She has described herself as “Greek by birth. Wrestler by heart. Passionate about life. 3-time World Team member. 2016 Olympic Hopeful.” Now Helen Maroulis can add “Olympic Gold Medalist” to the description of herself.
Maroulis’ family moved to the U.S. in 1968, seeking a better life. Helen’s father, Yiannis Maroulis, followed the advice of her grandfather Gerasimos Maroulis to move to the United States. Like many Greeks whose families emigrated to the U.S., Helen not only found a better life, but she had a life of achievements. The culmination being the gold medal in 53 kg wrestling she won in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Helen grew up in Michigan State, where her family was active in construction, after her father worked with his brothers in the family restaurant business. She went to school at Marquette, and then joined the Olympic Education Center at the University of Northern Michigan.
Helen’s father, Yiannis, was involved in wrestling and tried to pass the love for the sport to his two sons and daughter. However, Helen was the one who embraced wrestling wholeheartedly.
She loves Greece and its culture and considers Kalamos, an island east of Lefkada, as her paradise. Helen visits Greece often, she was there nearly two years ago to visit her beloved grandmother. She wanted to show her the bronze medal she won in the World Championship in Uzbekistan.”
“I’m half Greek, half American and I’m proud of it. [I am trying to get] Greek citizenship but there is a lot bureaucracy. Regarding the flag I compete for, America has treated me beautifully and has supported me as an athlete,” she is quoted as saying in an Athens News Agency report.
In 2012, Maroulis was cut in the U.S. team trials for the London Olympics. She was angry about this and considered the Greek proposal to join the Greek federation. However, the all-powerful Greek red tape prevented her from competing under the Greek flag.
Nevertheless, the 24-year-old champion feels enchanted every time she visits Greece, because, as she has said, it is the country where sports were born.