Πλάτων Μαζαράκης, ο Έλληνας ρακούν

Η εφημερίδα Tower, το επίσημο έντυπο του πανεπιστημίου Princeton, έκανε ένα αφιέρωμα στον Πλάτωνα Μαζαράκη που συναρπάζει με τις επιδόσεις του στις Ηνωμένες Πολιτείες. Δείτε το παρακάτω ενώ επίσης μπορείτε να το βρείτε στην ηλεκτρονική έκδοση πατώντας εδώ

Platon Mazarakis ’18 is ranked among the top ten in the boys under 15 category of U.S. Squash. After trying out basketball and soccer, he settled on squash and has played for eight years. Mazarakis began playing for the Princeton Junior Squash program under the supervision and tutelage of the Princeton University squash coaches, especially Gail Ramsay, the women’s varsity team coach. For the past three years, squash has become his main afterschool activity and his passion. He has been playing top-level squash tournaments all over the United States during the academic year, and spends parts of his summers in Egypt training intensively with his coach, Mohamed Abbas, formerly ranked number 12 in the world.

In April 2016, Mazarakis was invited to the Men’s Greek National Squash Team to represent Greece in the European Squash Championships Division 3 held in Bucharest, Romania. “It came as a complete surprise,” Mazarakis said. “My brother [Menelaos] and I were practicing squash together at the Athens Tennis Club in Greece over the winter break. The Club’s coach and number one squash player in Greece, Petros Tzamaloukas, saw us playing and immediately arranged a membership for us in the Club and notified the Greek Squash Federation.” After meeting with the directors of the Greek Squash Federation, the directors decided that they would invite Mazarakis to the team, and have him compete at the Greek Squash Nationals. “Normally it would be three tournaments, but they made an exception since I live here [in the United States],” Mazarakis said.

In order to fulfill this requirement over spring break, Mazarakis first participated in the Greek Junior Open Squash Tournament. He went undefeated in this tournament and proceeded to participate in the Greek Men’s Nationals the following weekend. “It was definitely more challenging, since there were professional squash players playing in the Men’s Nationals,” Mazarakis said. He and his brother Menelaos ’14, managed to clinch the fourth and third place positions respectively. Despite playing against older and more experienced players, they made their way to the semifinals and secured their spots on the Greek national team.

Heading to the European Men’s Squash Championship as a high schooler, Mazarakis worried about whether or not he was capable enough. “The team was really great and welcoming. We hung out a lot and we all became friends quickly. But I was the youngest member on the team and I was worried that I would let them down in a game,” Mazarakis said. Menelaos was proud of his brother’s accomplishments at the tournament and contributions to the team. “On the first day against Romania, Platon got off the plane and headed straight for the squash courts. Two hours after an exhaustive 15-hour transatlantic trip, Platon got on court and beat his Romanian opponent in a hard-fought four games,” Menelaos said.

“Platon was the rising star of the team, playing as the youngest player from any team at the European Championships (age 15), and inspiring us along the way with his seemingly infinite energy.” Menelaos said.

However, the next day, Mazarakis lost to a very experienced squash player from Jersey, United Kingdom. “It was definitely a huge blow to my mentality,” Mazarakis said. “I started to wonder if I was really ready to be on a national team, representing an entire country on an international platform and if I was out of my depth. I also felt really bad because I felt as though I had let … my team [down].” But with the support from friends and family, Mazarakis was able to bounce back from his loss. “Everyone on the team was really nice about it, no one blamed me for losing, and some of the older members shared stories of their losses and how they got back on their feet. They were really supportive and tried to cheer me up … [Before] my next match, my brother came up to me and told me ‘Just get out there and have fun, don’t worry about anything else. Just enjoy yourself.’ After that, I went 3–0 and didn’t drop another game in the tournament,” Mazarakis said.

Going into its last matches against Malta and fighting for fifth place, the team was not very hopeful as the Maltese team was playing with very experienced players, including the world’s 64th highest-ranked player in the Professional Squash Association circuit. While the number one and two Greek players lost their matches, the unexpected straight wins of the Mazarakis brothers secured the fifth place for the Greek national squash team in the third division in Europe, bettering its seventh place finish from the year before.

“I’m very proud of what we managed to accomplish as a team,” Mazarakis said. “I always felt Greek. I’m both a Greek and U.S. citizen, and I feel that my participation in this tournament allowed me to express and deepen my love for my home country. I would definitely do the entire thing again if I am invited back to the team.”

Mazarakis’s experiences in Romania were profound and changed the way he sees squash, and have motivated him to further improve his skills. “Squash is usually a single-player game—you don’t really have a team. When you play, it’s only you in the court. This tournament was the first time I played squash as part of a team. I feel like when you play with a team, you feel much more motivated and the atmosphere is different. When you’re on a team, you give it a 120 percent because you don’t want to let your teammates down, [and] everyone encourages each other and tries to help each other improve,” Mazarakis said. “It’s a really nurturing environment and I feel it really helped me grow as a squash player. I’m already really dedicated to the sport—I train for two and a half hours per day usually. I hope that I can continue to improve and maybe help the Greek national team achieve first place in a future tournament.” Mazarakis will further his career here in the United States, playing in the BU17 category and plans to participate in future international tournaments, where he hopes to hone his skill in preparation for the European Squash Tournament next year. “Not too many people know about squash, but the people who do are truly passionate for the sport. At least for me, I put my heart and soul into squash not for others, but for the sport that I love,” Mazarakis said.

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