apart from football."

One of the fondest, long-lasting memories of the Cyprus National Volleyball Team captain was the remarkable arrival of Marios Hadjiandreou in 1991 in Andorra. "He completely stormed the event with his record performances in the Triple Jump. A short time later, at the Mediterranean Games, he made a jump of 17.13m an almost unbelievable performance that caused a stir. I will never forget those times".

These Games go on to create a special bond between everybody involved. "Those of us that are not competing at any given time, all stand together to watch the efforts of our fellow compatriots and support them", commented Eracleous, adding, "Of course, we make new friends with the players from the other teams and we see that a lot. Personally, I am good friends with Philip, a referee from Liechtenstein. We exchange emails and we keep in touch."

Pausing to think about his best off-court memories that he will cherish for ever, Eracleous said, "I always remember something which happened in Liechtenstein back in 1999. It had become the fashion for some team players to turn up at the Games with dyed hair. Our captain then came up with the idea for us to do the same at the GSSE finals. So, we turned up at the hall with dyed red hair and, of course, it raised a few eyebrows. It was a good laugh and we had earned it anyway, because we put on a good performance at the Games." Asked, why red, he simply replied, "It was probably the only available spray colour left."

Another fond memory was the large number of Greeks in Liechtenstein. "We had strong support from the Greeks. As strange as it may seem, there were quite a few Greeks in Liechtenstein. We really had some great times with them."

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