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UCLA's Nicholas Scarvelis will compete for Greece in shot put at Olympics

UCLA's Nicholas Scarvelis will compete for Greece in shot put at Olympics
UCLA senior Nicholas Scarvelis competes in the men's shot put during the UCLA vs. USC Track and Field dual meet at Drake Stadium on Sunday. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

More than two years ago UCLA's Nicholas Scarvelis received a Facebook message written in Greek.

"Good morning, do you read Greek?" the message said.

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Scarvelis responded: "Very little."

Scarvelis and a Greek track and field coach exchanged several messages before Scarvelis received an invitation, "Would you like to fight with the Greek National Team?"

He became a citizen, traveled to Greece to compete in the shot put at the European Cup and this summer he will represent his grandparents' native country in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Scarvelis, a senior, improved his throw by more than six inches since the beginning of the season to top the Olympic qualifying standard - 67 feet and three inches - with a personal-best mark of 67 feet 7 1/2 inches at the Triton Invitational last month.

The mark ranked Scarvelis first in the NCAA.

"When I first hit it I was really, really excited, super excited," Scarvelis said at the UCLA-USC Dual Meet at Drake Stadium. "Right now it's more just like a nice satisfaction."

Scarvelis said the Greeks regularly monitor athletes overseas who could claim citizenship and represent the country.

"They knew that I was a Greek American, they keep an eye on Greek Americans," Scarvelis said, adding, "They'd been watching my name for a long time."

Scarvelis will compete in the Pac-12 Conference Championship this weekend and the NCAA Championships in June before preparing for the Summer Games.

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