Anna Korakaki, aged 20, rose from obscurity to enter the pantheon of Olympic medalists after winning Gold for the 25m pistol and Bronze in the 10m air pistol at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. Suddenly a household name, she received a dizzying reception at the Athens airport with Sports Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis hailing the star athlete as a “child of all of Greece”. The truth, however, is that Korakaki’s win came despite the country’s lack of support rather than because of it.
1. Korakaki was born on April 8, 1996, in Drama, an area in northeastern Greece facing economic hardship as a result of the closure of textile-clothing industries that negatively impacted the local economy and employment.
2. She is the first female athlete to have brought two Olympic medals for Greece from the same Olympic competition. The last athlete who managed to do this was Konstantinos Tsiklitiras in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics who won medals in the high jump and long jump events.
3. Retired shooter Tasos Korakakis may be his daughter’s coach, but he says he is a father first.
4. A leg injury caused Korakaki to consider shooting targets. “I began shooting twelve years ago and my father was the reason,” she says. “He was a member of the national team for 12 years. He told me to try the specific sport because initially I was involved in other sports. I trained in track and field events and played volleyball. I had a leg injury and he suggested I join him for target practice and give it a try. That’s how I began.”
5. Korakaki trained in a humble makeshift target site created by her father near the quarries. Her practice area was little more than a ramshackle shed. Unfit for an athlete of Olympic potential, it was hurriedly torn down by Drama municipal authorities to avoid negative publicity just before she won her second medal. The Olympic winner herself has already stated her displeasure concerning the rushed demolition that also destroyed personal items she had left there. “All these years, I practiced there. They didn’t respect our site. A new target practice area needs to be created, but it should have been constructed earlier, when I needed it. It should have been built before I went to Rio, but I didn’t have it,” she said.
6. Korakaki nearly went to the Olympics without a second pistol as the state was not willing to subsidize one. It was only after her father threatened to go to the press that the state finally caved in and chipped in for a reserve gun for the Olympic candidate so that she wouldn’t be forced to forfeit the competition in the case of complications.
7. Fed up with the behavior and attitudes of members of the Hellenic Shooting Federation who backed to assist her in pursuing her sport, Korakaki was on the verge of quitting when aged 17 years. She says that it has been an uphill battle without adequate assistance from the state or the federation since she made the national team at the age of 14 years.
8. Greece may have just heard of Korakaki, but shooting enthusiasts know her well for her results in international events: World Youth Cup in Suhl, Germany (Gold and silver, 2016); World Cup in Baku (two silver medals, 2016); World Youth Cup in Munich (silver, 2015); Fort Benin in the United States (bronze, 2015); Moscow Pan Air Guns Arms Championship (gold, 2014); World Championships in Grenada (bronze, 2014). Her mother, Fotini Christodoulou, expressed disappointment that despite her daughter’s numerous distinctions, there was no mention of these incredible distinctions on the mainstream media.
9. Korakaki choked up on the podium while listening to the Greek national anthem. She later said that her thoughts raced back to all the hardships and obstacles she had to overcome to get there but that payback had finally come. “I’m the happiest person on Earth but I can’t find the words in English, in Greek or French to describe my feelings,” she said.
10. Parallel to her sports achievements, Korakaki is an undergraduate student in Special Education of the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki.