Greek-American judoka Nefeli Papadakis has qualified to represent the U.S. at the Tokyo Olympics which start later this month.
Papadakis said she was extremely proud to represent Team USA at the Olympics. In a Facebook post she added: “The journey to get here has been an absolute roller coaster of emotions, and I’m glad to have finally achieved one of my life long goals. Thank you to EVERYONE who has helped and supported me along the way; we finally made it you guys.”
Papadakis is the daughter of Steve and Lilibeth Papadakis. Asked recently about her role models, the Greek-American told the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, that among them is her Yiayia and Papou (Greek for Grandma and Grandpa).
Papadakis’ role models: Yiayia and Papou
“They both were immigrants to the USA who didn’t grow up rich or entitled by any means. They came up from nothing and made the most with what they had and worked their butts off in the process,” Papadakis said.
“They taught me a bunch of lessons, but definitely instilled in me to always remember where I came from and to never give up on myself. Even when I doubted myself they would be there to have my back and believe in me.
“My Grandpa loved judo and was always at tournaments and events when I was a little girl. He is one of my biggest inspirations to make it to the Olympics because that is one thing we always talked about when I was a kid,” Papadakis said.
The Greek-American said that her dad, Steve Papadakis, is her lifelong coach. “He emigrated from Greece to the United States to attend college and in the summer of 2003 decided to get his children involved in the sport he had grown to love.
“I loved it! I loved learning something so cool and different and absolutely loved getting to fight. It was really fun for me and after entering and winning my first local tournament later that year the four year old me officially fell in love with the sport”, Papadakis said.
Her favorite food is Greek food and she loves souvlaki, she says. Has already travelled to 25 countries and says that Greece if her favorite.
In 2020, 23-year-old Papadakis won the silver medal in the women’s 78 kg event at the 2020 Pan American Judo Championships held in Guadalajara, Mexico. She also won a bronze medal in this event, both in 2019 and in 2021.
In 2019, she competed in the women’s 78 kg event at the 2019 Pan American Games held in Lima, Peru. In that same year, she also competed in the women’s 78 kg event at the 2019 World Judo Championships held in Tokyo, Japan.
In 2021, she competed in the women’s 78 kg event at the 2021 Judo World Masters held in Doha, Qatar.
Apart from Papadakis another Greek-American athlete has made it to the USA team for the Tokyo Olympics. Stephania Haralabidis has been named to the U.S. Women’s Water Polo Team.
She has been playing water polo for nearly fifteen years, after making the switch from competitive swimming at the age of twelve.