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JP Tobin reports on Greece ...

Hi Team

Arrived back in New Zealand yesterday WOW!!! what a culture and climate shock nice to be back in civilisation and clean air (you can taste the difference from Athens). James Wells "Snowball" and myself arrived in Athens on the 15th July following a couple of weeks training in Cadiz Spain (venue for 2003 World Championships) after a few nights of searching we managed to find some excellent apartments that were ideal as we could cook our own food and they were well priced. Athens accommodation is super expensive so much so that while we were looking for a place to stay we would stay awake till 3 in the morning to check into a hotel so we could take advantage of half room rate. This became more and more difficult programme to run as the bodies were not recovering so well from being punished on the water daily and the required rest was not possible.

Our apartment was 10 km from the training venue where we were keeping our equipment and where the Greek National Team trains from, so bikes were ideal. Snowball was the first to get his machine, a downhill racer that looked great but was a piece of #%!@ and eventually ended up with Snowball having to obtain another. I ran the first few days but decided eventually that in the 40 degree heat this was not the ideal option as I would arrive at training seriously dehydrated.

We now both had bikes and lucky for us the tour de France was on so we made a few classic races of our own to and from training everyday. Always finishing with the sprint for the line I had the edge here with a bit more power seeing me to line honours on all but one sprint occasion.

Training in Athens for 6 weeks with the Greek Champion Nikos Kaklamanakis (Kaka) and his small training team was valuable. I plan to spend as much time in Athens in the next few years leading up to the 2004 Olympic Games training with the Greek as much as possible, Athens is his home waters and he is a serious threat racing here.

Nikos is a proven performer Gold Medallist in Atlanta 1996 and reigning World Champion his support is unparalleled (personal full time doctor, massage, and coach just for starters). We spent the most time in Athens of any of the athletes bar the Kaka that were competing in the 2002 Olympic Test event (Olympic test event is contested over the same time frame 16-24 August and the same venue and as the Olympic Games of 2004 will be).

My objectives for my time in Europe this year:

1. To become more "Greek" and tune myself into performing at the highest level in Athens. Athens is and will continue to become my second home over the build up to the Olympic Games in 2004.

2. Check the level of the Europeans.

3. Build a solid base for primary focus of the year. World Championships, Thailand, December.

I don't know for the other Olympic sites but the Olympic sailing venue of Agios Cosmos is well on schedule and if the Test event is anything to go by the Olympic Games for 2004 will be one of the best. The organization and management of the event was outstanding from Day 1 Accreditation to the Prize Giving ceremony beamed live and direct all over Greece, Snowball and myself became rockstars in Greece overnight!!! not something either of us are used to...coming from our nation dominated by the egg shaped ball...

Security for the event was off the scale x-ray achines, metal detectors and plenty of Greeks with Automatic weapons complete with Air and Naval support!!!.

The conditions for the test event were typical and followed the usual formula which is to take the local standard conditions that we have been training in for the past 4 weeks which were quite consistent. Sun every day with a light NW wind that would move left through the day to a SW sea breeze which would peak at 14 knots at 3.00

pm before moving back to the NW wind in the evening and become windy during the night (had some 11.00 pm training sessions decked out in boardshorts went out for some "fun" which was quickly replaced by full on training line ups and pumping drills (we just cant relax) it was a good time to train as no sun at 11.00 pm and the best wind of the day).

From these predictable conditions came Thunder Storms and rain so heavy it caused widespread flooding. When it rains in Athens there is instant entertainment all you need to do is go find a cafe on a main corner and watch the Greeks play bumper cars. Following rain a white film covers the road which looks like dishwashing detergent and has the same effect. The road is so slippery and the Greeks who never see rain continue to drive the only way though now how which is right on and usually past the limits.

I managed to buckle the wheel of my bike coming home from racing from the slippery roads (honest officer I was riding in an orderly manner) bike riding in Greece is not very common and is treated as an extreme sport...riding on the road in Greece is dangerous!!! when the road is wet you should stay off it!!!

The racing for the test event was very intense and competition was high. Only two athletes from each nation are able to race and the majority of the high performance nations were present bar the Polish and Argentineans.

I have not made a lot of racing this year due to Uni commitments and it showed my starts were crap and I was having problems getting off the line but my speed and fitness and on occasion my tactics enabled me to quickly charge back through the

fleet to finish strongly in most races. The Greek was very consistent as I expected on his home track and reinforces how tough and how much of a challenge he will be.

So Bronze was the final result only a single point off Silver, I had not gone into the test event with to much of an expectation as my focus is on the World Championships in December so it was good to come away with a result.

I am feeling quite at home know in Athens we even have the "Kiwi Retreat" just out of Athens where we can go and hang with kiwis and watch All Black tests in a really tranquillo setting...(Thanks John and Katie).

Looking forward to heading "back home" next year.

Over the next few months I will compete in Japan in October before heading for Thailand in early November to begin preparations for the World Championships.

In addition to this I will continue to develop funding opportunities and ultimately gain a sponsor to join my preparations for 2004.

JP out

"Try not. Do or do not. There is no try"

Yoda (Jedi Master)

Jon-Paul Tobin


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