Watching the Olympics I was reminded of Voula Patoulidou’s race in 1992.
For over 80 years, no Greek had won a gold medal in track and field.
I remember because I didn’t actually see the race. I mean, she was a Greek sprinter. Greek sprinters don’t win races. Greek athletes choke on the biggest stages. So I got up and started to walk along the beach in Kamari … and then I heard the cheering, the ecstatic cheering.
A lot of American tourists, I thought. But then I noticed some friends of mine, and they were cheering. So I went up to look, and there it was, Voula Patoulidou had won gold. She had won the gold medal!
I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it. A mistake. It must have been a mistake.
But that was not what made her a legend.
No it was 20 to 30 minutes later when the Greek press was trying to interview her, trying to get her thoughts. And you could see how unbelievably happy she was. She was, literally bouncing off the walls, trying to digest what happened. She was screaming incoherently, trying to say something. And then she grabbed her husband (?) and said the phrase that made her a legend:
Gia tin Ellada, re gamoto!
Which literally means "For Greece damnit", but some things can not be translated. She was looking at the eighty years of failure, of misery, of futility, of Greeks convinced that winning was something other peoples do and said:
Damnit, we too, we Greeks can win.