Filmmaker and elite marathon runner, Alexi Pappas wants to make sure ‘the complete person is happening’
In marathon running — a different beast compared to competing on the track — she has a relatively new event to train for, and away from the roads and trails her filmmaking career is also taking a step into the unknown with a “top secret” TV project in the works.
“Trying something in a television world is almost like moving from the track to the marathon — it’s like the same sport but a different event,” Pappas tells CNN Sport.
“It’s like we’re learning new rules and that’s what’s fun about the running and the creative worlds — you can try new mediums and new events … similar muscles but different.”
She has gradually developed into a role model for young athletes. On her social media pages — where photos are captioned with pithy poems and quirky observations — Pappas gives guidance to followers who come to her for advice on running, injuries, diet or body image.
Her desire and willingness to be a role model can be partly explained by her mother’s suicide when she was four years old.
“That impacted me in two major ways,” says Pappas. “The first was that I felt I didn’t matter enough for her to stay and the second was that I suddenly had this huge vacuum in the female role model department and I needed to fill the gap of: what am I becoming and what can I look up to?
“I latched onto athletes, I latched onto anything to imitate and I really absorbed and ran with anything I saw that I liked, or what I didn’t like I would steer away from.
“When somebody is looking up to me now, I’m very aware of just how much that can matter and just how much people need those mentors sometimes.”
Pappas is finalizing her memoir in essays, “Bravey,” which is to be released in January next year and grapples with her experience of mentorship.
The title originates from a poem she wrote on social media and has turned into a term of endearment she uses to describe her followers; her message is that “it’s okay to be confused or to need help … it’s okay to not feel great all the time.
“Most of all, you’re trying to give someone the gift of confidence, right?” Pappas continues.
“That’s the toughest thing to give yourself and it’s the one thing I think we can give each other and that’s the one thing I’m trying to do.”
Juggling training, writing and filming for a new TV show is nothing new for Pappas, who at the age of 30 has already accumulated a showreel of accomplishments on and off the running track.
Alongside her partner Jeremy Teicher, she co-wrote and co-directed “Tracktown” in 2017, an indie sports drama depicting a talented runner, played by Pappas, who prepares for Olympics trials.
That premiered the year after Pappas had competed at the Olympics herself, setting a Greek national record of 31:36 in the 10,000m in Rio in 2016.
Last year saw the release of “Olympic Dreams,” Pappas and Teicher’s second film set during the 2018 Winter Olympics — the first fictional movie ever shot in an Olympic village. It also stars Pappas, as well as American actor, writer and comedian Nick Kroll and freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy.
Having turned down Masters offers for English and creative writing programs at some of the top schools in the US to pursue a running career, Pappas has made a conscious decision to embrace her double life.
“When people give the advice of ‘do one thing right now,’ what they’re really saying is give a 100% to this goal that’s perfectly worthy and I buy into that, I think that’s true,” she says.
“But your 100% might look different to mine and I think for me, my 100% is feeling like the complete person is happening.
“Honestly, I think it’s helped me to have these other pursuits because it makes running this precious time in the day that I really value … I think I’ve made the most of my time because there’s two things asking for my time.”
Having competed on the track for most of her career, she says switching to marathon running — an event inspired by Pheidippides, who is credited with running 26.2 miles to deliver news of the ancient Greeks’ victory over the Persians — was always in her blood.
“To join that tradition felt like a rite of passage and something that I was genuinely curious about,” says Pappas.
“Being Greek, it’s also one of those traditions that’s deeply rooted in my background and I think everyone runs a marathon out of curiosity for what their mind or bodies might be able to do.
“It feels like a different sport to track running, it feels like a completely different system, a different mentality.”
Having run a personal best of 2:34.26 in Houston, Texas, earlier this year, Pappas is now faced with a raceless schedule and no definitive goals to train towards.
“In distance running in particular, fitness is like a pencil,” says Pappas.
“You sharpen yourself to a point for the race, called peaking, and it’s something you time very carefully with the coach.
“If you stay sharp for too long, you’ll break — if you think about the tip of a pencil. With these races around the world still an uncertainty, my goal now is to stay fit and healthy without over-sharpening myself now before I know exactly when I’ll be able to race.”
She adds, too, that creative pursuits have always “sheltered me a little bit from overtraining.”
The first barrier for Pappas is to break the Greek national record for the marathon — a time she was 46 seconds shy of in Houston — and then achieve the qualification time for Tokyo, which has recently dropped to 2:29.30 ahead of next year’s event.
“For marathoners I think this Olympic shift has been particularly impactful because there’s only so many marathons you can run in a year and so the whole fall has been taken off the table for good reason,” says Pappas.
“Training safely, doing my gym workout at home, only running with my quarantine pod — there’s only certain runners that I’m running with right now — that’s been the mentality during coronavirus.”
With racing on pause, Pappas can enjoy the benefits of having what she calls a “spectrum of life going on.”
