Exemplified in all aspects of their lives, the Greeks taught us that learning is a life-long process, not only in stimulating our cognitive processes through academic pursuits and acquired skills, but also through nourishing our spirits in keeping our hopes and dreams alive by their beliefs of higher being(s). As the saying goes, you can’t have one without the other, and in this case, the formula is not complete unless one strived to condition their body not only for maintaining their health, but also for reaching optimal performance in athletic competitions. Hence the Ancient Olympics were born!

Today’s Greek-Americans are starting to put Greece back on the map in terms of the Olympic Games. They’ve managed to embrace the best of both worlds by not only representing their ‘Patrida’ in certain sports, but also bringing a little bit of ‘Americana’ to the mix as well. If you recall during the 2004 Olympics, the Greek baseball team was comprised mainly of Greek Americans. Not as popular to Europeans as Soccer or “Football” perhaps, but at least their hard work and efforts made us proud.

Beach Volleyball is another All-American game. When you think of beach volleyball one of the things that comes to mind are the innocent movies starring Frankie Avalon & Annette Funicello depicting fun in the sun, on surf and sand! True, it does have its roots in Southern California, as the local temperate climate is more sports-friendly, with the year-long sunshine enjoyed only by “SoCal” residents.

One such local resident is Professional Volleyball Player, JoAnna Papageorgiou, who not only was California Dreamin’ when she moved here over 2 years ago from the Midwest, she’s also planning on putting Greece on the map in the world of Beach Volleyball! Especially with our help and support, through our sponsorship, she’s going to take that California sunshine with her and shine for us when she goes for the Gold on behalf of Greece during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England!

JoAnna is a Greek American professional indoor volleyball player turned beach volleyball player living, working, and training in Redondo Beach, California, located in the South Bay region of Los Angeles, just minutes from LAX (Los Angeles International Airport). She played professional indoor volleyball in Europe from 2001 to 2008. The last four of those years were in Greece and included playing for the Greek indoor national team and representing Greece internationally in beach volleyball. Like most American-born Greeks, we don’t really have a chance to appreciate where we really come from until one day we’re immersed in our traditional surroundings, forcing us to fine-tune our language skills, and embrace our Hellenic Heritage up close and personal! While living in Greece, she learned to really appreciate her roots and her family upbringing, and became one with the culture there; quite the different experience than growing up back home in America, with only one of the 2 parents being Greek, despite being in the heart of one of America’s largest Greek hubs, near Chicago, IL.

Her father is from a small village named “Harakas” (Χαρακάς) near the picturesque town of Monemvasia in the Peloponnese. I guess the closest major city you might acquaint that with for those of you who still haven’t had the pleasure of visiting there, is Sparta. He was born there, raised in Athens, and then moved to America as a young adult where he met and married her Italian-American mother and created a family of three daughters providing a life for them the best way he knew how in the Greek community of Rock Island, IL.

In March of 2008 when her career was temporarily interrupted due to a broken hand and surgery from a volleyball injury occurring in Greece, she returned to the United States, but never lost focus on her goals. In order to pursue her Olympic dreams, she came to California which provides the best opportunities for continued training. Here she met and partnered up with a local California native, teammate Christina Roubani, daughter of the well-known Thodoris Roubanis. Not only do they share that common Greek-American bond, but they also share the Italian-American bond from their mothers’ side as well!

They recently met with one of the Greek national team coaches that lives and trains the men’s beach volleyball team in Greece. His news about the financial and organizational situation of the Greek Volleyball Federation was not good. It was expected, though, considering Greece’s economic crisis. They know that if they want to play in the Olympics, they need to find their own sponsors to support them in their journey, as the federation has no means of supporting them at this time.

The process of Olympic qualification is to play in the FIVE international beach volleyball tour, which holds tournaments in over 15 different countries every summer. They have from now until the summer of 2012 to play in these tournaments and earn a ranking in the top 25 teams of the world. Only two teams per country are allowed to qualify for the Olympics. Currently, Greece has only one other women’s national team. JoaAnna & Christina are the second! Imagine if one or both teams qualify and one player gets injured! If there is no other team, then Greece must drop out of the Olympics!

In closing remarks, when asked why she wants to represent Greece rather than the American soil that raised her, she replied: “I am so happy to have had the opportunity to play professional volleyball for 4 years in Greece (for the teams Iraklis-Kifisias, AEK, and Porfiras). This time allowed me to finally understand much more what it means to be Greek and to develop a growing pride and identity with my culture! I am so honored to have this opportunity to earn the chance to represent Greece in the Olympics in 2012! I realize that the Federation is unable to help, but do know that where there’s a will there’s always a way!” …spoken like a Spartan!

Every team around the world depends upon sponsorship to afford the airfare, hotel, transportation, health and nutrition, and other expenses of such an undertaking. For details, and to show your support & interest in her cause, kindly contact her directly via email, cupofjoanna@yahoo.com, or phone 309-230-4865 and 309-230-4865.

Article By:  JOANNA XIPA – NEO MAGAZINE
http://www.neomagazine.com/2010_05_may/_westcoast.html#anchor