They say life is full of surprises.
That’s certainly the case for Michalis Kalomiris, an Athens lawyer and amateur marathon runner.
It was in early May when Kalomiris was on a website for track and field athletes reading a list of names of athletes who would be competing in the Rio Games for Greece. It was there he came across the surprise of his life.
His own name.
Turns out that the 30-year-old attorney had unknowingly qualified for the Rio Olympics in March of 2015 while competing in the Rome Marathon.
Despite his time in the race being 10 minutes too slow for Olympic qualification, the 30-year-old attorney had made it onto the Greek marathon team on a technicality. The time limit for men’s marathon runners in the Olympics is two hours and 19 minutes. Kalomiris’ time had been 2:29.30, 10.5 minutes too slow, to be precise.
However, there’s a stipulation in the regulations set by the International Association of Athletic Federation (IAAF) that dictates an athlete may still qualify should they finish in the top 10 of a Gold Label event. And last year’s Rome Marathon was a Gold Label event.
“The conditions were tough, with constant rain and cold,” said Kalomiris to Greek publication Ekathimerini. “Better athletes in the race decided to give up.”
But while Kalomiris’ inclusion in the Olympics may have come surprisingly to everyone, including himself, he is a dedicated athlete who describes himself as “amateur training at sub-elite level.” He works at an Athens legal firm and trains before and after work at a sports center in the nearby suburb of Aegaleo during the week.
On weekends he runs in different neighborhoods of the Greek capital, running between 70 to 120 miles in total every week.
Although, not everyone in the Greek running community is as enamored by the idea of the unwitting amateur athlete slipping into the games on a loophole. Greece is after all, the birthplace of the Olympics, and Greeks take the games seriously.
Some have argued that there were faster runners available to be selected on the team (Kalomiris was fifth in the National Marathon Championship last year). Others however, have been more supportive and see Kalomiris’ qualification as a victory for amateur athletes everywhere.
On a certain level, both parties have a point.
Yes, the Olympics should be about the best athletes in every sport competing at the highest level. But on the other hand, underdog stories and individual triumphs like these are a big part of what makes the games so compelling.
“I would like to think that this story makes everyone involved in running believe more in themselves and keep up the effort,” says Kalomiris.
One would hope that in the future, the Greek Olympic Committee could get better about sending out email notifications.