The sailor who won first place in the World Cup Series USA Miami
Afrodite Zegers-Kyranakou is a top sailor with successes including the fourth place in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics and the first place in the World Cup Series USA Miami. She has won 5 gold medals and 2 silver ones at international sailing competitions and has never been excluded from the final ten of any event.
She was born in Athens on November 2, 1991, and started sailing training at the Sailing Association at the age of nine with an Optimist, some afternoons after school, until late at night, forgetting the place and time, only enjoying the climate and temperature of the Greek sea.
In the beginning, there were a lot of problems with the clubs and the federation but she managed to win a silver medal in the Optimist category of the European Championship in Sweden in 2004 and a bronze, four years later at the 2008 World Cup in Sailing 420. She then made a definitive move to the Olympic sailing class 470.
While Greece was the country which made her love the sea so much, due to the problems she faced in sailing, Zegers immigrated to the Netherlands in 2010 and was included in Delta Lloyd’s talent group. Together with Jeske Kisters, she became world champion at the World Youth Championship in New Zealand. The sailor was a member of the Dutch group 470 of the Royal Dutch Watersport Association and formed with Anneloes van Veen. In September 2012, the twin named ATeam 470 launched the campaign for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Afrodite Zegers-Kyranakou completed the naturalization procedure in 2014, a necessary move to represent the Netherlands in the Summer Olympics. On April 25, 2015, she reached the Rio de Janeiro national selection with Van Veen and at the World Championship in Haifa, they qualified for participation in the Olympic Games.
ATeam 470 won the fourth place in the470-class at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games and in September 2016 the duo announced that they were going forward together and started a second Olympic campaign to participate in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. During the first World Cup of the new Olympic campaign, Zegers and Van Veen won a gold medal and for this reason, for the first time in their career, they achieved first place on the ISAF world rankings.
In 2017, the two athletes became European champions, won three world-renowned competitions and ranked world class ISAF throughout the year. At the beginning of 2018, they took the first place in the World Cup in Miami – which purpose is to qualify for World Sailing and participation in all the World Cup, though they didn’t need it for that since they were already on the top 10 of the ranking list. “For Miami, it was an important match because it was the beginning of our Tokyo campaign, it was the first official race after the Rio Olympics,” Zegers said in an interview at Bridge Sailing.
In October 2018, the duo interrupted cooperation due to insufficient future prospects and the Greek sailor continued the Olympic campaign with her new partner, Lobke Berkhout.
When asked if their next target was the medal in Tokyo, she said “Surely the target for Tokyo is a medal. To win the gold medal, everything at the Olympic Games must be in the right place so as you can make the pinnacle of your performance. But the goal at this time for us is not just Tokyo. Our goal is in every race, every year, to achieve the maximum of our performance and to get ahead sooner. That is, to be stable as far as the medals are concerned so that it becomes a habit and when we are at the Olympics to not do anything different than what we had been doing for the previous four years. For us, the goal is not Tokyo exactly but all the races before”.
For the last four years, the coach of the duo had been Elias Mylonas, one of the best coaches ever, according to Aphrodite Zegers-Kyranakou. “Everything we did in the Olympics, what we did before, what we are at the moment is thanks to him”. The federation, however, wanted for them to try something different and after the Olympics expand their horizons with some other possible cooperation.
Until the World Cup, they co-operated with the internationally-trained coach, Nikos Drougas, who had been chosen by the federation years before Zegers’ introduction, while their personal trainer was George Charalambopoulos, a Greek, who grew up in Greece and was a basketball player.
The program of a female athlete of her level is very strict, since “There are so many factors that you have to manage in sailing so you can reach a medal or get to the top – to be in the first five boats in the world – that don’t allow you to think that you are going to do something in the last minute.
The most important things I had to learn over the last four years were to be able to control myself under extreme pressure and to have a balance in my strength and rest. The reason behind this is because if you want to endure such hard work for four years, you have to control everything in your life. Thus, that made us calculate everything one or two years before we actually do it so as we can combine everything”.
To the question of how the combination of the Greek attitude in sports and the one she currently experiences in the Netherlands, she answered, “I am accustomed to performing well in the water under very extreme conditions. When I went to the Netherlands, I found out that the Greek way of working is much tougher. In the water, the Greeks work much harder. We are more of intensive training, while the Dutch have the philosophy of selective training. Selective workouts work more when you are already an accomplished athlete and try to improve small details. But when I had to make the big step in class 470, the fact that `i’m used to more training hours helped me a lot.
Because I think I have a Greek temperament, so to speak, which helps me as a governor to get something extra, and that is very good combined to anneloes, my crew, which is of a quieter character and that makes us have balance. I believe that my origin and how I grew up is helping me very much at the moment”.
She prefers the 470 due to the knowledge and learning it offers, the open sea fascinates her and she likes it very much because there is more real contact with the water and weather. Moreover, she has received a music degree and believes that piano and music have made her more open to tactics and more free in her decisions.