Thursday, 30 August 2007

Ioannou soars to first ever medal for Cyprus

Kyriakos Ioannou of Cyprus celebrates clearing a jump in the Men's High Jump Final (Bongarts/Getty Images)

Osaka, Japan - Kyriakos Ioannou won an historic bronze medal for Cyprus in the men’s high jump at the IAAF World Championships in Osaka. By clearing 2.35 Ioannou put his country onto the map of world athletics with a medal which even the most  optimistic pundit from Cyprus would have hardly predicted at the beginning of the season.

“It is the first medal ever for my country in athletics. My dream has come true,” said Ioannou immediately after the competition.

Medal shows ‘anyone can do something special’

“In Cyprus football is still the number one sport. Tennis has become very popular since Marcos Bagdathis reached the final at the Australian Open in 2006. I cannot be compared to him. But this is a big success for me and my country. The medal is unexpected and shows that anyone can do something special in sport,” continued Ioannou.

“I began with football. I was a goalkeepeeper but decided to try with High Jump at the age of 11. In my family only my father was an athlete but in a different discipline. He was a half marathon runner. I began training in Cyprus but moved to Athens to study at the University.”

Ioannou’s result is remarkable especially because Cyprus sent a very small team to Japan made up of just two athletes. Athletics fans in Cyprus hope that this medal will inspire future generations of athletes.

Commonwealth bronze in 2006

In his career the 23-year-old Ioannou collected a Commonwealth Games bronze medal in Melbourne in March 2006 and a silver medal at the World University Games in Bangkok two weeks ago. This summer he has been consistent, finishing first in Belgrade, Ostrava and Thessaloniki and third in Athens. Before Osaka he held a PB of 2.32 set this year.

“My career has been hampered by injuries. I need an operation on my Achilles tendon.”

High praise for winner Thomas

The Osaka High Jump final showed that small countries can play a major role in athletics. Gold went to Donald Thomas from the Bahamas and bronze to Kyriakos Ioannou. It was at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games that Thomas, who played basketball and began the High Jump in January 2006 clearing 2.22 wearing basketball shoes, Ioannou was clearly impressed by what he saw. There the jumper from Cyprus finished third with 2.23 ahead of the new star from the Bahamas.

“Donald was really amazing. He managed to clear 2.23 wearing basketball shoes. He was amazing”, recalls Ioannou. 

The bronze medal was unexpected to many but Ioannou’s coach expressed his confidence that something special could happen.

“We expected a good result. After the University Games in Bangkok we came to Osaka in time to adjust to the difficult weather conditions,” he said.

Diego Sampaolo for the IAAF

 

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