Christos Sandalakis from Nea Alikarnassos, Crete, is involved in cycling. The 22-year-old athlete was born with a rare condition that caused 99% loss of his vision. And yet, in the last four years, he has managed to win a great number of medals and important distinctions in world cycling championships.
By Mia Kollia
Translated by Alexandros Theodoropoulos
The power of the soul and the vigour that characterise him, haven’t let this particular peculiarity discourage him, as he has managed to understand the world in his own way and always with the help of his own people. After all, as he confirms, "In case of loss of a sense, our other senses are sharpened in order to balance the lack we have."
Thus, the young cyclist managed like everyone else in his career and life, to develop as a person and as an athlete and to achieve many things up until now, with more to come.
Christos was involved in various sports from a young age. At one point, he came in contact with the national coach of the national cycling team, who initially saw a very good body type. After some specialised tests on the bike, he also found that there is talent. They had a lot of conversations and from there on cycling came into his life - apparently to stay.
For Christos, being able to ride a bike on his own and with high speed was a dream come true.
"When the first descent was completed without my fellow athlete and assistant at the wheel, I felt an unprecedented emotion. Getting off the bike I realised that a dream of mine had just come true. I felt the greatest joy, happiness, excitement, but above all, pride that I’d achieved something so difficult for me".
His fellow athlete, Sotiris Bretas, contributed to this project with his valuable help - even invisibly this time since he wasn’t at the wheel. Strong proof is the fact that they managed to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympic Games. Their collaboration works perfectly. They fit very well as characters and have very good communication on the bike, that’s why they have been so successful.
Christos never gave up - his stubbornness and will led him to being a champion.
"Willpower is a huge tool to achieve things. There’s definitely a lot needed, mainly work, effort and time, but I strongly believe that if there is willpower everything else follows. It is good for people, no matter what happens in their lives, to always pursue their dreams and goals because, firstly, it’s never too late for that and secondly, a life without dreams and goals will never be a happy one”.
At the same time, he recognises the support of his family as a key factor for his successful course so far.
"My family supports me as much as possible. They are always there for me and I know that whatever the result may be, successful or not, they will be there to tell me something nice and to encourage me psychologically. And of course, living in 2021 Greece, they are the big sponsors of all my effort".
Of course this happens not only in his case but also in many great Greek athletes, whose families are their main financiers.