By Catherine Tsounis
“My first cousin is Pyrros Dimas,” said my student Anna (the former Anita Noti), in my university Modern Greek class in 2004. “We are from Himara, northern Epirus. We speak only Greek at home and are Greek Orthodox Christians. When Pyros comes to America, I will ask him to visit our class.” Anna was referring to one of the supreme Olympians of our time. Pyrros Dimas is a retired Greek weightlifter, considered one of the greatest of all time. He is a three times Olympic champion who electrified the world with his unbelievable three gold medals. Many stayed up all night just to see the 1992, 1996 and 2000 and 2004 Olympics with Pyros Dimas. His achievements honored his homeland of Greece and every international person of Greek roots.
Paul Kotrotsios did the unbelievable. He introduced the Olympiad, not to the rich, but to middle class America at the 2012 Hermes Expo International gala on Saturday evening, March 31st, at the Trump Taj Mahal Hotel and Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Six hundred persons were present. Mr. Kotrotsios, the Founder of Hermes Expo International, is from an Epirotan village near the Albanian border. He personally invited Mayor Bollanos to address the audience at the 2011 grand opening. Mayor Bollanos mentioned that “Pyrros Dimas, ‘the Lion of Himare’ is from my town. He is named after the legendary King Pyrrhus of Epirus.” Pyrrhos of Epirus, who lived from 319 B.C.-272 BC, was a Greek general and statesman of the Hellenistic era. He was king of the Greek tribe of Molossians. King Pyrrhos was an opponent of Rome. Some of his successful battles cost him heavy losses from which the term “Pyrrhic victory” originated.
Pyrros Dimas has carved his own legend. He is famous for his 1992 summer Olympic victory, when he shouted “Gia tin Ellada” (For Greece). Pyrros greeted every table at the Hermes International Expo gala with warmth and humility. Dr. Spiros Spireas, President of the American Hellenic Institute foundation, introduced the Olympian in the gala’s program by saying “we should have more like him. I stayed up all night to watch the Olympiad T.V. program of Pyrros Dimas. He is an example like Alexander the Great. We are looking for heroes in Greece like him. We must make Greece strong to have Olympic champions like Pyrros Dimas.”
The Olympian champion addressed the audience saying he “learned with rules and self-discipline to become a heavy weight lifter. I didn’t eat sweets every day. We must follow rules. I am proud I am Greek. We held on to our roots and language in Northern Epirus (Albania). In 1991, I left Himara. Our school in Himara teaches Greek to our children. It has a severe financial problem. Help our school remain open and teach the next generation Greek. Your support is needed.” Paul Kotrotsios ended the unique program by saying “Pyrros Dimas raised the Greek ethnos and I.D. We owe you a lot, elevating the Greek nation in difficult times.”