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Every so often, when you read about an elite athlete, they say how they experience that brief moment of feeling like they were on top of the world. Nefeli Papadakis, a young member of Team USA, may soon get the opportunity to experience that unique moment too.
Nefeli is a 15 year-old girl of both Greek and Filipino descent. She has been training in judo since the young age of four, and in Brazilian jiu jitsu for about five years. All the martial arts training started simply as an after school activity with the intent for her to learn self-defense. Little did she or anyone know she would become a repeat National Judo Champion. She remained undefeated for years, in both girls and boys divisions. As Nefeli continued to be successful at her tournaments, she started to fight in older age divisions and heavier weight classes, and still performed well.
The highlights of her judo career are getting a silver and a gold medal in the Pan American Judo Championships (2012 in Panama, 2013 in Mexico). She has been a member of the infantile (U14), and the Cadet (U17) national teams. In 2013, she earned her spot to represent United States at the Cadet World Judo Championships, and was the youngest team member representing the US at only 13 years old. Recently, the USA Judo Association informed her that she will be representing the United States in the Junior World Judo Championships (U21), on October 25, which will take place in Miami, FL.
When she found out that she had made the national team, she was so excited; all her hard work was truly paying off. At the young age of 15, she’s getting another chance at
representing team USA. The majority of the girls she will be fighting are in their twenties with a lot of competition experience. Never the less, Nefeli isn’t intimidated by any of that; she looks forward to facing them.
Currently, she trains five days a week at her father’s (Steve) dojo. Nefeli’s Brazilian jiu jitsu coach, Ed Reyes, has been working with her on her ground game, and Nefeli’s father on her stand up game. She cross trains at sister clubs such as the New Breed Jiu Jitsu Academy with Mark Vives, and at Lake County BJJ with Patty Thomas and Carlos Archila.
If anyone wishes to express their support for her, they may visit the dojo website ( and leave her a word of encouragement. Donations to Nefeli to help her reach her Olympic dreams, can be sent to the address below, or go to her page on
Dojo Address: Arena Training Center, 500 N Greenbay Road, Waukegan, Il 60085. link:

The post Olympian in the Making appeared first on The National Herald.

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