This past May, Santa Barbara native and University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) senior Nicholas Scarvelis shared with the Los Angeles Times that he had received a Facebook message written in Greek over two years ago.
“Good morning, do you read Greek,” the message said.
“Scarvelis responded: “Very little.”
It clearly didn’t prove to be an obstacle as that initial exchange led to several messages between Skarvelis and a Greek track and field coach. Then he received a tempting invitation, “Would you like to fight with the Greek National Team?” he told the Times.
What followed next would certainly make his yiayia and papou proud. Scarvelis became a Greek citizen and then went to Greece to compete in the shot put at the European Cup. He hasn’t looked back since.
His next stop is Rio de Janeiro where he’ll compete in the Summer Olympics for Greece, a practice that has become common amongst Greek American athletes. Think Greek Baseball Team in Athens 2004 as well as others such as Alexi Pappas, who will also compete in the track and field category in Rio.
“They knew that I was a Greek American,” he told the Times adding that “they keep an eye on Greek Americans.” Apparently he’d also been on their radar for a long time. Not surprising since Scarvelis has distinguished himself as one of the most decorated UCLA track and field athletes in the university’s history.
He recently ended a five-year stint with UCLA’s track and field athletes and looked back on his record-breaking career in the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s daily newspaper, with humor and some shared reflection to his track mates and future track athletes. “I’m old enough to have scraped up some wisdom of my own, and I’m going to share it whether my team wants me to or not,” he writes. “This is so my track mates (and anyone so inclined to hear me out) can go off and make me proud. I don’t mean to preach, but I’m going to.”
Having improved his throw by more than six inches since the beginning of the season, he topped the Olympic qualifying standard which is 67 feet and three inches. At the Triton Invitation in April, he enjoyed a personal-best mark of 67 feet 7 ½ inches and, as they say, the rest is history.
Email the author: Frosene Phillips