Buy This Issue
The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 02 March 2019
28 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 2 MARCH 2019 SPORT DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM ISSN 1321-1676 9 771321 167062 Zoe Poulis is proud of her Greek heritage and uses it to harness her determination. PHOTO: SUPPLIED Zoe Poulis makes the tough sport of synchronised swimming look easy with her grace and charm, but behind the scenes she practices for hours in an out of the pool. PHOTO: SUPPLIED A Peloponnesian mermaid from the Gold Coast Zoe Poulis focused on her dream of making it to the 2024 Olympics MARY SINANIDIS Plugged nostrils, uncomfortable goggles that slant your eyes and airtight swimming caps that tug and pull at your hair - enough to cause a headache - and the smell of chlorine permeating the pores of your skin are the life that Zoe Poulis has known. It's this life she has been leading since her parents moved from Melbourne to the Gold Coast where she discovered her passion for artistic swimming at her local council pool. Since then, she's competed in every annual Australian National competition and has been the 12 and Under National age champion for the last two consecutive years whilst also competing up an age category and taking out the 2018 Australian 13 to 15 age champion title. After her brilliant performance on the world stage in New Zealand, where she proudly brought home Gold followed by Silver for her solo and figures from Singapore, everyone has been watching young Zoe as a force to be reckoned with. Her goal? To get as far as she can, and earn a spot in the 2024 Olympics in Paris. THIS IS SPARTA Those that watch her breeze through synch-swim competitions with the grace of a dolphin, think she's got the blood of a mermaid. But the 12-year-old knows the sacrifice and dedication that is required in synchronised swimming, a graceful sport that is more difficult than it looks. It's not mermaid ancestry that is her secret, but the blood of her Greek immigrant grandparents, who came determined to create a better life for themselves in Australia, heading to Melbourne from mainland Greece: Kalamata, Kalavrita and Sparta - all places with a history of resistance and resilience. "I would love to go to Greece with my family one day, to experience it for myself, see the famous places like the Parthenon and especially Olympia where the Olympics originated, and visit the places where my grandparents grew up. My dream would be to meet (synchronised swimmer) Evangelia (Platanioti) and train with her and the Greek synchro team while I was there," Zoe told Neos Kosmos, adding the huge impact that being Greek has had on her life - and not just her training. "Having Greek heritage makes me feel like I'm part of something bigger, that I am part of a people from every part of the world and that we share a proud history." Though Greece is a dream, she always looks forward to travelling to Melbourne to spend time with her grandparents and the Greek community. "I especially love going to Oakleigh and having spanakopita and Greek cakes," she said. GRUELLING TRAINING It's that Greek determination, small doses of spanakopita and true grit that help Zoe train after school for at least four to five nights a week, three hours a day on weekdays and four hours on weekends. And that's just when she's in the pool. "I also work on my flexibility and strength at home every day. "We only take a couple of weeks off training every year and school holidays normally mean extra training," Zoe said. "My motivation is to keep improving and preparing to be selected for the Australian 2024 Olympic team, I have to keep my focus on that goal." Focus she does. She misses out on parties, but she's lucky that the girls she trains with are also friends. "We get to have fun while we train and compete," she said. Synchronised swimming is not all Zoe needs to synchronise. There's also school work. "I have to be really organised with my homework so that I get it all completed on time," she said. "I don't want my grades to slip, especially if I have to start taking more time out of school to go to the national training camps during the year." Her dedication to the sport isn't enough. The entire family are also needed to support her endeavours with Zoe's parents and brothers, Daniel and James, also spending their holidays heading from one synchro event to another. "I know there are times that they get tired of hearing about synchro, but they are always supportive and really proud of me," Zoe said. FAMILY SPIRIT She recognises the support and sacrifice that her family has made so that she can rise the ranks of synchronised swimming - and while most Greeks could relate to Stephanos Tsitsipas during his performance at the Australian Open, Zoe knew the important role that his family had played behind the scenes to make it all possible. She "loved seeing that his family were there for him and that it meant so much to him". His success has helped inspire the young swimmer. "He's the first Greek to achieve so many things in tennis, and it makes me believe that I can achieve what others haven't before me; that goals can be reached if you're disciplined, work hard and dedicate yourself to your sport and have the support of the people around you." Zoe hopes to follow in his footsteps though in another sport. Despite results that qualified her to apply for the Australian National youth representative team for the past two years running, she had to meet the age requirement of 13 years in order to do so. This year is the first opportunity Zoe will have to officially represent Australia and she can't wait. She knows how much discipline and effort will be required if she qualifies in April. Of course being exceptional is just one hurdle for Zoe. Even if she makes it, she then needs the funds to continue. "Competitive synchronised swimming is especially expensive because it is not wellrecognised in Australia, so funding is very limited," she said, adding that she is currently seeking to team up with sponsors who she can work with and proudly represent on her way to the 2024 Olympics in Paris. "Combining training, travel, costumes, competition entry costs and now National Team expenses means that my sport will cost at least $15,000 for me to compete this year." But Zoe is focused on the dream. Follow her on Instagram @ zoe_poulis.
23 February 2019
09 March 2019