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The Motivation: If not now, then when? Life is too short to stay inactive.
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The Dream: Staying fit and feeling younger day by day!

26 October 2011

THE END: Schiniathlon Triathlon Organisation has now ended (for ever...) :(

We are all shocked with Schiniathlon Team's decision to terminate the continuation of the triathlon races, however we all understand the driving force behind this (read article at the end of this post).

Schiniathlon has been the only organisation in Greece to provide events for the rapidly growing number of amateur triathletes.

The next and only available option for an athlete to participate in an triathlon event in Greece is through the Hellenic Triathlon Federation - which, unfortunately, it is not amateur oriented, hence leaving outside several hundred of part-time competitors and at the same, indirectly damaging Schiniathlon's races as justified by Schiniathlon's closing letter at the end of this post. This letter confirms the valueless presence of the public sector in Greece (i.e. Ministry of Sport's, etc.) and who, once again, managed to eliminate this great sport from the amateur groups with their endless bureaucratic obstacles.

On my personal side, Schiniathlon had positively shaped my lifestyle and it was the meaning for me training hard and always looking for the next event's challenge.

We will all miss Schiniathlon and we will always remember how well it took care of us with its exceptionally well organised and gracious races.

Read here the full closing letter of Schiniathlon Team from the Schiniathlon Official Website or read it below:

The end of Schiniathlon – 5 years & 20 races

By Marie Leautey:

In May 2007 I organized the 1st "Triathlon of Schinias Bay" at Moraitis Beach. 55 guys turned up with surf-shorts and mountain bikes, no helmet, no goggles… It seems the sport was starting from scratch…

5 seasons of Schiniathlon later: 20 races, 3200 participations, over 1500 unique athletes. 2011 saw the sprint distance fully booked with over 300 athletes, the Olympic distance with 200 athletes, the half-iron distance with 120 athletes and 40 Greeks traveling abroad for full ironman distance. These are figures which we did not think could have been possible 5 years ago.

I am very happy and proud to have been part of this adventure.

I have received immense support from Leonidas and his involvement by my side is key to what we have achieved. His support represents the essence of the sport and how it has developed in all other countries around the world: share the sport with your friends, your family, and involve them in the sport itself. Leo's family has been volunteering at Schiniathlon, doing time-keeping, handing water, holding check-points, cooking cheese-pies and sandwiches, relentlessly for the past 5 years.

I've seen a few athletes involving their family members and friends in the sport, to volunteer by our side. Although this was a very rare sight, this was highly appreciated.

I have received support from a few athletes who understood that financial support was also essential for the sport to develop, in the form of sponsorship. Stephane Wagner from Multirama, Huib Dekker from Wind and Alexis Athanasopoulos for Pharmshop have all contributed in a major way to the development of Schiniathlon.

We received substantial help from our race hosts. Of course Dimitris Moraitis for Schinias, who offered us 15 times his premises when we needed and made his best to accommodate all the athletes. But also the Astros and Vravrona communities who did their best to provide us suitable premises on which to hold our events.

I have appreciated every bit of help received over these 5 years.

In parallel to all this support, for 5 years we have had to face discouraging hurdles.
1- We have faced the constant rejection & bullying from the country's Triathlon Authority (EOTri) which should have tried, in all logic, to support our efforts. This was pure intimidation and excluded us indefinitely from the umbrella of the sport's federation.
2- We have faced the total absence of procedures for support of such events. The various authorities in Greece, ranking from Municipalities to Port Police, Municipal Police and Traffic Police – all made it impossible to formalize any form of support for the private organizer (dejected by our sport Federation) that we were. No 2 events have been going through the same process over these 5 years.
3- We have faced the indifference of the General Secretary of Sports and the Olympic Committee who seem to signify they could not care less about the wrong-doings blocking the sport's development.
4- We have faced the absence of any form of adapted insurance product for the sport, which meant that for every race, all the risks were only resting on my & Leonidas' shoulders.

But the most discouraging and draining of all was this:
5- We have faced the absence of support from an organized community of athletes. Triathlon is a complex sport to race as well as to organize. It does require a significant involvement of the community. Volunteering and engagement of the athletes and their relatives in the development of the sport is key to the healthy growth of triathlon. The network of clubs and athletes' community is the backbone of the sport in all countries where the sport has successfully developed. And there is no such thing in Greece because the athletes have never started to get it done.

Nothing can be achieved by waiting for things to happen. And our achievements have proven that no hurdles can justify the state in which triathlon was 5 years ago and has been for the past 20 years in Greece.

It is with great sadness that I announce today that Schiniathlon is over. We have held our last event and it closes 5 years of constant efforts to introduce the sport in Greece. As I will be leaving the country in December, the time has come for us to end Schiniathlon. I believe we have taken this adventure as far as we could during these 5 years.

In 2007 my goal was to share the love of this sport and the motto of the 1st event was "Fun Tri for All".
In 2011 I can look back in pride over these past 5 years and feel I have accomplished what I set out to do.

It took me and Leo on quite an adventure. Establishing a company, creating a website, developing communication platforms with all the athletes, looking for sponsors, for suppliers, designing our materials and memorabilia, building our own infrastructure, developing our own time-keeping software and system, managing the registration and payment processes, setting up race venues… Seeking improvements for every season, every race, always offering more and better, adding venues, distances… Giving the athletes a full season whilst keeping the costs as low as we could… Juggling with the authorizations to ensure every event will be undisturbed and there will be fun for all… Organizing races in a disciplined, legal and socially responsible manner with respect to the athletes, as well as the authorities and the State.