It could even be a taste of what lies ahead when she eventually chooses to hang up her running shoes.
“The cliff at the end of athletics can feel really daunting,” says Pappas.
“That cliff doesn’t feel like it will be a cliff for me — I’m not so afraid of it because I know there’s this career I’m growing at the same time.”
Tour de France: Tadej Pogacar poised to win after stunning time-trial ride
Tadej Pogacar is set to win the Tour de France ahead of strong favourite Primoz Roglic in one of the most dramatic turnarounds in the race’s history.
Pogacar, 21, will be confirmed as the youngest winner for 111 years at the end of Sunday’s largely processional stage to Paris.
The UAE-Team Emirates rider overhauled a 57-second deficit to Roglic, who was thought to be a far stronger rider on stage 20’s time trial to La Planche des Belles Filles.
It will be a first Grand Tour victory for Slovenian Pogacar, who took the yellow jersey from compatriot Roglic after he had held it for 13 days.
Pogacar is now 59 seconds ahead of Roglic at the end of a day of drama reminiscent of the 1989 Tour, when Greg LeMond unexpectedly overhauled Laurent Fignon in a final-day time trial to win by eight seconds.
Richie Porte of Trek-Segafredo will be on the podium in Paris for the first time, taking third, three minutes and 30 seconds down.
Pogacar won the stage, one minute 21 seconds ahead of Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma team-mate Tom Dumoulin. Porte climbed to third overall after finishing in third place on the stage.
Britain’s Adam Yates of Mitchelton-Scott will finish ninth in the general classification, 9mins 25secs behind the winner.
What happened to Roglic?
Roglic has looked imperious throughout the three-week race thanks to support from his powerful team, featuring some of the sport’s best riders, including Dumoulin, Wout van Aert and Sepp Kuss.
The 36km stage from Lure to La Planche des Belles Filles was a challenging course that finished, unusually for time trial, with a category 1 climb. Roglic, 30, was considered a far better time triallist than Pogacar, and began the stage strongly.
But Roglic hit trouble at the changeover from super-fast specialist time-trial bikes to a more conventional road machine before the climb, struggling to clip into his pedals, wobbling when being pushed away and never seeming to find his typical rhythm.
Roglic, who claimed his first Grand Tour victory at last year’s Vuelta a Espana, looked desperate as he crossed the line, his helmet pushed upwards and slightly lop-sided, knowing already he had lost the race.
Desperation turned to confusion and dejection as he sat on the ground in his full yellow skinsuit, trying to comprehend how he had committed one of modern cycling’s biggest chokes.
And as Pogacar sat down for his post-race TV interview, Roglic interrupted it to embrace his countryman.
“I just didn’t push enough,” said Roglic. “It was like that. I was more and more without the power I needed but I gave it all until the end.
“We’ll see what happens next. I can be happy with the racing we showed here so let’s take positive things out of it.”
From a distant second, Pogacar takes it all
Roglic had been favourite to win the 107th edition of cycling’s greatest race, alongside defending champion Egan Bernal of Ineos Grenadiers.
However, Bernal abandoned the race before stage 17 following a disastrous climb up the Grand Colombier on stage 15, where he cracked and lost more than seven minutes to Roglic.
It was one of the biggest downturns in form for a defending champion in recent history, and put an end to Ineos’ record of winning every Tour since 2015, four of which were as Team Sky.
Ineos looked set to have something to celebrate as they tried to seal the polka dot King of the Mountains jersey through their second protected rider Richard Carapaz.
But despite 2019 Giro d’Italia winner Carapaz’s attempts to deliberately ride a slow first section before blasting up the mountain, Pogacar’s epic performance eclipsed him and he took the jersey.
It is the second of three jerseys Pogacar will claim at this year’s race – he will also pick up the young riders’ white jersey.
In total Pogacar picks up prize money of 500,000 euros (£458,270) for the yellow jersey, 25,000 euros (£22,900) for the King of the Mountains award, and a further 20,000 euros (£18,300) for being the best placed young rider.
“I’m really proud of the team,” Pogacar said. “They did such a big effort. We were dreaming of the yellow jersey from the start. Amazing.
“It was not just me today, we needed the whole team for the recon. I knew every corner and knew exactly where to accelerate. Congrats to all my team.
“I didn’t hear anything on the radio in the final five kilometres because the fans were too loud so I just went full gas.
“My dream was just to be on the Tour de France and now I’ve won it. It’s unbelievable.”
