Greece’s Sofia Bekatorou's career spans more than 20 years and has resulted in four World Championship titles, two Olympic medals and two World Sailor of the Year awards.
Weeks and months away from home, serious injuries and extreme physical and mental tests are common in sailing but her hardest Olympic race yet will be at Rio 2016.
Sofia’s sister, Dr. Varia Bekatorou, was diagnosed with a Grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme – a malignant brain tumor – in June 2015 and underwent chemotherapy. Sofia remained by Varia’s side throughout her time in Greece but in April, Varia passed away peacefully with all of her loved ones by her side.
It would have been easy for Sofia to step away from her Rio 2016 Nacra 17 Olympic campaign with Michalis Pateniotis but her determination and passion remained.
“During this campaign we have suffered from many personal difficulties and problems,” said Bekatorou. “The past year I lost my sister and I think that was a very dominant feeling that I had all this time. The reason that I’m not giving up is because first I would like to fight in the honour of my sister and second is because all of these people who have helped and all of these athletes and coaches that invested in our team, I believe deserve to get the best out of it.
“It will be an honour to represent Greece this time. It’s going to be my fourth Olympics as an athlete and fifth in general. We will try and do the best we can as a team,” Bekatorou told Sailing World magazine.
Rio 2016 will be an emotional Olympic games for Bekatorou. Her beloved sister will be at the forefront of her mind and she will also be Greece’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony on 5 August and first Greek female to do so.
"It is a great honour for me, it is a special honour since I am the first female flag bearer for Greece. I have taken part in three Olympics in three different classes and I feel that this is a vindication for my efforts all these years," Bekatorou said.
Bekatorou started her Rio 2016 campaign with Konstantinos Trigonis but qualified and will compete in Rio with Pateniotis, a London 2012 49er Olympian. Compared to their rivals, the partnership is relatively new and Bekatorou knows they will have their work cut out, “This Olympic Games will be much harder and the competition level is extremely high,” expressed Bekatorou.
“We are coming together as a young team together. We have been working a lot and have been creating this campaign for three years with Kostas Trigonis and Michalis came on our team in the last three months. I believe that we have an extremely hard task. We are improving every day and I think that will be the race of our lives.”
Bekatorou continues to inspire and is a role model for many young Greek and non-Greek sportspeople coming up through the ranks.