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Interview: Russian Athlete Coming to Greece to Live the “Santorini Experience”

Unique image from the start of the swimming participants in Santorini Experience 2016<br /> Photo © Elias Lefas

Photo © Elias Lefas

By Nikos Krinis

In just one month, the Greek island of Santorini will host a number of athletes from all over the world who will test their adrenaline by running on its Caldera and swimming near its volcano.

In its third year, the exciting “Santorini Experience” sports tourism event will take place during October 6-8 and offer participants breathtaking views, challenging routes and a rewarding experience. The event will see amateur runners and swimmers joining elite athletes and living the unique sports experience offered by Santorini, one of Greece’s most popular destinations.

Russian runner/swimmer Elena Klezovich, 29, is in her last month of training before she visits Santorini once more as a sports tourist to take part in the “Santorini Experience” for the second time.

Athlete Elena Klezovich (center) at the 2nd "Santorini Experience". Photo credit: Elias Lefas

Athlete Elena Klezovich (center) at the 2nd “Santorini Experience”. Photo credit: Elias Lefas

“Last year when the sounds of sirens celebrating the end of the event became silent, I realized that I want to be on Santorini again, to be part of this feast, to feel this atmosphere,” Klezovich told GTP Headlines.

The event’s schedule this year includes running routes of 15km, 10km & 5km on Saturday, October 7 and a 1.5-mile open water swimming race on Sunday, October 8.

Klezovich is one of the many athletes coming once again to Santorini to test their limits in an event that not only offers sports activities but promotes the unique features of the host destination.

“The running routes are unique and distinctive and I had never experienced something alike in my life, as most of the running events are taking place on the city streets or in the parks,” Klezovich says.

Elena Klezovich is an amateur athlete and lives in Moscow. She works for the international audit company KPMG and her job is closely connected with finance and numbers.

“As I’m not a professional athlete, participation in races means something different to me: joy, pleasure, friendship, adrenaline, charity. It’s all not about achievements and competition, the only person I compete with is myself,” she adds.

Elena began training for swimming in April 2015. Now she is a member of a swimming school that has branches in 45 cities in 8 countries, including Russia, UAE, Latvia, Estonia and. She specializes not only in swimming but in running, cycling, triathlon and skiing.

Sports tourist Elena talks about “Santorini Experience”

Speaking as a participant ready to take part in one of Greece’s leading sports tourism events — “Santorini Experience” — Klezovich gives us her impressions on Santorini, Greece and tells us what a sports tourist like herself seeks in a destination.

“It’s so inspiring to run on the very edge of the precipice and face the fascinating views of the Caldera,” Russian athlete Elena Klezovich says about the “Santorini Experience”

Photo © Santorini Experience

Photo © Santorini Experience

  • GTP: This is the second year you are participating in the “Santorini Experience”. How did you first hear about the event and what were your thoughts? What motivated you to participate again besides your passion for running/swimming?

Elena Klezovich: Last year, after taking part in my first running event — the charitable race organized by the Naked Heart Foundation — I was so much inspired by the atmosphere of 10,000 people running together that I registered in another two running events in Moscow and decided to google for sport events outside of Russia, not only running ones but swimming as well.
I found a web page with the list of 100 most important swimming events of the year 2016. When you just start making your way into sports, it is important to find a race that will suit you in every respect: time of the year, location, distance, safety matters, organization etc. And “Santorini Experience” was a perfect match for me. It was all about new experiences — trail run, open water swimming — everything was for the first time.
Last year when the sounds of sirens celebrating the end of the event became silent, I realized that want to be there again, to be part of this feast, to feel this atmosphere. My motivation comes from inside, and it is something more than a motivation for reaching certain results or making certain achievements, it is a dream to find myself in a place where I was so happy one day, to revive my memories and to repeat it all from the beginning till the end.

  • GTP: Had you ever been to Greece prior to taking part in the “Santorini Experience”?

