WASHINGTON – World Champion Decathlete Tom Pappas and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Astrophysicist E.G. Stassinopoulos, were honored by AHEPA, at its 36th Biennial National Banquet in “Honor of the Olympic Spirit”, that took place on Monday, February 16, 2004, in Washington. Andrew S. Natsios, administrator, of the U.S. Agency for International Development, was the Master of Ceremonies. Amongst the guests of honor were Archbishop Demetrios of America and Senator Paul Sarbanes.
Pappas received the Harry Agganis Award for excellence in athletics and Stassinopoulos will receive the Aristotle Award for national recognition in his profession.
AHEPA also honored Greek American former Olympians. 95 year old Peter Klentzos (he participated in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, boxers Peter and Nick Spanacos, Alex Ganotakis who is going to be a part of the 2004 Hellenic Olympic Team, John Livadidis, Irene Aidinlis and Michael Voudouris.
Tom Pappas a fourth generation Greek American and a decathlete holding the world record, is considered by many the greatest athlete of the world. His
great grand father came to the US from Athens when he was 7 . His mother took him with her and they were on the boat to the US for 33 days. They arrived in New York and then for a while they moved to New Jersey.
Tom Pappas has spoken to the GreekNews and Dimitris Panagos.
“His son Bill, my grandpa lived in Hollywood California for several years. He was really athletic. He liked sports and that was something he really put to us.. He had two boys and a girl, my dad Nick and my uncle Tom. When my dad was a kid he had polio, so he was never able to compete in athletics. That was hard for both my dad and my granddad because athletics was a big part of their lives”.
Growing up as a kid Tom has played a lot of sports. Baseball, football, basketball, he wrestled for seven years and then he started track and field. The funny part of the story is that no one thought he was exceptional and he fought hard to find a scholarship.
“In high school I did high jamb, long jamb and hurdles. I was very mediocre. I was not good enough to gain big scholarships. I went to the community college. The first decathlon I did , I broke the school record and I knew I had a future in the sports.
When I transferred to Tennessee I was good but not at the elite level yet. I was 175 pounds and in the first semester I put on 20 pounds, adding a lot of muscle . Then was when my career started taking off”.
His grandfather has put to him that decathletes are the world’s greatest athletes and that has always appeal to him. His family holds another record. All three brothers are good decathletes and his younger brother Bill is going to compete against him at the Olympic trials.
“My older brother Paul has started that and I was watching him. He went to the University of Oregon. There weren’t any big scholarships so I attended community college. I lived in with Paul and at the same time I started maturing as an athlete. After that, I transferred to the university of Tennessee and I am in there ever since.
My other younger brother Billy is two year younger is a decathlete as well and he training. He is going to be at the Olympic trials competing against me .Sports is part of our life. We actually hold the world record for three brothers being in the same sport. I guess it runs in the family”.
The whole family – with the exception of the grandparents – is prepared to go to Greece this summer. Tom is not touched by the warnings. He is sure Athens Olympics will be safe and excellent. And he is ready to climb on the top gaining the gold metal.