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An American wins Spartathlon in Greece October 1, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Athletics.
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Scott Jurek of the United States won the Spartathlon on Saturday, a 245.3-kilometre race from Athens to Sparta that follows the 2,500-year-old route taken by legendary messenger Pheidippides.

Japan’s Inagaki Sumie was the top woman in the ultramarathon featuring 260 runners from 32 countries on a winding course along highways, dirt roads and mountains.

Jurek completed the annual race in 22 hours 52 minutes 18 seconds and was followed by two Japanese runners – Sekiya Ryoichi in 24:14:11 and Masayuki Ohtaki in 25:19:12. Sumie won her division in 28:37:20.

The field set out early Friday, running through rugged terrain to the finish line at the statue to ancient King Leonidas in Sparta, in the southern Peloponnese. The runners, who share a strong bond, passed through vineyards, mud, olive groves and up Mount Parthenio, almost a 2,000 metre ascent, in the middle of the night.

“They are coming here just for the difficulties (of the course),” said Spartathlon chief organizer Panagiotis Tsiakiris, adding only one-third of the runners usually finish.

“It’s a great experience,” said Mark Williams of San Jose, Calif., before setting out on his 14th Spartathlon on his 41st birthday.

The Spartathlon is about eight kilometres short of six consecutive marathons. The course is based on Herodotus’ account of the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. Pheidippides, an Athenian messenger, was sent to summon troop reinforcements against the invading Persians and arrived in Sparta “one day later.”

In 1982, British Royal Air Force officer John Foden tested the ancient tale and finished the course in 36 hours, laying the groundwork for the annual race.

To qualify for this event, participants must have finished a 100-kilometre race in less than 10 1/2 hours, completed a 200-kilometre race or finished or reached a certain checkpoint in a previous Spartathlon.

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Greece’s Eleni Daniilidou wins Korea Open October 1, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Tennis Squash.
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Greece’s Eleni Daniilidou won the USD145,000 Korean Open on Sunday in heroic fashion by beating fourth seed Ai Sugiyama of Japan 6-3, 2-6, 7-6.

The 24-year-old defeated the world number 27 despite finishing the match in obvious pain and collapsed to the ground in agony as Sugiyama’s return hit the net after 2 hours 36 minutes of thrilling entertainment at Seoul Olympic Park.

With the game balanced finely at 2-2 in the tie-break in the final set, Daniilidou twisted her knee while hitting a fine winner down the line. Despite getting back to her feet after receiving lengthy treatment, the Cretan-born player was in obvious pain.

The world number 58 battled on to win the tie-break 7-3 to bring the crowd to their feet in delight. That wasn’t the only obstacle Daniilidou overcame. She was down 4-5 and 0-40 in the final set but came back to take the match into the tie break. It was a dramatic end to an absorbing contest.

There had been little to separate the two with the European serving better but the Japanese star looking fresher after a grueling week in the South Korean capital. At the beginning of the final set it was anybody’s game. Chances were few and far between. At 5-4, the experienced Sugiyama had her opportunity.

“I’m a little disappointed. It was tough to lose in that kind of situation. I was leading 5-4 and had three match points, that was the key,” Sugiyama explained after the game. “In the tie break, it is not easy to play a normal game when the other player is injured. I was just pushing the ball back in the court as I thought she couldn’t move but she was still hitting the ball really well.”

Subsequently, the momentum was with Daniilidou whose battered knee couldn’t prevent her lifting the trophy and being saluted by a sizeable and admiring crowd. 

Celebrity golfers at the Aphrodite Hills October 1, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Paphos, Golf.
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Jasper Carrot, Sir Henry Cooper, Russ Abbot, Allen Wells, disc jockey Ed Stewart and world Champion Darts player Bob Anderson, in the company of several other TV stars and sports personalities, all came together this weekend to grace the greens at the Aphrodite Hills golf course.

Thomas Cook travel and the CTO, in association with The Variety Club, successfully organised what will hopefully become an annual celebrity event, the main aim of which is to raise money to help children with special needs.

With so many comedians dedicated to playing the game, Jasper Carrot was asked if he felt the game was in any way amusing or was it just the wearing of dodgy pink diamond patterned jumpers and yellow shorts that got all the laughs.

“I’ve never been heavily into the ‘couture’ side of the game, I enjoy playing golf for the game’s sheer charm, something that I find other sports just don’t offer.
“I’m also quite fascinated by the whole language of the game, words like eagle, birdie, and bogey all used to describe different actions on the course.

