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Olympic champion provides voice to #MeToo motion

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Earlier than she may be a part of crusing courses close to her house in Athens, Sofia Bekatorou needed to present an teacher she may tie a fundamental knot correctly. Passing the take a look at at age Eight modified her life.

Bekatorou spent her first afternoons in a bathtub-sized sailboat caught in circles, however coaches took notice of the lady’s willpower. By her 12th birthday, she was outperforming the boys in aggressive races and on a path to successful gold medals as a world champion and on the Olympics.

However essentially the most profitable lady in trendy Greece’s sporting historical past revealed in January that an incident virtually 23 years in the past had marred a lot of her private happiness {and professional} profession — an alleged sexual assault by a Greek crusing federation official at a resort in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

Her disclosure was made at a little-advertised on-line sports activities seminar, but it surely gained nationwide consideration and elicited statements of help for Bekatorou from the nation’s prime minister and first feminine president. It was adopted by dozens of public claims of sexual misconduct and office intimidation within the worlds of elite sports activities, the performing arts, and academia.

Bekatarou, 43, mentioned she hoped the response marked a turning level for Greek society, which frequently appears resigned to official cronyism and impunity.

“I’m very completely happy that they got here ahead and spoke out,” she mentioned in an interview with The Related Press,. “We have to embrace individuals who have lived by way of such experiences, as a result of it’s a really large step, even speaking about it.”

Bekatorou received a gold medal within the girls’s double-handed dinghy occasion with teammate Emilia Tsoulfa on the 2004 Summer season Olympics, which was held in Athens.

Greeks caught televised glimpses of the various successes that adopted: the keelboat race that returned her to an Olympics podium 4 years later in Beijing, and opening the parade of countries for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer season Video games as the primary feminine flag-bearer ever to steer the Greek Olympic crew.

Bekatorou devoted the distinction at Maracana Stadium to her older sister, Varia, who had died of mind most cancers 4 months earlier. Her future in top-tier competitors included a battle with a career-threatening again damage and, as she lately revealed, years of remedy. Reserved and soft-spoken, Bekatorou says the crusing federation official sexually assaulted her in 1998, on the day she celebrated qualifying for the Sydney Olympics. Neither she nor prosecuting authorities have publicly recognized the accused official, who has denied the allegations.

Alongside together with her Olympic medals, Bekatorou introduced house 4 World Championship titles and a shelfful of nationwide and European trophies. She was twice named World Sailor of the Yr. In recognition of her accomplishments, she was given the rank of main within the Greek military.

However she alleges that the the official who assaulted her additionally undermined her place on the nationwide crusing crew over almost 20 years, arguing that precedence needs to be given to youthful rivals.

“It’s a really large weight that we stock in our private life. And these are issues that may truly put you in a deep melancholy for a really very long time,” Bekatorou mentioned. “And except you may have the (proper) assist and atmosphere, it’s not straightforward to beat it and transfer on.”

The accused official was fired final month from senior posts on the Hellenic Crusing Federation and the Hellenic Olympic Committee. He referred to as Bekatorou’s allegations “defamatory and deceitful.”

The alleged assault has exceeded a 15-year statute of limitations, however a public prosecutor has agreed to look at the case for different potential victims.

Greek Justice Minister Kostas Tsiaras mentioned the federal government deliberate to make authorized modifications to make it simpler for sexual assault victims to report crimes.

Bekatorou mentioned the impression of her revelations had taken her unexpectedly.

She smiled when requested about future plans and the take a look at given to her when first studying to sail. Demonstrating her information, and the ability she picked up as an 8-year-old, she looped a chunk of microphone cable right into a bowline knot.

“I’ll should sail on greater boats which might be much less bodily demanding, however I don’t actually like the thought of being referred to as a former competitor.”

She is completely happy, she mentioned, to be related to the #MeToo motion that adopted the allegations of previous sexual misconduct that exploded in 2017 and the next conviction of Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

When the allegations emerged within the leisure trade, “I used to be feeling, you understand, one thing actually sturdy coming from inside, however I wasn’t able to take care of it. And I didn’t need simply to speak about it. I needed to vary one thing,” Bekatorou mentioned.

“And I knew that with a view to change one thing, I needed to be prepared, whether or not somebody would observe me or nobody would….Now, I’m prepared.”

___

Comply with Gatopoulos at https://twitter.com/dgatopoulos and Tongas at https://twitter.com/theodoratongas



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