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Greek Paralympics Athlete with Amputation Climbs Mount Olympus

Paralympics athlete Olympus
Using crutches, Papangelis climbed to the very top of Mount Olympus, the highest point in Greece. Credit: Facebook/Nikos Papangelis

A Greek Paralympics athlete who came in sixth at the 2021 Tokyo Games, and who had a leg amputated years ago, became the first disabled person to successfully climb Mount Olympus last week.

Nikos Papangelis, 23, had to have his leg amputated at the age of 14.

Papangelis became the first disabled person ever to summit the mountain of the Greek gods (a disabled woman did the same thing last year, but on the back of a long-distance runner).

The Paralympics athlete says it had long been his dream, but he was hesitant to attempt the climb, because he knew just how difficult it would be. “I found the right group, we geared up and did it. I didn’t use my prosthetic leg, I used crutches,” he explains.

Paralympics athlete
Credit: Facebook/Nikos Papangelis

Along with the rest of his group, Papangelis climbed for eight full hours on the first day of his venture and for another six hours on the second day. “It was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. The most dangerous, too. There were times I was really scared,” he admits.

Sixth place in cycling for the Paralympics athlete

The Paralympics athlete took part in last summer’s games in Tokyo, competing in cycling pursuit and coming in sixth. “The Paralympics were my primary goal ever since I was amputated,” he says. “I really wanted to compete with my country’s colors.”

Papangelis was just 12 years old when he first felt a sharp pain in his left leg. “We had a number of exams and they showed I was suffering from osteosarcoma, a form of cancer,” the athlete recalls. Chemotherapies and various surgeries ensued.

The tumor was removed, and he believed he had beaten the disease. “A year and a half later, I was re-diagnosed, with a more aggressive form of osteosarcoma, which didn’t give us much room for additional surgeries,” the Paralympics athlete remembers.

His leg was in dire straits and amputation was the only solution for him to continue living a normal life. “I had no choice but to be positive, draw strength from my parents, my family,” he says. “It made me a better man, tougher, stronger. It made me see life in a different light.”

Cycling in international competitions

He began cycling after his amputation in 2014. In 2017 he became a member of the Greek national cycling team in road and track races. He participated in world and European competitions, as well as in a world championship.

He came in sixth at the 2019 world track championship in the Netherlands and again in sixth place in the 2020 world track championship in Canada. In 2017 he came in at ninth place in the Los Angeles Paracycling championship, with a new national record in the men’s 3km Individual Pursuit category.

Then came the sixth place in the recent Tokyo Paralympics. Papangelis’ next goal is to take part in the next Paralympics in Paris in 2024 and — why not? — win a medal for Greece. His determination, stamina and ambition are a testament to his character.

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