Aug 12, 2016
The Trofeo Princesa Sofia since it was the ultimate event for the last European spot in the Olympics. Sofia participated in over 470 main class events including the 2004 Summer Olympic Games where she won a gold medal in the 470 class with Emilia Tsoulfa. After a serious back injury she came back and won a bronze medal in the Yngling in Bejing in 2008.
Michalis is a former sailing cameraman studying Electrical Engineering at university. Together they are possibly the shortest Olympic campaigners in history. With one last chance to qualify your nation at the Trofeo Princesa Sofia in Palma de Mallorca in the Nacra17 fleet, Greece’s Sofia Bekatorou called an old friend she had known and had sailed with before, Michalis Pateniotis.
Just two weeks before Palma they sailed together in the Nacra17. In Palma they qualified Greece for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. But looking deeper than what appears on the surface shows it wasn’t the fairy story it first seems.
Pateniotis has sailed for a long time and always had the love for the sport, he even had the experience of an Olympics when he competed in London 2012 in the 49er class for Greece, as he explains, “I started working for Icarus Media after I raced in London 2012 and worked with them until November last year . I was working as a Project Manager and also did camera work.
“Working with Icarus I got to see all my friends from sailing and stay in the same sport I had been involved with for all those years. It’s good being a cameraman, but from the other side you have different goals. I was always jealous of the people competing.”
Despite the jealousy, Pateniotis wasn’t actively campaigning in the Olympic classes and instead was studying Electrical Engineering at University when one day the phone rings, “I got a call from Sofia in March 2016. Two weeks before Palma we first sailed the Nacra together and in Palma we qualified the country and ourselves. It was the shortest Olympic campaign in history probably!”
Olympic gold and bronze medallist Bekatorou had been campaigning in the multihull class for the upcoming Games with Konstantinos Trigonis, but in a change of circumstance the pair decided not to continue together. Bekatorou had to search her phone book.
Bekatorou explains quite simply why Pateniotis is now in the Nacra17 with her, “He is a good sailor and has all the characteristics of a great crew. I’m happy to sail with him and very happy he responded to my call.”
The pair have sailed together previously but in bigger boats. The Nacra17 was the first small boat they had sailed together. Starting in Greece, the pair thought they made up good ground quickly and thought they would give it a try at a qualification event. The rest is history.
Reminiscing about her previous Olympic run ups Bekatorou said, “I have campaigned four times and every campaign has been different. The 470s I had a long campaign with the same crew. In Yngling it was a long campaign but changed some crew. This one by far is the most last minute campaign I have done, but you just have to take the best out of the circumstances that have happened. You just have to make choices sometimes.”
This choice has led to two former Olympians teaming up and taking another tilt at a medal in Rio 2016. But what if that phone call had never have come for Pateniotis, “Well I would be finishing my electrical engineering university course, which I will still do, and be looking for a job doing something else.”
The call did come and now they are in with a good a chance as any to get a medal, as the relaxed and philosophical Pateniotis knows, “There is a lot of effort and work to be done before August. If a medal comes it will be a surprise, but you never know, you know.”
Bekatorou and Pateniotis will be competing all week in the Nacra17 against a strong line up, including Australia’s Waterhouse and Darmanin and France’s Beeson and Riou, a line-up that they will be on the start line with in Rio de Janeiro this coming summer.
Since when have you been sailing together on de Nacra17?
Not so long, only since April 2016
What was your biggest challenge as a team?
To manage and be in the same level as the rest of the fleet and find our communication inside the boat in such sort period of time.
What is your best or most memorable result/win on your Road to Rio? Sailing, qualifying, mental, physically?
Mike: The Trofeo Princesa Sofia since it was the ultimate event for the last European spot in the Olympics. Battling out with 5 other nations and only a few points separating us until the very last race was challenging in all levels, physically, mentally and sailing wise since for me it was the first time sailing on the boat with such conditions.
What do you like best about the Olympic sailing Venue?
Sailing in the Bay of Rio and having all this great scenery around you. The big contrasts between the urban and natural scenery makes Guaranaba Bay unique.
What will your last few months before the games look like?
Training, training and more training!
How and where can your fans follow you on your Road to Rio?