This is by far the most challenging experience I have ever embarked on. We have given everything we could with Leo, as a family and as professionals, to the sport of triathlon, for 5 years.

I wish to see the athletes take the sport into their own hands, form a tangible and strong community of athletes which will become the backbone of a healthy triathlon culture in Greece. I wish when I come back to Greece to visit, I'll be seeing a lot of good things – and maybe take part in a triathlon, for a change!

It is up to you - and nobody else.

(**Ps: we will not reply to any comments made on public forums. Any questions or messages for us concerning this announcement should be addressed to Thanks for your understanding)

All the volunteers
The Samaritans of the Red Cross
Our sponsors, Multirama & Pharmshop
Our main race host since 2007, Dimitris Moraitis
Astros Paralia, Vravrona & Markopoulo Municipality
Our free suppliers, GU Gels, Bonk Breaker and Avra
Our Expo partners over the years, Pulse100, BikeMe, Lestos, Cyclist, World of Bike, ToPodilato, HotYoga
Our musician friends, Alex Abravanel and Lester&TheCool
The Federation of Cycling, for providing us race-licenses despite knowing we were not a cycling race

Leonidas Athanasopoulos:

The efforts to organize mass triathlon in Greece started in May 2007 with Marie. Before that point there were only the EOTri's small organized events, which were reserved to athletes holding a licence and had the elite-culture stamped to it, or some ad hoc events appearing one year, disappearing the next. Marie followed in the steps of the Doctor of Poros (Sapounakis) who helped bring a group of 25 athletes among the 55 participants the 1st event gathered. This was the first effort to stimulate amateur athletes in a pleasant atmosphere. This element, combined with the determination and passion of Marie paved the way for the series of Schiniathlon to follow.

I jumped on the train from the 1st event with the group from the XPoros race and at the 2nd race I was already on-board the organization side, having built the website and communication platforms. Unfortunately it was a bit naive to believe it was possible to both participate and be on the organizing side. My fun as a triathlete ended up quickly and I then realized that if I wanted to race, from now on, I would have to travel abroad! As you can see, there are no other open triathlon race(s) in Greece for the amateur athletes.
The achievement and success of the 1st two years of activity were based purely on funding from our pocket, counting in thousands of Euro and involving great efforts and free-time devoted to the events. Our stubbornness also led us to try and overcome the threats received from EOTri and people in their organization (some of them later came to race our races, irony) the same way they did to XPoros. Our efforts were geared towards preserving the safety and spirit of the races and welcoming more newcomers into the sport.
At the end of 2008 we proceeded to set-up a company since we wanted to be 100% legitimate and transparent in the organization of the ever-growing races. Some very naive first steps had been attempted in 2008 to join EOTri but only led to memorable slaps in our face and further loss of money (we got tricked into organizing a race free for the athletes, only to learn afterwards that we were never going to be refunded any of our expenses… yes, naive).

Since we could not anymore support the events with our own resources, we set up the company and started looking for funding via sponsorship, which we found through some dedicated athletes. We bought infrastructure, gathered more people and always fought to preserve the spirit and tone of the event which was our trademark since the beginning. We introduced new distances, added new venues to our calendar. We organized groups of athletes to participate at IM events abroad (14 in 2008 for 1/2IM Austria, 22 in 2009 for IM Frankfurt, 17 in 2011 for IM Roth, and 22 in 2012 for IM Austria).

No one should nurture the thought that Schiniathlon was a job for us. I continued my job as a developer working 8 to 10hrs every day. Anyone thinking that we were making a living from Schiniathlon, should have a reality check!

We constantly urged the athletes to organize and contribute to a better future for triathlon in the country. We hoped something would emerge from the Greek reality of "what can I do". Unfortunately, little was done. We continued our rising against a series of challenges, the most significant being the ever increasing risks on our shoulders and the fear of accident. You have to realize that two people only have got a limit on how much risk they can support, particularly when no factor comes in to mitigate the said risk.

The limit is what we have now reached. The year closes with the end of Schiniathlon races. It is unfortunate that the athletes did not take needed steps to set the basis for the development of the sport they love. All were relying on what Marie and Leonidas were doing. We received unimaginable requests to organize longer distances, to set events in various locations, etc… After 5 years of Schiniathlon it started to be a recurring song to our ears. Two people only were behind all the races, there's a point where we get tired of it.

Personally I have been disappointed by the opportunist appearance of people who seem to forget they once were among the groups who fiercely attacked Schiniathlon in its infancy. As Schiniathlon grew strong and healthy the same people suddenly turned into self-proclaimed defenders of the sport whilst building businesses around Schiniathlon and the 1500 athletes who have participated at our races since the start.

Marie and I have a metaphor to describe this phenomenon: we are fighting to raise and grow a small cow in a hostile environment. And no sooner is the cow starting to move on its feet that all the hands are rushing underneath to start and milk it. Nothing can grow this way. Involvement and investment have got to go into growing the cow prior to milking them in a healthy fashion.

Good luck to you all, I hope we have opened up your appetite for the sport and provided a healthy and organized base to develop the sport of triathlon in general.

Leonidas Athanasopoulos.

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