World champion water polo player Stephania Haralabidis, from Team USA, spoke with Greek Reporter recently about her career in the sport, her plans for 2021, and how much her Greek heritage means to her.
The athlete acknowledged that she has used her time during the coronavirus lockdown to studying for her Master’s degree, so that has kept her extremely busy.
When she is in Greece, she competes on the NC Vouliagmeni water polo team. Haralabidis is now setting her sights on the Tokyo Olympic Games, now scheduled for 2021. “I felt disappointed about the postponement,” the veteran athlete admits.
“I was at a loss for words since we put a lot of work into that,” she said. “While the postponement to 2021 was hard to swallow, I am grateful that it wasn’t canceled completely, because we still have a chance to go and compete next year. Hopefully, it won’t get canceled or postponed again.”
Haralibidis says that she is drawn to the sport of water polo due to the extremely competitive aspect of it as well as the teamwork involved.
On being a water polo player in the digital age, she says “Technology is pretty amazing. When I was younger, we didn’t have all that. You can look at a video and it can show you what you need to work on and what you need to improve. Video technology can also be beneficial to referees during games. It has helped advance the sport a lot.”
Haralabidis won the gold medal at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju and at the 2019 Pan American Games as part of the women’s USA water polo team. “Winning in Gwangju was an incredible experience,” she says with obvious pride. “I had never been close to winning a big medal like that one.”
For young and aspiring water polo players, she advises “Follow your dreams. Don’t give up. Push yourself. Hard work and dedication in your sport will get you where you want to be.”
She also opened up about her Greek heritage. “My father is fully Greek (from Piraeus), and he is currently working in Greece. My mom is American and I have such pride in being Greek. It will never go away,” she admitted.
“Any chance I have, I am back in Greece, and I am playing with NC Vouliagmeni as much as I can. I love being Greek and I love being American. It’s incredible.”
“I miss the part of being around Greeks in the United States, speaking Greek and having a connection with the Greek-American community. I feel so much pride and it’s an incredible accomplishment coming from Greece to the United States and experiencing a new life. I just feel proud to be Greek-American,” she says.
For her fans and supporters, Haralabidis sends a special message: “Thank you so much for supporting USA Water Polo and for supporting us and pushing us. They give us so much strength and pride, and it’s such an incredible feeling when you receive that fan support every single day.”
Asked by Greek Reporter to give a title to the current chapter of her life, she replies “Live every day and don’t stress about the future because you don’t know what is going to happen.”
The fearless competitor adds “I need to live my life in an unpredictable way since nobody knows what will happen with this virus,” she said. “You can’t really make any plans because you don’t know what is going to happen.”
Haralabidis says that she defines the word “success” as the culmination of all the hard work that she had to put in to get to where she is now, as well as the pride that she feels in her athletic accomplishments.
To learn more about the USA Water Polo team, check out its official website, here.
For more information on Stephania Haralabidis, follow her on Instagram.