Nikoleta Kyriakopoulou in the pole vault final at the IAAF World Championships, Beijing 2015 (Getty Images) © Copyright

First impressions – Nikoleta Kyriakopoulou

Pole vaulter Nikoleta Kyriakopoulou enjoyed a stellar 2015, winning the Diamond Race in her event thanks to four victories in IAAF Diamond League meetings, and she also banked a bronze medal at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015.

Here the 29-year-old Greek vaulter answers our First Impressions questions.

First sport

Gymnastics. I trained hard for five years and competed at a national level. In the beginning it was fun, but later on I felt it was not for me and decided to try athletics. I tried long jump, hurdles, sprints, but I fell in love with pole vault.

First competition

It came in a gymnastics exhibition competition. I was aged eight at the time. My proud mum, of course, recorded everything with a new camera she bought for the occasion and later that night we had a nice time at home watching the competition again and again. 

First coach

His name was Thanasis and he was my coach during my short gymnastics career. I had a hard time training and competing in gymnastics, and I can't say it was the best time of my life. My first athletics coach is my current coach Manolis Karagiannis, who himself is an ex-pole vaulter.

First international meeting

It was the 2004 World Junior Championships in Grosseto, Italy. I jumped 4.00m to equal my personal best and finished sixth in the final. That was the first and last competition in my life that I encountered stress.

I remember I felt such a big disappointment placing sixth, but my coach cheered me up by explaining that I should be very proud of how I performed in what was my first major international competition.   

First media interview

After placing sixth at the 2004 World Junior Championships, I gave my first interview to a sports newspaper. It was very exciting as all my friends and family could read about me in a famous daily newspaper!

First athletics disappointment

It was during a club competition in 2007. I was suffering from a fever, but still desperately wanted to compete.

However, because I was weak and not feeling well during one jump I lost my grip while upside down in the air and fell head first into the pit. I had to lie down on the floor to wait for an ambulance to arrive for 45 minutes before being taken to hospital.

The injuries I sustained were fairly serious. I had to stay in hospital for two days and then spent t10 more days at home in bed. Few people believed that I would ever jump again but two weeks later I was back training, and three weeks after the fall I was back jumping again.

First childhood friend

It was a girl named Irene. I used to sit next to her at school. I believe I was about six years old. We had fun together as we tried to found our way in the new school environment.

First Toy

A big bear, which was even bigger than me! As a three and four-year-old, I felt it used to protect me when I was sleeping. He was my first best friend!

First piece of clothing I bought

I bought a pair of jeans when I was aged 14 from the first pocket money I earned. Up until that point I had only wanted to wear sports clothes, but from that day I began to realise there is a life outside of athletics.

First fashion disaster

Luckily for me, I have not had any! Since I am involved in athletics most of the time I wear sports clothes because of my training commitments.

First thing you learned to cook

Italian pasta with tomato sauce and Dutch Gouda cheese. I wanted to impress my friends coming to a dinner at home. However, it wasn't my best effort and luckily the pizza men came quickly to deliver real food!  

First car

A small yellow Fiat Panda. I bought the car on my 18th birthday with my own money which I’d saved and I still drive it to this day. I hope one day my Panda will magically transform into a Ferrari, but it has not happened yet!

First pet

A mini-size Maltese dog, which weighed two kilogrammes, was first pet. At the time I was recovering from a knee surgery and was very unhappy because I missed the 2012 indoor season, so that is why I bought a pet.

Since then, my little friend always somehow manages to brighten my mood when I'm feeling down. 

Steve Landells for the IAAF