“Then there’s the almost unique honour system that exists. Few, if any, sports these days have this essential element. Nowadays it’s all about money and winning at any cost, that’s not part of the game of golf.

“That said it’s a game that does manage to reveal a person’s true character and that’s not something you can say about many other sports. It tests you in so many different ways, one day you feel everything is going brilliantly, so well indeed, that you feel that you could even take on Tiger Woods, the next morning it’s a total disaster area, but, like all golfers we do keep on going out there on the quest for that ever elusive perfect score.”

Russ Abbot, another highly talented actor/comedian is also hooked on the game, and for the same reasons. “ It’s also a sport that has no age limit so you can still wander out there on the greens until you’re 90. It’s truly a great pastime, it’s great therapy as well, because when you are playing you do manage to block out everything else that’s going on in your life.

“The other great thing about playing and enjoying ourselves here in Cyprus is the added bonus of being in the position to raise much needed funds for sick and needy children, so it’s a double pleasure to be here and hopefully it wont be long before I return. as I’d really like to spend more time here. What I’ve seen so far I do like’.

This was Jasper Carrot’s second visit to Cyprus. His first was over 30 years ago when he appeared at Curium. “Now that was one memorable experience. I have never forgotten the feeling of standing there in the open air with the sea behind me, a packed house, and thinking about all the other performers way back through the centuries who had also stood in the exact same spot waiting to perform. That was quite a moment.”

One’s left to wish that Aphrodite Hills had hidden microphones at every hole around the golf course. Then we could all have been privy to some of the best one liners uttered by such a grand group of fun-filled and totally generous golfers.

Looking for talent October 1, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Media Radio TV.
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A talent competition seeking two young Internet television presenters was held yesterday in Nicosia.

Titled Internet TV Star, the competition is being promoted as, “a talent show with a difference”. It is being run by Cyprus ITV, the first Internet television channel on the island and radio station Energy 107.6 FM.

Paris Christofides, Concept Development Manager with CITV, said yesterday, “Cyprus has never before staged a talent show where the public all over the world can vote online.”

One male and one female presenter are being sought, with Christofides saying: “Personality is what we are looking for”. The two winners will present a series of shows, visiting bars, clubs, restaurants and cafes, talking to people enjoying themselves and presenting the selected venues. Over 50 people applied, with 20 invited to Zoo Club for the first audition.

Sylvia Mavropoulos, a member of the five-person judging panel made up of stylists, radio hosts, CITV personnel and the club’s owner, said what she was looking for in an applicant. “I want an extrovert,” she said. “Somebody who is confident, loud, flamboyant and who you can immediately relate to. The two winners will also need to have chemistry between them.” She said that age and previous experience were not important. “We are interested in somebody looking for their big break.”

One female applicant seemed to take age being no barrier a step too far though, replying that she was only 14 years old.

Questions were asked trying to gauge the individual’s personality and ethics. “What would you say at your acceptance speech if you won an Oscar? What would your reaction be if your guests started arguing amongst themselves during a broadcast? What would you do if a flirtatious interviewee asked you for your telephone number live on air? What is your perfect definition of a date? These were some of the questions posed.

One man was also asked to show off a dance move, while a woman was asked to sing.
Another judge confided that first impressions were very important, “with certain candidates ruled out immediately.”

The 20 applicants were yesterday whittled down to ten, with their personal promotional films to be posted on the ITV Star website www.itvcyprus.tv/star. Voting will also take place via SMS on 54 54. The four candidates with the most votes will go through to the next stage, with the two winners announced in mid-December at a special party at the club.

“The presenters will have the opportunity to work in the marketing and production side of CITV,” said a company press release.

The station broadcasts 24 hours a day over the Internet and is available across the globe. The ethos is quite simple: The promotion of Cyprus to the world.

Festival in the park October 1, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Cyprus.
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A music, arts and culture festival yesterday took place in central Nicosia with the aim of bringing together people from different fields in the first event of its kind in Cyprus.

The Urban Soul Festival, in the park between Eleftheria and Solomou Squares was a 12-hour extravaganza celebrating artistic diversity.

Event organiser Petros Lapithis of the Pantheon Cultural Association said that the festival, “gives artists, painters, sculptors, photographers, musicians, graphic designers and publishers the chance to show off their work to the public. We invited them to present their work and have given them an opportunity to communicate their ideas through various forms.”

