To see a video of Christina Loukas receiving the Medal of St. Paul, follow this link.
FROM THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE
If Christina Loukas fans were disappointed by her eighth-place finish at the summer Olympics in London, you wouldn’t know it from her supporters at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago.
About 200 people gathered inside the cathedral on Sunday to watch as the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago gave Loukas the Medal of Saint Paul, the highest honor the the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America bestows on a layperson.
“She is in a beautiful tradition that our people invented,” Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos said. “This is a really huge honor for our community.”
After 18 months of training, Loukas finished in eighth-place in the women's 3-meter springboard event. While that’s an impressive feat for any athlete, Loukas, who was raised in Riverwoods, was hoping for something better.
“I didn’t do as well as I wanted to, but it was just an amazing experience,” Loukas told reporters after the medal ceremony. “Afterwards I was just kind of relieved … it was finally over.”
The Greek Orthodox Church was an early supporter of Loukas. She often performed well in multiple sports at the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago’s junior Olympics, parishioners said.
“She was always an excellent athlete, said Christine Kandaras, a family friend of the Loukas family. “She was always self-determined.”
On Sunday, parishioners lined up to shake hands with the Olympic athlete, often talking about how they were cheering her on from their homes stateside. Later, the Greek America Foundation gave her a copy of its upcoming quarterly magazine, in which she is on the cover.
Such support is typical in the Greek community, said Greg Pappas, the founder of the Greek America Foundation.
“When I was watching the Olympics, the one thing I have to tell you that struck me the most was repeatedly seeing thirty, forty members of the Loukas family all there all making the trip to London to be with her,” Pappas told the crowd of parishioners. “If that’s not an indication of who we are as Greek Americans I don’t know what is.”
And the fanfare over Loukas may not end just yet. Loukas said Sunday she is going to take a break from the sport, but she has not ruled out the possibility of trying again in 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janiero.
“Right now, I’m just gonna take a step away from diving … Maybe try some other things,” she said. But “four years is a really long time. So if I want to make a comeback, I can definitely do that.”