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Nefeli Papadakis

Olympian 2020

2019 World Championships; Tokyo, Japan 2018 Junior World Championships; Nassau, Bahamas 2017 Junior World Championships; Zagreb, Croatia

Athlete Bio




Gurnee, IL


Warren Township High School in Gurnee, Ill. (2017) College of Lake County (Gurnee, Ill.)

  • 2019 Pan American Games; Lima, Peru
  • 2019 Pan American Championships; Lima, Peru; Bronze Medal
  • 2018 Pan American Championships; San Jose, Costa Rica; Seventh Place
International Judo Federation Profile:  Nefeli Papadakis IJF Profile
Nefeli Papadakis is one of USA Judo’s top ranked hopefuls for the 2020NE Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan…She is the daughter of Steve and Lilibeth Papadakis …Has one older brother, George…She runs a family dojo with her dad and brother where she teaches and coaches kids twice a week in the sport…When asked who her role model was and why, she responded: “I have a lot of role models, but I’ll list my top few. My best friend from home is one of the strongest people I know and growing up with her reminded me to always be grateful for what I have and to persevere no matter the circumstances I’m presented with. Same with my Yiayia and Papou (Greek for Grandma and Grandpa); they both were immigrants (to the USA) who didn’t grow up rich or entitled by any means. They came up from nothing and made the most with what they had and worked their butts off in the process. They taught me a bunch of lessons, but definitely instilled in me to always remember where I came from and to never give up on myself. Even when I doubted myself they would be there to have my back and believe in me. My Grandpa loved judo and was always at tournaments and events when I was a little girl. He is one of my biggest inspirations to make it to the Olympics because that is one thing we always talked about when I was a kid. I look forward to making that USA Olympic Team one day knowing that he will be watching from above and cheering me on.”…Was introduced to judo when she was four years old in Gurnee, Ill. when her parents signed up her older brother George for judo, Our dad, who is also my lifelong coach, did a little judo when he emigrated from Greece to the United States to attend college and in the summer of 2003 decided to get his children involved in the sport he had grown to love. George was eight years old and I was only four, so I was viewed as a little too young to start judo as the average starting age is generally six to seven years old, but I would go with George to the practices and watch from the sidelines. After three weeks of just watching and constantly asking my dad to let me try too, my dad talked with the coaches and they agreed to let me give it a go. I loved it! I loved learning something so cool and different and absolutely loved getting to fight. It was really fun for me and after entering and winning my first local tournament later that year the four year old me officially fell in love with the sport…Nef credits her dad and coach as the most influential person in his judo career and says: “Both of my parents and my older brother have always supported me 100% and I love them all for that. My Dad is the one who has really been with me through it all. I never had a coach who was an Olympian or World Champion or was from some big name, high end dojo. I grew up going to a small hometown dojo for about eight years and then my dad opened his own dojo and this is where I trained from the age of 12 years old to 19. My dad may have been an average judo player, but he is a top-notch coach. He did his homework and always made it happen for me and he and I came into the judo world as a team. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for him working with me since day one…Lists ‘respect’ as the aspect of judo’s moral code that is the most meaningful to her, saying: “To me respect is the most meaningful of the moral code because all of the other values (friendship, honor, courage, courtesy, honesty, modesty and self-control) are tied into it. If you are respectful, you are all of those other things as well. If you are trying to earn someone’s respect you need to acquire all of the other qualities before you truly have it. In judo, to me, respect is everything”…Was and honor roll student and member of the National Honor Society graduating from Warren Township High School in Gurnee, Ill. in 2017 where she also played varsity basketball and was team captain her senior year…Pursuing her higher education in Business Administration and Entrepreneurship at the College of Lake County and is planning to complete her courses and requirements for an Associate’s Degree following the Tokyo 2020NE Olympic Games…Her favorite food is Greek food and she loves souvlaki…Her go-to meal the night before a competition is to eat a lot of carbohydrates and protein. She says that steak and chicken breast are ideal options for her with either pasta or some kind of baked or mashed potatoes and a little salad. She tries to avoid fried foods until after she competes. Also makes sure to drink lots of water and she likes to have a Sprite or Coke with her dinner as well.….Roddy Rich is her favorite musical artists…Her favorite movies are “all the Thor movies, but like all the Avengers”…Enjoys basketball and has been playing since she was young, starting on her high school varsity team for four years. When asked about her hobbies outside of judo she said: “I’m a basketball fan so I like going to college and NBA games. I also train in Brazilian Jiujitsu which is fun because it’s a different style of grappling. Other than that, I just like to spend time with friends and hang out…Has already travelled to 25 countries and says that Greece if her favorite…Nefeli’s typical workout schedule is two-a-days every day except Sunday with either Brazilian jiujitsu or strength and conditioning in the morning for about an hour and a half (“I alternate these to end up doing three Brazilian jiujitsu practices and three strength and conditioning workouts per week.”) and then judo in the evenings for about two hour practices. On Sunday she tries to do some form of active recovery which usually ends up being a combination of stretching, foam rolling, mobility exercises and a little bit of cardio...When asked about her typical routine before a competition/match she said: “After the draw comes out I always send my draw to my dad so that we can think of a plan and work together to make a strategy. My dad is really good about researching the competitive tendencies of girls in my division so it helps me to think through different scenarios with him before competitions. I eat a good dinner and hydrate after I weigh in, get a good night sleep and eat a good breakfast the morning of the competition. After that I put on my headphones and listen to my tournament playlist which helps me zone in. Once I get to the venue, I like to get on the tournament mats instead of just hanging out in the warm-up area the whole time to get a feel for the arena and to really focus and zone in. Then I warm-up when it gets closer to my match number and its go-time”…Lists her greatest judo accomplishments as her fifth place performance at the 2015 Cadet World Championships; gold medal in the 2017 Iliadis Junior European Cup; bronze medal at the 2019 Pan American Championships and her fifth place finishes in the 2019 IJF Grand Prix’s in Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Antalya, Turkey and Tashkent, Uzbekistan…When asked about her favorite judo moment she says: “Growing up would it was taking fifth place at the 2015 Cadet World Championships. Although I was only 17 years old, it was a big moment for me because it gave me a lot of hope and confidence for the future. I knew that I could do it and that I had it in me to be great; I just had to push a little harder to get to the podium on the world stage. Two more current favorite memories of mine would be taking my first medal (bronze) at the 2019 Pan American Championships and making my first finals block at the Grand Prix in Antalya, Turkey. Although I lost that bronze medal match and took fifth place, it as a big moment for me because I was really out there by myself. We had no coach sent to this event so all the athletes had each other’s backs and I was at the tournament with just a few other teammates cheering for me and helping to coach/support me at that event. When I was fighting in the bronze medal match, the camera man zoomed in on my teammates coaching me from the stands since I was without a coach, which I thought was pretty cool. It was a really good feeling knowing they had my back and I’m really grateful to them for it. This moment also gave me hope that I was capable of fighting and ‘could hang’ with the best at the senior level; I just had to push a little bit more to finally make the podium.”


