By Panagiotis Dalatariof
“I was born and raised in Kos. I grew up, had three children and eight grandchildren. My family is what makes me so happy” – With these words, my interview with 94-year-old Kosta Hatziemmanouil begins.
I can immediately understand that Kosta is a man dedicated to what he does. From his family, of course, to athletics (running), which he became interested in at the age of 76.
In our interview, Kosta not only remembers his migration journey to Australia, but also delivers life lessons and stresses that the secret to his success is good wine – the one his family produces at a winery on Kos island.
Kosta, I read that you started running at the age of 80. Why did you decide to take it up at that age?
When I was a student, I ran 4-5 times. I used to take part in races and came first or second but then I gave up. Now, what made me start at the age of 80 is the following: At the age of 76, on Kos island, Panhellenic games were taking place. I was with my son, Nikos, and when I saw the athletes running 100 meters at my age, I said to my son: “If I had known, I would have taken part.”
After four years, the Panhellenic games took place again on Kos. Nikos always watched the games and so he asked me: “Will you take part in the games?” I answered him positively. So I ran the 100 meters without training and even finished first.
In the same year, the Balkan games were held in Larissa. I took part there too – in the 100 and 200 meters. Because I was a beginner and didn’t know, at 100 meters I was left behind but then I was chasing them and came second. At 200 meters I finished first.
In the third year, the European games were held in Turkey. I took part in the 100, 200 and 400 meters. In the 100 and 200 meters I came second and in the 400 meters I came first.
In the fourth year, there were the World Games in Hungary. I ran and I made mistakes but in the 200 meters I came first. So I got better and better and got to where I am today.
In the last games, I participated in five events: 60 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters and long jump. In the long jump I came first, in the 60 meters I came second, in the 400 meters I came third, in the 800 meters I came third. In the 200 meters I was third. I got to the line and didn’t cross it. I stopped. So, someone else overtook me and took the medal.
When I went to Poland, the weather conditions were very wild. In the evenings, the temperature was 2-3 degrees Celsius. I didn’t expect this. I was well dressed, but I caught a cold and I was running in that condition. Two guys, one was from Australia and the other from China, were better than me and four years younger. They were 90 years old and I was approaching 95.
What is the hardest medal you have won?
All the events were easy for me. The one that tired me was the 800 meters, but I overcame them all comfortably.
Do you train normally? Do you have any “secrets” in your training program?
I have no secrets in my program. For the last 4-5 years I have been training every day and I am ready for the competitions I take part in.
What does your diet consist of?
Everything. I eat everything and drink good wine “Hatziemmanouil,” which comes first in awards every year both in Europe and worldwide. Since 2000, the winery has been under the management of my son Vassilis and since 2006, it has won Lyon awards almost every year.
The only thing that has helped me was the work I did. I was a winemaker and did a lot of agricultural work. I planted fruit trees, olive trees. All these tasks I did together with other workers. I did them happily. Many hours of work. That kept me on track to be a good athlete.
What is your routine?
I have distributed all my businesses to my children. Hotels, winery, estates. I am free to train every day. My dream is to do even better when I reach the age of 95.
What’s the most beautiful message you’ve ever received?
The nicest thing is from the people that really appreciate the skills I have acquired. I am admired and appreciated, not only in Greece but also abroad. Even from Australia they send me congratulatory messages.
You are an example to all of us. Do you have a message for the readers of The Greek Herald?
Of course. I will say for the Greeks of Australia, the world and Greece, to keep moving and exercising. Immobility brings diseases and heaviness and does not help to live longer. Those who work, live longer.
I have to also tell you the following: I have immigrated to Australia. I came in 1955 and left in 1958. I only stayed three years, but I loved the Australians very much because they were honest and hardworking. During these three years, I worked both day and night. I made enough money and returned to Greece but used to come back many times.
I’ve visited Australia seven times. I also have relatives there who are prosperous. In 2016, I ran in the World Games in Australia, where I came second and third in two events.