Greek swimmer Antonios Tsapatakis won the bronze medal in the 100m breaststroke SB4 at the Tokyo Paralympics today. Tspatakis completed the race in 1 minute and 40.20 seconds, finishing after Russian swimmer Dmitrii Cherniaev (1.38.96, a new world record) and Colombian swimmer Moises Fuentes Garcia (1.35.86).
33-year-old Tsapatakis played water polo before he was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident in 2006. Tsapatakis had previously won one silver and three bronze medals at the World Championships.
Tsapatakis live in Thessaloniki, Greece, and was named the 2010 Male Athlete of the Year by Life&Style magazine. In 2005, before his accident that left him paraplegic, Tsapatakis was studying at the Hellenic Police Academy in order to become a member of the Hellenic police. His accident cut his dream short as all police officers in Greece were required by law to be able-bodied.
Tsapatakis has successfully worked to have these laws amended so that people with disabilities can become police officers in Greece. He has worked as a police officer in the sports service of the Hellenic Police since 2017.
“The dream to put on the police uniform again lasted 11 whole years. It took a lot of effort and a lot of failures to be able to put on my police uniform again in 2017. I am really proud of that because I did it alone, without anyone’s help, without the mediation of anyone. My inspiration was the idea itself and the belief in myself. It felt like standing up in first place on the podium and hearing my national anthem. It was like winning the gold medal. It meant we could finally go back to work and earn a salary. It also enabled other disabled people to dream of having a job in the police,” Tsapatakis said in an interview with Greek City Times last year.
Tsapatakis is also a published author. He wrote the children’s book “Dream.”
“The message of my book is ‘equality’ and this is what I hope to pass on to children and to those who read it in general, with the ultimate aim of nurturing our little friends. We grew up in the wrong world, as no one came to teach us equality, power and love,” the swimmer told CNN Greece.
Greece competes with 46 athletes in the Paralympics
The Paralympic Games 2020 started with Tuesday’s opening ceremony in Tokyo.
Around 4,400 athletes with disabilities, including 46 from Greece, are competing in 22 sports.
As Tokyo hosts the event, organizers urged participants to follow coronavirus rules with increased vigilance. “The infection situation today is different to how it was before the Olympics. It has deteriorated,” said Tokyo 2020 official Hidemasa Nakamura.
Team Greece will compete with 46 athletes in 11 sports, including track and field, swimming, weightlifting, fencing, cycling, judo, archery and table tennis.
At the Rio Games in 2016, Greece won 13 medals (5 gold, 4 silver, 4 bronze), taking 24th place on the medal table. It was the second best place in the history of the Greek Paralympics, after the games in Beijing where it finished in 20th place.