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Iannou's family keeps vigil in hospital

8/14/2004

ATHENS, Greece -- With only a week to go before the games
begin, Eleni Iannou was fighting for her life instead of perfecting
her moves as a promising young member of the Greek Olympic judo
team.

Her family sobbed and kept vigil outside her room in the
intensive care unit of Red Cross Hospital, where she was taken
Saturday after falling from the third-floor balcony of her
apartment. Police said she had argued with her boyfriend just
before it happened.

The fall left the 20-year-old on life-support, with multiple
fractures to her head and body. She was critical but stable after
several hours of surgery, according to a doctor who spoke on
condition of anonymity.

Her friends and family didn't want to talk about her; her
colleagues in sport were hopeful.

"It's a miracle she's alive," Ioannou's coach, Giorgos
Bountakis, said outside the hospital Sunday. "The doctors are not
expecting anything positive. I hope she also wins this fight."

Ioanno was competing in the 78-kg-plus category and planned to
moved into the Olympic Village with the rest of the team Wednesday,
two days before opening ceremony.

At some point during or after the argument, she fell from the
balcony. The reasons remain unclear and an investigation continues.
Police questioned her boyfriend, who called for an ambulance, but
later released him.

Yiannis Papadoyiannakis, head of the Greek team, said her injury
had "brought a sadness" and "cast a shadow" over the athletes.

"We will do everything to keep the team calm," Papadoyiannakis
added. "If her condition improves, it will obviously improve the
climate in the team."

Ioannou, a student at the Athens Gymnastics Academy, was a
promising athlete in judo, a sport which has only recently gained
popularity in Greece.

With only four years' experience, she had won three national
championships and a bronze medal in 1992 in the Balkan
championships.

"She knew what she wanted from life and she loved judo more
than anything else," Bountakis said after visiting her.

The Greek Olympic Committee replaced Ioannou with 33-year-old
Eleni Patsiou, though she's not sure she'll accept the spot.

"Such a proposal under these conditions does not excite me at
all," Patsiou said. "Under different circumstances, I would be
jumping from joy -- but not at a time like this, since Eleni is my
friend and I know that she is going through critical times."