Greece has long been associated with the sea, it’s an inarguable link, and rightfully so. You just have to look at the geographical makeup of Greece, a nation made up of thousands of islands. Then you have Australia, a nation known for its beaches, with over 10,000 of them, and about 85 per cent of its population living within 50 kilometres of the coast. With all this in mind, it seems quite fitting that Zoe Poulis, a young Greek Australian, has been selected as Australia’s number one ranked artistic (synchronised) swimmer for the national team.
Artistic swimming isn’t promoted well in Australia but is highly regarded overseas, particularly in Europe, including Greece.
Young Zoe spoke with Neos Kosmos in early 2019, and at that point had already been a multi-time 12 and under national age champion, an age 13 to 15 champion and took home gold and silver medals at events in New Zealand and Singapore.
Fast forward more than three years later, Zoe, now 16 years-old, hasn’t stopped swimming for the horizon. The pandemic may have slowed things but she is back in the pool achieving big things.
One of these big things was competing against her idol, Greek artistic swimmer Evangelia Platanioti, who has previously competed at the Olympics and is the first Greek to win a medal at the World Championships.
“My local club coach at the Gold Coast Mermaids, Marina Kholod, often uses the quote: ‘Train until your idols become your rivals’ to inspire us,” Poulis told Neos Kosmos.
“This came true for me in June this year when I competed in Budapest at the FINA World Championships which was an incredible experience. Swimming my solo routine against Evangelia Plataniotis who I have admired for as long as I can remember was a dream come true for me.
“She has established herself as one of the most beautiful and competitive artistic swimmers in today’s competition and I can’t help but feel proud of my Greek heritage when I see her compete. It gave me a real sense of the competition at that level and I know that I am just at the beginning of my competitive journey.”
Zoe may be at the start of her competitive journey but she about to take a significant next step in her path. Having now been selected for the Australian national team, she will be relocating from her family home on the Gold Coast, to Perth for live trials. Previous trials took place earlier this year, but were held virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“I am humbled by my selection on the Australian National Team and extremely proud of having achieved the highest results at my first senior trials which were held earlier this year,” she said.
“In December I am heading to Perth where live trials are being held for the 2023 season. I’ll then be staying on for a training camp until late December. From there I will be meeting my family in Melbourne to spend Christmas with my Papou and Yiayias. My Papou’s name is Christos so Christmas is an extra celebration for his name day.
“I’ll then be relocating to Perth in the first week of January for centralised training with the Australian National Team at the West Australian Institute of Sport (WAIS) in the lead up to the 2024 Olympics.”
Zoe’s connection with her grandparents remains strong, and from there, her Greek heritage, despite living in another state. In 2019, she told Neos Kosmos that she always looks forward to spending time with her grandparents and the Greek community.
She is extremely proud of being Greek having said her heritage makes her feel like she’s part of something big. In fact, Greece is the one place she hopes to see one day, after her first foray in the Olympics has been achieved.
“Next year it is likely Australia will be competing at the FINA World Championships in Japan so I think perhaps Greece will have to wait until after the 2024 Olympics,” she said.
“I would love to take a little time to have a proper holiday in Greece and see where my grandparents spent their childhoods. I especially want to travel to Olympia where the Olympics originated. That is something that would complete my Olympic journey for me.”
2024 is the goal for young Zoe, and she is a step closer, but making the squad doesn’t mean she’s made it just yet. She’ll be working hard during her time in Perth, to ensure her dream becomes a reality.
The Australian National Squad is made up of around 20 athletes. However, her place on the squad is dependent on her performance and continued improvement which will be assessed at regular trials to be held between now and the Olympics.
The eight person team to compete at the Olympics, if Australia qualifies, will be selected from the squad and will have one travelling reserve.
“No one is guaranteed a spot on the team so I have to continue to work hard to gain selection in the Olympic Team.”
Miss Poulis is also looking to the wider Greek community to help support her on this amazing journey.
“To have the support of people back home in making it to the Olympics would make it so much more special for me. I am currently seeking sponsorship to cover the ongoing expenses involved in my relocation and living in Perth while I train with the Australian National Team,” she said.
Anyone interested in sponsoring her can contact her through Instagram, @zoe_poulis or email email@example.com
Alternatively, tax-deductible donations are equally appreciated and can be made on the Australian Sports Foundation funding site through the “Donate” link and searching Zoe Poulis (or go to: https://asf.org.au/projects/zoes-bid-for-paris-2024).
The horizon over the ocean is nearing, past it is the Olympics, and this young mermaid named Zoe is artistically swimming her way there, like the Greek deities and legends of old.