- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 10, 2004

NEA IONIA, Greece — As relatives tell it, it was the stuff of Greek tragedy: A love-struck young man threw himself off his balcony yesterday, two days after a quarrel prompted his girlfriend — a member of Greece’s Oly-mpic judo team — to jump from the same spot.

“He had very intense feelings about the girl. He was very much in love,” said Nikos Drakopoulos, a printer who lives across the hall from the couple. “He could not see himself living if she was gone.”

Giorgos Chrisostomides, 24, was on life-support at an Athens hospital with injuries to his head and back. His high school sweetheart, 20-year-old judo champion Eleni Ioannou, was at another hospital in critical condition with multiple fractures to her head and body.

The couple had been inseparable since Ioannou moved into the apartment Chrisostomides shares with his grandparents a little more than a year ago.

Chrisostomides was raised by his grandparents after his father died and his mother remarried. He lost his job as an auto mechanic and hadn’t been able to find another one, relatives said.

Neighbors said the couple spent a lot of time in their apartment in the working-class Nea Ionia suburb of Athens, listening to loud rock music. When they went out, they went out together.

Ioannou, a student at the Athens Gymnastics Academy, had become somewhat of a local celebrity since she qualified for Greece’s Olympic judo team in the 172-pound-plus competition. She had been scheduled to move into the Olympic Village tomorrow.

“Everyone was proud of her. She helped kids in the neighborhood to have dreams,” Drakopoulos said.

Friends and relatives said the couple’s argument Saturday was minor, and they were shocked at its tragic consequences.

“It was a small fight, something silly,” said Chrisostomides’ cousin and downstairs neighbor, Paul Michaelides. “It started about who would play solitaire on the computer.”

The fight escalated, and Ioannou eventually hurled herself from the balcony, they said. She fell onto a concrete driveway that winds behind the apartment building.

Police questioned Chrisostomides and released him. But Chrisostomides was inconsolable.

“He was depressed. He was very upset,” said Evangelia Michaelides, Chrisostomides’ great-aunt and neighbor.

On Sunday, Chrisostomides’ grief got the better of him. Screaming, “I’m going to find Eleni,” he ran toward the balcony, but friends and relatives restrained him before he could jump.

Chrisostomides’ grandmother took him to see a therapist yesterday morning, and he was to return today, relatives said.

But back home, they said, as Chrisostomides was having lunch with his grandmother, he suddenly stood and bolted for the balcony.

“He was sitting there eating, and he just got up and jumped,” Michaelides said. “His grandparents were there, but they couldn’t stop him.”

Chrisostomides’ mother and grandmother were visiting him at the hospital yesterday afternoon, leaving his grandfather alone in apartment Gamma-3. The old man, answering the intercom, said he didn’t have anything to say.

“Leave me in my misery,” he said.

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