He hoped that the festival’s diversity “will attract many different people, many of whom would never normally visit the closed confines of a gallery or the four walls of a music venue.

“Another advantage is the event’s interactivity. The public can come and take a look, enjoy something to eat and drink and even touch many of the exhibits.”

It was hoped that the festival, which is free of charge, would appeal to shoppers, those going for a walk and even friends out for coffee. “That’s why we chose such a central spot,” said Lapithis.

As the festival kicked off at about midday, a small crowd had started to gather. Some nodded their heads at the music, while others simply walked around with their children taking in the exhibits. There was also a little arts and crafts section with handmade jewellery and decorations on sale.

The main music events were due to take place in the latter part of the day, in the form of a large tent housing DJs and live bands. Hip-Hop, reggae, eclectic, and fusion electronica were due to be played alongside local bands and solo artists, “offering something for everyone,” according to Lapithis.

“Now that the day has finally arrived, all the hard work we have put in over the past six months organising the event has paid off,” he said. “There’s an art world that’s thriving in Cyprus but not so many people really pay attention. I don’t blame them, as they need to be exposed to it more.”

Racing in the blood October 1, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Racing & Motors.
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Starting at seven, a 14-year-old Cypriot boy is the current world champion for his age group

If you’re seven years old and happen to have a love for speed but cannot even reach the pedals of a car, you have to improvise. That’s exactly what Eftichios Ellinas did when his father first sat him behind the wheel of a go-kart. Since then, at the age of 14, he has gone on to become World Champion.

“My father was a fanatic and even won a few races, so I think it was only natural that I would be tempted by something like a go-kart but I really feel I had the need to speed in my blood anyway,” Eftichios said.

At the racetrack, surrounded by young boys in jumpsuits and proud fathers tightening screws and getting their hands dirty, it was easy to imagine what Eftichios’ life was like. Most of the boys who get involved in go-karts so early in their lives have fathers who have had some sort of connection with the sport in the past.

After all, it is an expensive hobby with parents forking out somewhere between £3,000 and £5,000 for one go-kart alone. Taking part in races, parts, gear, kits and overall services can require much more and sponsors are often needed.

However, it’s a tough game with many youngsters realising they’re either not cut out for it or simply losing interest as they grow older and often heavier. What could have turned out to be a waste of time and money was in fact the best thing that ever happened to Eftichios and his father when he won the Rok World Championship in Italy last year.

“It was my first time in a proper race abroad and to be honest with you, I didn’t think I would even finish tenth,” he said. With 34 other participants from 20 countries, all aged between 13 and 16, Eftichios was anxious and terrified, constantly convincing himself that he couldn’t win. “It just happened, you know,” he explains, clearly still feeling like a winner. “When I realised I was first and doing pretty well, I thought I could actually win.” He did.

Eftichios’ training consists of 20 hours a week working on his two go-karts, one is for racing and the other for training and both are worth a staggering £7,000. Rather incredibly, I thought, he has never been injured or hurt.

“First of all, it’s very difficult to actually get hurt while racing a go-kart and second you are wearing protective gear. So what I like most about it is speeding and thankfully I can do exactly that without getting hurt.” When I ask what his mother thinks, he smiles and says: “You would think that this is something she’s used to because my father was involved in it too but it took her sometime to come to terms with it. Winning the title made her realise I was serious.”

So what does the future hold for Eftichios? He excitedly tells me about this year’s big race, the Road Tax Maxi Challenge in Portugal, which he has already begun preparing for. “It’s in November and I’m hoping I will do well again as I would definitely love another trophy.” But there are further plans as well, as Eftichios explains he is quite serious about the sport and would like to move on to the next level: Formula 3. “Of course, it’s something I would have to be trained for in Europe but it’s something I want to do. This isn’t just a hobby for me anymore. When I turn 16, I will be able to make that dream come true as well.”

Time to go karting October 1, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Nicosia, Racing & Motors.
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A new professional race track in Nicosia satisfies adrenalin junkies of all ages

I held on for dear life as I forced myself to step on the pedal, desperately trying to keep up with my competitors. I felt I was abusing every muscle in my arms and my body shook as speed is rarely my strongest point. For the first few laps I slowed down at almost every turn despite the marshal’s and supervisor’s promises that karts do not flip over. Karting is categorised as an extreme sport, validating the adrenaline rush one experiences once the engines start running.

