Consistent, composed and demonstrating textbook form, Cypriot discus thrower Apostolos Parellis relished his best season to date in 2018.

Competing for the small Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus, Parellis, a two-time Olympian, won Mediterranean Games gold and Commonwealth Games bronze and led the European Championships after two rounds with a season-best throw of 63.62m. He eventually finished eighth at the Berlin event.

The 33-year-old, who has been the national record-holder for Cyprus in discus since 2007, is certainly proud to represent his country while battling competitors from larger, better-funded sporting powers. The veteran athlete concedes that there are various hurdles and challenges involved with competing for a smaller National Olympic Committee (NOC), but none of these can’t be overcome.

Funding for Parellis and his elite-level compatriots comes from the Cyprus Sports Organisation (CSO), the highest sports authority in the country. Furthermore, the Cyprus NOC assists athletes through Olympic Solidarity programmes and other grants from the IOC and the European Olympic Committees.

Parellis excelled at the Olympic Games Rio 2016, uncorking a throw of 63.72m, to become the first Cypriot to achieve a top-eight result in an Olympic athletics final in 46 years. His Olympic performance elevated him to the “Olympian Winners Category”, the highest tier of funding offered by the CSO. Over a four-year cycle, Parellis receives EUR 2,750 per month and an annual fee of EUR 12,000 for preparation and training. An additional EUR 400 per month is allocated for coaching, while he also benefits from four personal sponsors.

Here, Parellis discusses the benefits and challenges of competing for a smaller NOC…

Putting Cyprus on the world athletics map
Participating for such a small country like Cyprus, with a population of only 800,000, has benefits and challenges, but I am so proud to compete at such a high level for my country. Also, as we are not many athletes on this international level, the government has decided to support us to the maximum by employing us to the end of our athletic careers. 

Financial support
Since our achievements at Rio 2016, things have changed for us as a country. More and more people have started recognising and supporting us. I am satisfied with the support of the CSO, and I will try my best to maintain this high level. Our National Federation is also supporting by providing the appropriate medical treatment, physiotherapy and any other relevant treatment requested by athletes. Moreover, the federation is giving an amount for training in other countries depending on the level of the athlete.

Benefits and opportunities

Another benefit of being an athlete from a small country like Cyprus is that I was able to study for free and received my bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. This allowed me the opportunity to work at the beginning of my career and earn some additional money. After I won a bronze medal in 2007 at the U23 European Championships in Debrecen (Hungary), things changed and I entered discus professionally. This no longer allowed time for an extra job.

Heightened expectations

From the beginning of this year, I set goals to win the two medals in the Mediterranean and Commonwealth Games, and of course to be in the finals for the European Championships. I am very happy that I accomplished all of them. Tokyo 2020 will be my third Olympic participation. I started with London 2012, going there just for the experience. Then in Rio 2016, I finished in eighth place. Now, for 2020 the sky is the limit, and I hope I will achieve the best possible result. For sure, I promise to work very hard and continue the sacrifices that I am making now.