On the 6th August of 1992, a very significant Saint's day in the Greek Orthodox Church, Η Μεταμόρφωση του Σωτήρος, one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Olympic Games tοοκ place...
Voula Patoulidou, became a Greek sporting legend when she was the surprise winner of the Women's 100 m hurdles race at the Olympic Games in Barcelona, gaining Greece's first Gold medal in Athletics and being the first Greek female gold medallist at the same time!!!
Millions of Greeks around the world watched in amazement as Voula Patoulidou took advantage of USA track star Gail Devers' fall in the 100m hurdles, and lunged her body forward, crossing the line in 12.64 seconds, and breaking a Greek national record that still stands.
On completing that tremendous race, Voula Patoulidou immediately threw her hands in the air, celebrating what she thought was a silver medal...
When she watched the replay of the race on the stadium's big screen, she realised what the rest of the world already knew - that she had won the race and was a gold medallist! At that point, Patoulidou fell to her knees and put her hands over her face in astonishment.
In the traditional interview to Greek journalists minutes after the race, Voula dedicated her medal to Greece with her historic
'Για την Ελλάδα, ρε γαμώτο!'
an expressive phrase that would remain immensely popular in Greece to this day, exactly 18 years later.
'For Greece, dammit!'
A few days earlier, another young Greek had astounded the world when he won Greece's first gold medal for weight lifting! During his 202.5 kilo clean and jerk lift he dedicated his victory to Greece and endeared himself forever in the hearts of Greeks all over the world, shouting
"Για την Ελλάδα!" "Yia tin Ellada!" "For Greece!"
It was such an unexpected victory that Greek television had to make emergency plans to cover the medal ceremony!
That young man was none other than Pyrros Dimas, who, born in Albania to ethnic Greek parents, came to Greece in 1991 to wear the Greek colours. Pyrros went on to become a legend, winning three gold medals at three successive Olympics and a bronze at his last ever public appearance, at Athens' Magical 2004 Olympic Games.
At the medal ceremony in Athens, the crowd gave the obviously moved Pyrros a standing ovation, such an incredibly long, but well-deserved tribute, that the silver medal winner had to wait a full 15 minutes before his name could be called!
The Barcelona Olympics hold a special place in our hearts. They gave Greece an amazing double at a time when Greek success at the Olympics was so limited. Pyrros Dimas and Voula Patoulidou became instant national heroes, and, as in the days of the Ancient Olympics they were given a welcome fit for heroes on their return to Greece, at a wonderful ceremony attended by more than 100,000 people at Athens' original Olympic Panathinaikon Stadium.
For those of us who were lucky enough to be there, the atmosphere of that Olympic homecoming was something else - an incredibly moving and inspirational moment.
It was a tribute, a thank you from heart from the people of Greece, a most fitting welcome for two young people, who inaugurated a new era for Greek sport and would inspire many many more in the years to come...
Thank you Voula, Thank you Pyrros!