Dimosthenis Tampakos – Gold Medalist Devotee Of Sathya Sai Baba
A foreign, Olympic gold-medallist, Dimosthenis Tampakos, is inspired by an Indian saint. V. V. Subrahmanyam talks to the athlete.
When Dimosthenis Tampakos of Greece was strolling along the corridors of the Andhra Pradesh Olympic Bhavan in Hyderabad, none realised that he was an Olympic gold medallist gymnast (Roman Rings, 2004 Athens).
What was this Greek sporting hero doing in Hyderabad? Being an ardent devotee of Sri Satya Sai Baba, Tampakos was on a visit to the Sports Coaching Foundation in Hyderabad which is run by K. Sai Baba, another devotee of the Puttaparthi saint.
Tampakos says he is always inspired by the teachings of Baba. “You tend to feel in a different world when you think of him. There is always a special ambience in Puttaparthi,” he remarked. He also mentioned that ever since he became a follower of Baba in 1996, he has made it a point to visit Puttaparthi every January for the Sports Day celebrations there.
Another interesting revelation from this champion gymnast was that he preferred not to undergo shoulder surgery before the Athens Games. He believed in the blessings of Baba and went on to win a gold. “I owe my gold to Baba,” he says with all reverence.
And, when this Greek athlete interacted with budding stars at the Sports Coaching Foundation in Hyderabad, his message was simple: Dream big but take care to achieve it with all sincerity and commitment.
In a chat with Sportstar, Tampakos aired his thoughts about contemporary sport and his belief in Baba’s teachings.
A silver medallist in the 2000 Games earlier, he believes that the Beijing showing could well be the beginning of a new chapter in Indian sports.
“A gold and two bronzes may not mean much when compared to the big guns of the world of sports. But, if you look at this from the Indian perspective, this should be big news and provide the impetus to the efforts to promote sports in a big way,” said the Greek athlete.
He feels that it is time for Indian sports administrators re-looked at the whole gamut of long-term training and scientific programmes. For someone who keeps track of Indian sports, Tampakos strongly believes there is no dearth of talent and all that is needed is scientific grooming and adequate exposure.
“I know how an Olympic medal changes the lifestyle of an athlete. I remember being given an incentive of 1,60,000 Euros for my Athens gold. And if you look at the huge publicity blitz for shooter Abhinav Bindra and the bronze medallists Sushil Kumar (wrestling) and Vijender (boxing), it should only inspire the other young talent here,” said this two-time World Cup gold medallist.
Tampakos also says that he was not surprised by either the grandeur of the Chinese in organising the Games or their great performances.
“It is the end-result of long training programmes. You have to have a vision and diligently try to realise it. This is where I feel the whole world can take a lesson from the Chinese,” he remarked.
“I am sure China will continue to dominate the world of sport in the years to come.”
He refused to entertain any query on the controversy surrounding his gold-medal performance in Athens. “That is past. What is imperative is that I am not responsible for that. Ultimately, I will be looked in Greek sporting history as a gold medallist. That is the greatest satisfaction,” he explains.
Talking of his own career, Tampakos, who is 32 now, says he is looking forward to competing in the 2012 Olympics in London. “I am disappointed that I did not qualify for the Beijing Games, but will love to be there in London. For this, I feel next year’s World championships will be the most crucial,” says the Greek.
He takes immense pride from the fact that his Athens gold was the 100th medal won by Greece in all Olympics.
“I don’t think age is a barrier for me,” he asserts while saying that he won his Olympic gold at 28. “What matters is fitness and commitment to the task at hand.”
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