Tsoubanos Strives for Olympic Dream
By Kelly Schmandt

(Editor's Note: Kelly Schmandt is a member of the varsity tennis team.)

For every athlete who has ever played a sport, many dream of the chance to exceed to the top of their sport. And for every athlete who has ever ran track, swam, or picked up a tennis racket have thought about what it would mean to participate in the Olympics.

It is a dream, playing for your country against the top athletes in world. Only the smallest of fractions of athletes ever excel to the point to play in the Olympics and even fewer still actually play in the Olympics.

But for one Vanderbilt women's tennis player, this dream is not quite a total fantasy. The 2004 Athens Olympics may actually see the familiar face of Aleke Tsoubanos playing for Greece.

Half of Vanderbilt's top ranked doubles team and number two singles player, Aleke Tsoubanos, is on her way to achieving something most people can
only dream about.

"It's been something I've always thought about since I was little. Most kids, whatever sport they play it's like, ' I want to play in the Olympics.' But it's never really been serious to me to me, up until a year and a half ago."

It's been a long and arduous process. Aleke's father, Chris Tsoubanos, began looking for information in August of 2000. After a barrage of phone calls and emails to Spiros Zanias, President of the Hellenic Tennis Federation, to no avail, a Greek organization called Aheppa began circulating Aleke's resume which ultimately landed in the hands of Katerina Economou-Demeter, the Vice Consul of the Greek Embassy in Boston.

The Consulate officially sent Aleke's information and request to Spiros Zanias, and he finally responded with the requirements Aleke needs in order to be considered for the Olympic team.

Aleke's next step is to get a Greek passport and play some ITA events to expose her talents to the Hellenic Tennis Federation. She is planning on playing a satellite event in Greece in June and possibility another tournament, which compiles the top Greek tennis players from other countries. "It's been a long process, its been forever to find out what exactly I need to do," she stated.

Even though Aleke was born in the United States, she is able to represent Greece in the Olympics because both of her parents were born in Greece.

"It would mean so much to me to represent the country where my parents
are from, and even though I wasn't born there, that's my heritage and it's what
I know. As a Greek family we are tightly knit to our values," Akele says.

"When we found out that this Olympics is in Athens, it became so much bigger of a deal. Just based on being in Greece and now there's this other girl (Eleni Daniilido) who is really good, and she's representing the country. People are really starting to get excited about it. Now that we are finally getting feedback and moving in that direction it is becoming so much more realistic. All of a sudden it is something doable."

Aleke's chances look pretty good. In the singles draw there are 64 spots available, and the 48 top players from the Olympic countries are automatically entered. The remaining 16 of the spots go to the wildcard entries.

As of now, Greece only has only one ranked player, Eleni Daniilidou, that is currently 15 in the world rankings. Because Greece is the host country it is allowed two of the wildcard spots. There are no guaranteed wildcard spots in doubles, but Greece will have at least one team in the doubles.

As of now, Aleke is awaiting to play the summer ITA events and be evaluated by the Hellenic Tennis Federation. Her chances for playing in either singles or doubles will be based largely on that.

Aleke's skills will undoubtedly impress the Hellenic Tennis Federation. As a sophomore, she and partner Sarah Riske were made All-Americans in doubles, and earlier this year obtained a number one ranking. And after fighting off some injuries in the past couple years; she is already making her name on the singles court as well.

She will know by March of next year whether or not she will be a part of the Greek Olympic Team.

"I know it's a possibility, but it is a possibility that nothing comes out of it, and I don't represent the Hellenic Federation. It would be such a letdown. It seems so close, but we are not quite there....To walk in the stadium with all of those people and all of those athletes, carrying my country's flag. I wouldn't know what to do with myself. I will probably be hiding under the flag!"

While Aleke's spot in the Olympics is still to be determined, her chances to achieve every athlete's ultimate goal are far greater than most people could ever conceive. Come next summer Aleke Tsoubanos may not only be holding a Greek flag in an Athens stadium, but also representing a Vanderbilt banner for all the world to see.



Vanderbilt Athletic Department
2601 Jess Neely Drive
Nashville, TN 37212
615-322-GOLD (4653)