Stylianos Kyriakides

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Stylianos "Stelios" Kyriakides (Greek: Στυλιανός "Στέλιος" Κυριακίδης; January 15, 1910 (Paphos, Cyprus OS/NS) – December 1987) was a marathon runner who came first at the Boston Marathon in 1946, with the aim of raising money to provide food and shelter to the Greeks, who were experiencing severe poverty issues from the Second World War.

Biography[edit]

He was born in the mountain village of Statos, near Paphos, Cyprus on January 15, 1910.

Signature of Stylianos Kyriakides, 1981

The youngest of five children, he left home to find work and help his poor farming family. Following a variety of jobs he ended up as a ‘house-boy’ for Dr Cheverton, a British medical officer. (Cyprus was still under British rule at the time). An athlete himself, Cheverton encouraged the 22-year-old Kyriakides to start running, gave him his first running gear, coaching advice and taught him to speak English. At his first Pan-Cyprian games in 1932, Kyriakides won both the 1,500 and 10,000 metres on Friday, followed by both the 5,000 and 20,000 metres on Sunday. Hailed as a great talent, he was asked to run in the national championships in Greece, where he came first in the Marathon. Kyriakides competed for Greece in the 1936 Summer Olympics, placing 11th. He was invited by his friend and fellow Berlin marathoner, Johnny Kelley, to participate in the Boston Marathon in the late 1930s. On the day of the marathon he wore new shoes, which injured his feet and caused him to place poorly.

He returned to Greece, and survived the German occupation during World War II. Between 1942 and 1944, Kyriakides was part of the Greek resistance. With the Greek Civil War raging, he returned to win the 1946 Boston Marathon. In order to get there, he had to sell his furniture, enabling him to buy a single ticket. According to a newspaper report, he was running with Johnny Kelley near the end, when an old man shouted from the crowd, "For Greece, for your children!" inspiring him to pull away and win the race in 2:29:27. According to Life magazine he shouted 'For Greece' as he crossed the finish line. He begged America for its help – and they responded. When he returned to Greece, he arrived with 25,000 tons of supplies in American aid, including in cash. Over one million Greeks from all over the country lined the streets of Athens to greet him.

In 1948 he finished 18th in the Olympic marathon at the London Games. He died in Athens in 1987.

A sculpture of Kyriakides called "The Spirit of the Marathon" was unveiled in Boston in 2004. It is at the 1-mile mark of the marathon in Hopkinton. It was commissioned by the Hopkinton Athletic Association and was dedicated in 2006 to mark the 60th anniversary of Kyriakides' victory in the 1946 race.

"The winner of the 50th Boston Marathon, Kyriakides used his victory as a call to action to aid his war and famine-ravaged homeland. Kyriakides, who narrowly escaped execution during World War II during the Nazi occupation of Greece, hadn't run in six years when he came to Boston in 1946, with the help of Greek-American benefactors (George Demeter and Spear Demeter). He was emaciated from the lack of food in war-ravaged Greece, and at one point was told by doctors in Boston he wouldn't be allowed to run because they were afraid he would die in the streets. That backdrop only added to the almost mythic race performance, in which Kyriakides came on at the end to defeat the defending champion and set the best time in the world for 1946. Nearly a million people greeted him on his return to Athens in May 1946, when he came back with boat loads of food, medicine, clothing and other essentials donated by Americans who read of his victory." – Sculpture’s Official Press Release.

The "Package Kyriakides"[edit]

Stelios Kyriakides, after the race stayed for about a month in America, aiming at gathering economic aid for Greece. As his victory caused sympathy to Americans and mostly Greeks, he eventually managed to reach an amount of while the Livanos family sent two ships with basic necessities (food, clothing and medicine). This assistance was called " Package Kyriakides". In May 1947, a year after his victory and as a result of the publicity was given to the economic problems of Greece, as aresult of the Boston Marathon, US government send an amount of before the Marshall Plan. On 23 May 1946, Kyriakides returned to Greece, where about one million Greeks greeted him as a hero. Then, a formal ceremony was held at the Temple of Zeus, where Kyriakides stating : "I am proud to be Greek " moving to the crowd. For the first time since the Nazi's Occupation the Acropolis was illuminated in his honor.

Honours[edit]

Overall Stelios Kyriakides was a 14-time winner in Pancyprian games (2 in a marathon) and Greek champion 11 times (3 in a marathon). In 1933 in his first participation in the Balkan races finished 2nd behind Romanian Gal . In 1934 in Zagreb won the first gold medal out of six in the Balkan games (4 in a marathon). With the Greek national team scored a total of 36 best national performance and has participated in two Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936 and London in 1948.

Stelios Kyriakides was awarded the " Grand Cross of the Phoenix " by King of the Greeks. He has also been honored for his contribution from the municipalities of Athens, Piraeus, Filothei, Patras, as well as the Governor of Massachusetts, the Olympic Committee of USA, and others. In the Sports Museum in Massachusetts there is a permanent exhibition in honor of Stelios Kyriakides, with the title " Stylianos Kyriakides - Running for mankind". In 2004 – after award of the Athletic Federation of Hopkinton – the City of Hopkinton ( MA ) unveiled a statue called " The Spirit of the Marathon ", the route of the Boston Marathon, one mile from the starting point . The sculpture presents Stelios Kyriakides running besides Spyros Louis shows him the way to victory . In 2006 the statue was dedicated to the 60 years of the victory Kyriakides. A copy of the same sculpture is placed in the Municipality of Marathon in Greece.

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • Nick Tsiotos and Andy Dabilis, Running With Pheidippides: Stylianos Kyriakides, the Miracle Marathoner (Syracuse University Press, 2001).
  • Amazon.com listing for Running With Pheidippides
  • [1] Documentary about Kyriakides that aired before the Closing Ceremonies to the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Video[edit]