My previous experiences with karts have been on the rare occasion in Paphos or Ayia Napa with a mini kart, of which I never actually touched the steering wheel. However, this was my chance to test the newest and most expensive kart track in Cyprus thus I had to face the monster.

Daytona Raceway opened it’s doors to the public this summer, introducing a professional and alternative experience unlike any other in Cyprus. Gregory Katikkis, one of four owners explains why the track is a leader in its field. “First of all, there’s nothing like it, to date, in Cyprus. And this is due to the extensive design and professional attitude that’s gone into this project. Everything from the quality of the tarmac to the karts and the elevation of the ground are key reasons as to why this track is professionally registered. We definitely meet European standards.” It took Gregory and his three partners nearly five years to get the track up and running. Designers were even brought in from the UK.

Situated on the Tseri – Dhali road, the Daytona karting track is said to have cost a staggering £1.5 million. Is it true? “Well, you’re close,” said Gregory, “but there were many hidden costs we found along the way. We knew it would cost but just not that much.”

Nevertheless, upon entering the project, the grey flooring, bright red chairs and square tables leading to the 1,200 metre race track were a giveaway. “Although every last detail was carefully thought of and we did pay attention to the designing of the cafe area, conference room and general reception area, most of the money was spent on equipment.”

One of the main stays of Daytona’s professionalism is the lap timing system. At the end of every race, each driver gets an individual lap-time printout indicating the laps completed, your position, top average speed, best lap-time and overall performance. “They love it,” Gregory said, “whatever age! And it’s definitely a motive to come back and be better.” Each driver’s record is registered in the Daytona’s system acting as more than just a pastime. “Due to the unfortunate fact that some people see this place as an amusement park, with this system we know who we should be watching out for. I have actually banned someone from coming here due to reckless driving.”

Safety is an issue taken very seriously at the Daytona race track. A short briefing takes place prior to racing and drivers are warned of hazards. “Age is irrelevant. Everybody must go through a briefing and is told what to look out for but above all, we just want them to have fun,” he said. Helmets must be worn and even racing jumpsuits will be given to drivers as loose clothing and even sandals can cause an accident. When we were there one youngster got pulled up. Marios, an 18-year old student was made to sit out of a second round with his friends due to reckless driving on his first attempt. “I was just having fun,” the youngster said, “but obviously I wasn’t driving all that much as my kart had to be constantly dragged out of the dirt surrounding the race track. I couldn’t keep on the track.”

Although speeding and karting may be seen as the ultimate adrenaline rush for men, I wasn’t surprised to see young girls eager to slip on the helmets. “It’s the first time we’ve been here but we love go-karts and we heard this is the best place to be so here we are,” said Yianna, 20. “We will have male competition but it doesn’t bother us,” she continued. It’s only common sense that the lighter you are, the quicker you can move on the go-karts and this is one of the main reasons why go-karting is so popular amongst the younger generation. “Boys are specially excited about karting because it is a safe environment for them to feel as though they are driving, racing, speeding and winning,” explained Tassos, karting enthusiast.

Indeed, go-kart races are on Gregory’s agenda. “We’ve got races booked all the way through to November ranging from eight-year olds, who by the way, are the best, and then the much older category.” However, professional go-kart drivers, who come to Daytona to practice, are among the lucky ones who get to experience the professional karts. “The professional go-karts are different. They’re more powerful and don’t have the barrier surrounding the normal go-karts, so obviously they are dangerous if you do not know how to handle them.” So, can anyone drive them then? “Absolutely not!” Gregory remarked. “If and when we notice on the system that you have a good driving record then yes, you get the opportunity to drive one.” However, there’s also another catch that gets enthusiasts wanting more and that’s the one and only banking turn available only at Daytona. “The banking turn is a dangerous turn on the race track. One that could easily tip over the kart and mostly one used by professionals. People hate it when we block it off but it’s just too dangerous. When we feel they’re ready to take it on, we’ll let them through,” he says.

The Daytona project has just taken off and apparently there’s still plenty to do before Gregory and his partners can sit back with pride. “One of our basic future plans is a driving school. We will have professionals teaching the basic rules of driving and even prepping up good, young drivers for races.” Although I didn’t feel I needed any lessons, I was effectively reminded of my lack of exercise, as my entire body was aching from the gruesome workout I had endured during the 15 minutes of racing. Highly recommended as a brilliant way to blow off some steam and get those flabby arms back in shape!

Daytona Raceway: 99 436683. Groups are welcome but book in advance to avoid disappointment.