Elena Klezovich: The first time I visited Greece was in 2011. It was one-week holiday on Rhodes. At that period of my life, I was not that much into sports and it was not about sport tourism at all.

  • GTP: Based on your own experience as an athlete and a traveler, what does a “sports tourist” seek in a destination?

Elena Klezovich: I suppose that there is no essential distinction between a “traveler” and a “traveling athlete”. Both are looking for reasonably priced tickets, a cozy bed at a hotel, good food, positive emotions and new cultural experiences. The only difference is that an athlete will look for a place to train before the race.

“It was a real experience to discover Santorini as a sports tourism destination…”

Photo © Santorini Experience

Photo © Santorini Experience

  • GTP: The “Santorini Experience” is one of the major events that are contributing to Greece’s reputation as a sports tourism destination. As a participant, how did you find its concept, its organization and the racing events?

Elena Klezovich: Santorini is the world’s most well-known honeymoon destination and one of the most romantic islands and it was a real experience to discover it as a sports tourism destination. It was nice to meet athletes from all over the world and get the energy from this multicultural and multilingual melting pot.
I do really like the way the event was organized and managed by the team: easy to find locations of the starting points, well thought-out routes, sufficient water at the running event, lots of safe boats during the swimming competition, media support, beautiful finisher medals… This is an incomplete list of the most visible well-organized moments.

Photo © Santorini Experience

Photo © Santorini Experience

  • GTP: The running part of the event can be considered an experience on its own as it contains different routes that pass through Santorini’s villages and offers a one of a kind view of the Caldera. Before the Santorini Experience, in your years of running, have you ever competed in a somewhat similar environment?

Elena Klezovich: The event’s running routes are unique and distinctive and I had never experienced something alike in my life, as most running events take place on the city streets or in parks. It’s so inspiring to run on the very edge of the precipice and facing fascinating views of the Caldera. What is more, I like fresh life-giving wind that comes from the sea. What makes Santorini even more attractive is its accessibility for all people willing to take part. Last year I witnessed a mother with 2 kids aged 10-12 making a 5 km route and having so much fun.

  • GTP: What would you like to tell our readers who are interested in the “Santorini Experience”?

Elena Klezovich: There are few steps that separate them from participating in the incredible challenge of running along the magical path overlooking the Caldera, the challenge of swimming in the deep blue flow of water. I advise them to register for the event, buy tickets, book a hotel and come to get inspired by this Greek iconic location!

  • Photo © Santorini Experience

    Photo © Santorini Experience

    GTP: What’s more important to you – winning or participating?

Elena Klezovich: I follow the Olympic motto “The most important thing is not to win but to take part” and consider that it is not so important to win as to struggle with dignity, to overcome yourself and to recharge yourself with positive emotions. However, I’m a gambler and when I have a chance to overtake in the final straight – I will definitely do it!

  • GTP: What other sports tourism destination have you visited?

Elena Klezovich: This year I took part in quite a number of sport events inside and outside of Russia. The most remarkable are Lago d’Orta in Italy and Bosporus cross-continental swimming race in Istanbul, Turkey.

  • GTP: Describe the ideal holidays of a “sports tourist”.

Elena Klezovich: My formula of the ideal sport holidays is: running, eating, sightseeing, sleeping, swimming, eating and repeating.

  • GTP: Tell us one of your achievements.

Elena Klezovich: What I consider a real achievement was my result in the open water swimming race across the Volga river this year, where I was the 10th woman in the absolute and the 4th in my age group. This 3-kilometer race was quite unpredictable due to the unusually fast stream of the river – lots of athletes were washed down and didn’t manage to reach the finish gate. I like to make jokes about my success in this race, that it is closely connected to the fact that I work with numbers and managed to draw parabola in my mind that lead me to the finish gate!

To see this year’s “Santorini Experience” schedule and for further information, press here.

The Greek Travel Pages (GTP) is a communication sponsor of the event.

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