All she could think of when she shattered record after record in recent races was— her yiayia. Her Greek immigrant grandmother who played such a significant role in her upbringing after losing her mother when she was only four years old.
Alexi Pappas will be representing her yiayia’s birth country at the Rio Olympics this summer, invited to join the team by Greek athletic officials after she broke the Greek record in the 10,000-meter race in May.
Mary Pappas, Alexi’s grandmother emigrated to the United States from Rhodes. She was the first person Alexi called when she received the invitation to race for Greece.
“To talk to my yiayia about it afterward was the most incredible thing because it means a lot to me, but it also means a lot to my relationship with her,” Pappas said in a USA Today interview, adding that “I haven’t seen her this energetic in a long time. She is ecstatic.”
Currently, she trains with the Oregon Track Club Elite in Eugene and is one of the top ten runners in the United States. But running doesn’t define who this 26-year-old world-class runner is.
On racing for Greece, Pappas said it was “a gift to be racing for the country where the sport was born and to enter the Olympic stadium first and to be a role model to a whole new group of young athletes in Greece.”
Pappas writes essays and poetry, she acts and makes films— and even does stand up comedy.
Tracktown, her latest film project is a feature film she co-wrote, co-directed and stars in premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival last weekend.
The film follows a young runner named Plumb Marigold as she chases her dream of qualifying for the Olympics.