Competition Record:

Complete International Judo Federation Event Competition History:
Nefeli Papadakis Competition History

Competition Highlights:

2020 Events and Results:
IJF Grand Slam; Paris, France
IJF Grand Slam; Tel Aviv, Israel; Round of 16

2019 Events and Results:
IJF Masters; Qingdao, China
Oceania Open; Perth, Australia
IJF Grand Slam; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
IJF Grand Slam; Brasilia, Brazil
IJF Grand Prix; Tashkent, Uzbekistan; Fifth Place
IJF World Championships; Tokyo, Japan, Round of 32
Pan American Games; Lima, Peru
IJF Grand Prix; Zagreb, Croatia
IJF Grand Prix; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Fifth Place
Pan American Championships; Lima, Peru; Bronze Medal
IJF Grand Prix; Antalya, Turkey; Fifth Place
IJF Grand Prix; Tbilisi, Georgia; Round of 16
IJF Grand Prix; Marrakech, Morocco
IJF Grand Slam; Paris, France
IJF Grand Prix; Tel Aviv, Israel

2018 Events and Results:
IJF Junior World Championships; Nassau, Bahamas
IJF Grand Prix; Cancun, Mexico; Seventh Place
Pan American Open; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Bronze Medal
IJF Grand Prix; Budapest, Hungary
IJF Grand Prix; Zagreb, Croatia; Round of 16
Pan American Championships; San Jose, Costa Rica; Seventh Place
Pan American Open; Lima, Peru; Fifth Place

2017 Events and Results:
IJF Junior World Championships; Zagreb, Croatia
Junior European Cup; Athens, Greece; Gold Medal

2015 Events and Results:
IJF Junior World Championships; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
IJF Cadet World Championships; Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina; Fifth Place

2014 Events and Results:
IJF Junior World Championships; Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., USA

2013 Events and Results:
IJF Cadet World Championships; Miami, Fla., USA

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