General classification after stage 20
1. Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE Team Emirates) 84hrs 26mins 33secs
2. Primoz Roglic (Slo/Jumbo-Visma) +59secs
3. Richie Porte (Aus/Trek-Segafredo) +3mins 30secs
4. Mikel Landa (Spa/Bahrain McLaren) +5mins 58secs
5. Enric Mas (Spa/Movistar) +6mins 07secs
6. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col/Astana) +6mins 47secs
7. Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Jumbo-Visma) +7mins 48secs
8. Rigoberto Uran (Col/EF Pro Cycling) +8mins 02secs
9. Adam Yates (GB/Mitchelton-Scott) +9mins 25secs
10. Damiano Caruso (Ita/Bahrain McLaren) +14mins 03secs
Stage 20 result
1. Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE Team Emirates) 55mins 55secs
2. Tom Dumoulin (Ned/Jumbo-Visma) +1min 21secs
3. Richie Porte (Aus/Trek-Segafredo) Same time
4. Wout van Aert (Bel/Jumbo Visma) +1min 31secs
5. Primoz Roglic (Slo/Jumbo-Visma) +1min 56secs
6. Remi Cavagna (Fra/Deceuninck-Quick-Step) +1min 59secs
7. Damiano Caruso (Ita/Bahrain McLaren) +2mins 29secs
8. David de la Cruz (Spa/UAE Team Emirates) +2mins 40secs
9. Enric Mas (Spa/Movistar) +2mins 45secs
10. Rigoberto Uran (Col/EF Pro Cycling) +2mins 54secs
Navalny says he can walk and recognize people as he eyes “clear road” to recovery from poisoning
Navalny posted a picture of himself walking down a staircase on Saturday, writing that he is regaining his physical and mental capacity.
“Quite recently, I did not recognize people and did not understand how to talk,” Navalny wrote. “Every morning the doctor came to me and said: Alexey, I brought a board, let’s figure out which word we can write on it. This drove me to despair because although I understood in general what the doctor wanted, I did not understand where to get the words from.
“Now I’m a guy whose legs are shaking when he walks up the stairs, but this guy thinks: ‘Oh, this is a staircase! People get up on these. Perhaps we should look for an elevator.’ And before, I would have just stood there and stared at it blankly,” the post added.
In the post, Navalny thanked the doctors of the Charité Hospital in Berlin, where he is undergoing treatment. The German government has said the Kremlin critic was poisoned with a chemical agent from the Novichok group, a conclusion supported by two other labs in France and Sweden.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on Friday questioned the water bottle as evidence and added that poisoning is one version of what happened to Navalny but it has not been confirmed as traces of poison were not found in Navalny’s blood by Russian labs.
Mary Ilyushina reported from Moscow, Rob Picheta wrote in London.
State Dept. provides House Dems docs previously given to Ron Johnson’s Biden probe
Democrats have described Johnson’s probe as a politically motivated smear campaign against President Donald Trump’s challenger that has already been discredited and tainted by Russian propaganda. The intelligence community has identified a pro-Kremlin Ukrainian lawmaker, Andriy Derkach, as an agent of a Russian disinformation campaign intended to denigrate Biden.
“This ‘investigation’ is obviously designed to boost the president’s campaign and tear down his opponent, while our own intelligence community warns it is likely to amplify Russian disinformation,” Engel said in a statement. “We’re going to make sure the American people see the whole picture, not just cherrypicked information aimed at breathing new life into debunked conspiracy theories.”
Democrats have raised concerns that material gathered by Derkach, who met in December with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, has been laundered into Johnson’s material. Johnson has strenuously denied the allegations, but Democrats sought the documents he obtained from the State Department to understand the direction his probe is taking. POLITICO first reported that Derkach mailed information about the Bidens to Johnson, but Johnson’s office has denied receiving anything from Derkach.
Derkach has pushed many of the same claims against Biden that Johnson, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, is pursuing. Johnson’s probe centers on allegations that a Democratic public-affairs firm sought to leverage Hunter Biden’s position on the board of Burisma in order to influence the Obama-era State Department.
Johnson has also alleged that Hunter Biden’s role was itself a conflict of interest because his father, who at the time was the vice president, was spearheading U.S. policy toward Ukraine.
Johnson has drawn condemnation in recent weeks for characterizing his probe as potentially fatal to Biden’s presidential candidacy, a political calculation that Democrats said removed any doubt about the goal of his investigation.
Some Republicans have expressed discomfort with Johnson’s probe, too. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) last week described it as a “political exercise” and said he opposed Johnson’s efforts to subpoena additional witnesses as part of the investigation. POLITICO reported earlier this year that Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), then-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, warned Johnson that his probe could aid Russia’s election-meddling efforts.
“It is not the legitimate role of government, for Congress or for taxpayer expense, to be used in an effort to damage political opponents,” Romney said this week, referencing Johnson’s earlier comments that called into question the Wisconsin Republicans’ assertions that the investigation has nothing to do with the upcoming election.
Engel has accused the State Department of racing to aid Johnson’s effort despite stonewalling House Democrats in numerous other investigations, including its impeachment inquiry in 2019. He cited a recent internal directive, revealed last month by POLITICO, that urged state Department offices to provide key documents to Johnson by the end of September.
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