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Beijing 2022 - Unforgettable Olympics!

Zhangjiakou cc-skiing olympic venue

Three months ago, I came back from my third Olympic participation, and just a few days before the kick-off summer season, I would like to share with you my impressions and my feelings about this unique Olympics. It's hard to realise what I have accomplished there, even comprehending my emotions. It is also hard to believe what I have achieved as an athlete who is pursuing a dual career, working in the sports industry as a manager and at the same time competing in the Olympics.

These Olympics will hold a special place in my heart for the following reasons I am stating in this blog.

Opening the parade of nations during the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Olympics was the top highlight of my experience. It was an honour like no other to be the flagbearer of Team Hellas at the Beijing Winter Olympic Games. There was so much weight on our shoulders at that moment. It was an incalculable feeling; it felt like I was dreaming. All the sacrifices and obstacles an athlete has to overcome along the way to pursue their Olympic dream magically reward you. Tears of joy rolled down my face as the gate opened to enter the stadium ''Bird's nest'' in Beijing, China.

Maria Ntanou competing in women's sprint event Beijing 2022
Women's sprint event - February 8th 2022

February 8th 2022. I will definitely remember the individual sprint event at Zhangjiakou Olympic Venue:

1. Because it taught me a lesson to be more careful in my start. For those who did not follow the event, I had started in the position of the athlete in front of me, who had the number 82 (I the 83), as she did not appear at the start. Normally, the judge opens the bar until 15 seconds have passed, and he closes it to start the next athlete. In my case, he did not do it, and the person responsible was the athlete. With my early start, an additional 15 seconds were immediately added to me when I finished with a time of 4.04.66 and in 83rd place in the overall standings. In addition, after the race, the FIS (International Ski Federation) gave me an additional penalty of 15 seconds for violating a rule - an early start. Unfortunately, I was not aware of this sanction. Consequently, my position in the ranking changed accordingly.

We always look ahead in life.

2. I was very upset as an experienced athlete should not make such mistakes in an Olympic race. Nevertheless, I had the support of my entourage, my family and friends, teammates and sponsors, who watched the sprint race and shared their positive energy and encouragement for the remaining competitions of the Games. The athletes' entourage plays a huge role in our psychology and in our athletic and personal development.

10km classic technique Thursday, February 10th 2022.

That race challenged my mind, my patience, my endurance and, of course, my physical strength and everything I had been working on for the past two years. At the finish line, we all have won. Each one of us has a different story and different background.

It was my first 10km in classic technique ever as I was used to competing for 10km in skating/free technique. Therefore, finishing in the Olympics on the most demanding track in my athletic career made me proud of the result.

The team and Olympic spirit during the race were also special that day. Thanks to Tena Hadzic from team Croatia, I was able to find a speedy and stable pace for a classic distance competition. Tena managed to catch me early in the race (she was two numbers behind me in an interval start every 30 secs.) There were moments where she was leading and moments when I was ahead. One helped each other to reach the maximum of our performance on that day at that Olympic track. Big shout out to those who were cheering for me in the stadium and, of course, those watching and supporting virtually from home.

February 16th 2022 – Team Sprint classic technique

That day was a historic day. We finished 23rd in the Olympic team sprint with my fellow teammate, Nefeli Tita. An event that Greece was represented for the first time event in the Olympic Games.

February 20th 2022 – ladies 30km

Last day of Beijing 2022 and just a few hours before the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in China, the 30km event was the most brutal race of my competition life by far!

Competing at -24 degrees with a strong wind on the most demanding track at high altitude for xc skiing. Oh yes, I will never forget this day!

Historical fact, one day before our long-distance race on February 19th, our xc Olympic track was exposed to the same weather conditions for the men's 50km when the FIS and Jury Committee took the decision the distance of the men's race to 28,7km, making It shorter than the men's skiathlon event of 30km. It felt strange the next day for FIS did not make a similar adjustment for the ladies' races.

Hude admiration for all my fellow Olympians who finished the races under these extreme conditions. We are all superheroes 🌟

In the end, I was happy to represent team Hellas with my 61st place for the first time in this discipline at the Olympic Games.

Despite the bubble system and the covid_19 strict measurements for the Games, we had great fun in the athlete Olympic village. Most of our time, we were resting, having meals at the restaurant, training in the gym, and doing entertaining activities in the Olympic plaza.

Voting booth in Yanqing Olympic Village

Outside of my competition and training duties at these Games, I was a candidate for the IOC athletes' commission election. My first experience campaigning for an international commission, and I believe it went well. Two Olympians out of the 16th candidates would have been elected, and my 9th position with 186 votes was a great result for an athlete coming from a small team in winter games like Greece. Big thanks to the Hellenic Olympic Committee for supporting my candidature and my fellow athletes who believed in me despite the result. Martin and Frida are great athlete role models to represent the voice of the athletes in the Olympic movement.

Closing ceremony at the Bird's nest stadium in Beijing 2022 - February 20th. .

I still cannot believe how I managed to go to the closing ceremony after the 30km race a few hours earlier. Athletes hold superpowers, and I think that determination, patience, perseverance and excellence are attributes that make us Olympians.

How can you miss a closing ceremony when you get to feel the vibes of the locals, the volunteers who gave their best to make the games happen, the officials and most importantly, as a Greek olympian, to get to listen to our national anthem playing and our flag raising in the closure of the Olympics.

Thank you, Beijing 2022. Thank you to everyone who helped me have this Olympic experience.

National Championships in Anilio 2022
My parents and brother Nikos at the National Championships in Greece after Beijing 2022


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