Olympic champion adds voice to #MeToo movement

Olympic champion adds voice to #MeToo movement

ATHENS – Earlier than she might be a part of crusing lessons close to her residence in Athens, Sofia Bekatorou needed to present an teacher she might tie a primary knot correctly. Passing the take a look at at age 8 modified her life.

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

However probably the most profitable lady in fashionable Greece’s sporting historical past revealed in January that an incident nearly 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 lodge 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 pleased 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 huge step, even speaking about it.”

Bekatorou received a gold medal within the ladies’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 numerous 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 guide the Greek Olympic workforce.

Bekatorou devoted the respect at Maracana Stadium to her older sister, Varia, who had died of mind most cancers 4 months earlier. Her long term in top-tier competitors included a battle with a career-threatening again harm and, as she just 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 along with her Olympic medals, Bekatorou introduced residence 4 World Championship titles and a shelfful of nationwide and European trophies. She was twice named World Sailor of the 12 months. 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 workforce over almost 20 years, arguing that precedence ought to be given to youthful rivals.

“It’s a really huge weight that we supply in our private life. And these are issues that may truly put you in a deep despair for a really very long time,” Bekatorou mentioned. “And until you’ve got the (proper) assist and surroundings, 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 known 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 adjustments to make it simpler for sexual assault victims to report crimes.

Bekatorou mentioned the affect 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 bit of microphone cable right into a bowline knot.

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

She is pleased, 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, , one thing actually robust 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 as a way to change one thing, I needed to be prepared, whether or not somebody would comply with me or nobody would….Now, I’m prepared.”


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

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