Cypriot Olympic medalist returns to his hometown to a hero’s welcome
Pavlos Kontides, the only Cypriot who has won an Olympic medal, returned to his hometown last night to a hero’s welcome, with jubilant friends, relatives and fans cheering him as the bus that carried him from the airport approached Limassol Nautical Club.
Kontides returned home to the town of Limassol, where he was born and raised, to a tumultuous welcome. The 22-year old Kontides has won the silver medal in the Men`s Laser class in the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games.
Town and other officials had gathered at the Limassol Nautical Club early in the evening, in anticipation of his return. A choir sang Olympic hymns, as people applauded and chanted in rhythm, calling repeatedly his name, to greet him.
The Club vice president Nicos Charalambides, in his welcoming remarks, thanked Kontides for bestowing such an honour on his Club and his hometown, saying that “we all believed in you, in your integrity, in your talent and your determination to reach the top. We are extremely proud of you and you will always find a helping hand here at the Club. You have made history.”
In his response, Kontides thanked everybody for their support and said he had always believed in his own strength and faith in getting to the top. He said he was encouraged and inspired by the energy and support people have shown him.
“I hope my success will serve as a springboard for young people to embrace sport and in particular sailing. I am overwhelmed with emotion, words cannot express how I feel,” he said as he thanked all those who have stood by him all these years.
Tomorrow President Demetris Christofias will honour the young athlete in a special ceremony at the Presidential Palace.
The 22-year old Limassolian secured the silver medal with 59 penalty points, behind Australia`s Tom Slingsby with 43 penalty points who took the gold, and Sweden`s Rasmus Myrgren in third place with 72 penalty points.
The Cyprus Sport Organization said Kontides’ silver medal “marks a new beginning for Cypriot sport.”
Kontides said on the Cyprus Sailing Federation website that he was inspired by his father, himself a Cypriot sailing champion and former federation chief, to take up the sport at age 9.
Kontides won two consecutive World Youth Sailing Championships in Kingston Britain in 2007 and Aarhus Denmark in 2008. His first Olympic Games participation was in Beijing in 2008 where he finished 13th in Men’s Laser.
In 2011 he finished 5th in Men’s Sailing Championship and first in Youth Sailing Championship in Hayling Island. He secured his participation in the London Olympics in the 2011 World Sailing Championship in Perth, Australia.
Cyprus, an island nation in the Mediterranean, started taking part in the modern-day Olympics as an independent state at the 1980 Moscow Games.