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Greek Para Swimming Champion: Role Models More Than Likes, Followers

Greek para swimming champion
Antonis Tsapatakis holding the bronze medal he won in Portugal. Credit: Instagram/tsapatakis_a

Greek para swimming champion Antonis Tsapatakis spoke out about the influence that social media has had on society upon his return to Athens on Thursday after earning a bronze medal at the World Para Swimming European Championships in Madeira, Portugal.

Greece in the World Para Swimming European Championships

Greece did very well at the tournament, finishing in 10th place overall. The Championships were held for the first time since 2018 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Greek delegation won four gold, two silver, and three bronze medals, finishing with nine medals overall.

Demosthenes “Dimos” Michalentzakis won three of the four gold medals for Greece in Portugal. His success comes as no surprise, as he holds a gold medal in 100 meter butterfly swimming from the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio, where he also set a new Paralympic record.

Alexandra Stamatopoulou won the fourth gold medal for the Greek team at the World Para Swimming European Championships.

Aristidis Makrodimitris won both a silver and a bronze medal, Giannis Kostakis won a silver medal, and Tsapatakis and Panagiotis Christakis grabbed bronze medals.

Greek para swimming champion speaks out

Following huge successes at the championships, the team of athletes with disabilities were not met by fanfare at the Athenian airport. Tsapatakis expressed his dismay over the reception of the team of athletes as he spoke with interviewers from the Hellenic Sports Federation channel in the airport.

“In an age when standards of success are built through likes, followers and television appearances, there is the realization that we are heading towards turmoil. But, once again, Greek sports come to prove that standards of success are built through sacrifice for one’s goals, love for one’s goals, as well as love for life and everything else,” said Tsapanakis.

Greek para swimming champion Antonis Tsapatakis
Greek para swimming champion Antonis Tsapatakis

The caption of his Instagram post reads “False values – False eras,” which is clearly intended as a comment on the situation.

Many commentators are interpreting Tsapatakis’ statements as a subtle but damning comparison between the two very different  airport receptions of the Greek “Survivor” reality television cast and the Greek para swimming champions.

“The staff of the Sports Federation for people with disabilities came to welcome us — I have no complaints. I’m just saddened by the fact that I saw not as many people compared to those who welcomed others on previous days. It made me think… ” said Tsapatakis.

“I do not judge anyone’s choices. However, the standards of success are no longer built through (achievement), but through the television, likes, and followers,”  he said.

The Greek para swimming champion continued by speaking about the general standing of sports in today’s society, claiming that sports are continually undermined. He said that importance is being placed on the wrong things, both by society and by television screens.

“Athleticism has more to give to people today, but the issue is that it is not being given the correct emphasis,” Tsapanakis said of our culture.

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