Pyrros Dimas: The living legend of weightlifting

One of the biggest heroes in the history of Greek sport is a man who goes by the nickname “The Lion of Chimara”.

However, the name nobody will ever forget him as is Pyrros Dimas.

Despite being known as a Greek hero, Dimas is also known as a champion to one of Greece’s neighbouring countries, his birthplace of Albania. Not many people know that Dimas was in fact born in Albania to Greek parents on October 13, 1971 in a town called Chimara (hence his nickname), and that’s primarily because all of his biggest accolades came while donning the blue and white of the country he immigrated to back in 1991.

Dimas was a natural in the sport of weightlifting. His stalky frame, powerful legs, and muscular shoulders, chest, and arms made him your prototypical beastly clean-jerker.

Dimas started weightlifting at the age of 11, and began competing at the junior level by 14. In 1989, at the age of 18, he had become a triple champion in Albania for the 82.5 kilogram weight class, and in 1990 he repeated the same feat. In those two years, Dimas saw his world ranking as a professional weightlifter jump from 12th to 4th, while Albania catapulted from 13th to 3rd, right behind the Soviet Union and Bulgaria.

By 1991, with Greece looking to strengthen their athletic standing in the world of professional weightlifting, Dimas immigrated south to the Mediterranean with hopes of helping the blue and white reach the pinnacle of the sport.

He started things off in 1992 as a member of the Athletic Club Milon located in Nea Smirni, where he is today still a member. In that same year, he joined Greece’s National Weightlifting team, and represented his new country in Barcelona, Spain, by competing in his first ever Olympic games.

It was at the Barcelona games where Dimas became known around the world with a his famous “cry for Greece” upon capturing the gold medal as he raised a total of 370 kilograms high overtop his head.

Dimas became an instant hero in the eyes of Greeks, as upon his return from Barcelona he was greeted by more than 100,000 fans at Panathinaikon Stadium in Athens.

After 1992, Dimas continued to add to his trophy case, by winning two world titles in 1993 and 1995, along with a European championship in 1995.

By the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Dimas had officially become “the man to beat” as his career was reached its peak. In Atlanta Dimas was bestowed with the honour of being named the country’s flagbearer for the opening ceremonies; something only a select group of individuals can say they have been privileged enough to do. Dimas then went on to win his second Olympic gold, this time by lifting a world record weight of 392.5 kilograms. In that same year Dimas was elected the country's top athlete, which was a title he had previously been given in 1992, 1993, and 1995, as well. Additionally, for all he accomplished in winning his second Olympic medal, the Greek government awarded him with the distinction of Captain of the Hellenic Army.

Still can’t believe he did that? Let’s take a look at that technique one more time… only this time, it’s going to be in slow motion instant replay:

After Atlanta, Dimas ended up winning yet another world championship, this time in the 85 kilogram class of 1998. Then, two years later at the summer games in Sydney, his third Olympic competition, in front of thousands of fellow countrymen, Dimas won his third Olympic gold medal.

As you can see from the video clips, Dimas truly was a showman. Never shying away from the spotlight, he would always hold the weights high above his head long after the buzzer would sound so that the crowd could snap pictures.

Dimas’ final run at Olympic glory came in 2004 in Athens. The country he represented since 1991 was now the host nation for the world’s grandest competition, and Dimas was going to do all he could to try and take home a fourth consecutive gold. In the finals of the 2004 Olympics, while nursing a surgically repaired knee and bruised wrist, Dimas managed to end his career with a bronze medal, as he became just the fourth weightlifter in world history to medal in four consecutive Olympic games.

Dimas signaled the end of his long and illustrious career after his gold medal attempt in Athens by leaving his shoes on the stage and riding off into the sunset to a standing ovation.

Take a look at the emotional medal ceremony here:

Today Dimas is the president of the Hellenic Weightlifting Federation, and is married with four children. He truly is one of Greece's few living legends.

By Staff Writer – Jonathan Bliangas

Follow Jonathan on Twitter @jbliangas