June 08, 2016 04:45 PM

For someone once branded “the richest little girl in the world,” Athina Onassis de Miranda didn’t embrace the spotlight that came with her family’s fortune. But she’s finding herself there now as news of her split from husband élvaro Alfonso de Miranda Neto makes waves.

For years after she inherited $800 million through her role as the only living descendent of Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, Athina refused to participate in the buzzy socialite world the rest of her family occupied, instead focusing on her passion for horseback riding and competitive equestrianism.

Athina began riding as a small child. At 13, an acquaintance told PEOPLE that “the main thing she animates about is horses. Her eyes spark up. It’s her safe subject.” Around that time, mired in the ugly battle waged over her family’s fortune, Athina told the Italian magazine Oggi that, “I want to forget the name Onassis. It’s the cause of all the problems.”

According to her biography on the International Equestrian Federation website, Athina moved to Belgium to train with Nelson Pessoa when she was 17. Around that time, she began dating élvaro Alfonso de Miranda Neto, more commonly known as Doda, a fellow equestrian who won bronze medals in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics. They moved to Sã Paulo, Brazil, and married in 2005; their best man was Pessoa’s son Rodrigo.

Athina immersed herself in her new life in Sã Paulo, learning Portuguese and purchasing a penthouse for the pair overlooking the city’s massive Ibirapuera Park. (They also owned a house in Holland.)

Most of Athina’s expenditures were related to horses or Doda: She reportedly bought him a $320,000 prize cow for his cattle farm and the pair organized an annual horse show in St. Tropez, France. The two are also joint owners of AD Sport Horses in Fleurus, Belgium, and in 2014, Athina allegedly paid $12 million in cash for a 5.6-acre estate in Palm Beach County, Florida, on which to train her horses.

None of these purchases helped quell rumors that Doda married Athina for her money. Some of them were spread by his ex and the mother of his daughter Viviane, model Cibele Dorsa. “[Doda] exchanged me for Athina’s money,” she has said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “She can buy him horses and I can’t.” (Doors committed suicide in 2011.)

But the pair’s relationship remained outwardly stable, built around their mutual love. Athina celebrated her 28th birthday in January 2013 at the International Polo Club Palm Beach, which counts famous names like Jessica Springsteen (daughter of Bruce) and Georgina Bloomberg (former New York City Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s youngest daughter) as its members, with about a dozen guests, “all regular riders.” “Athina and Doda are strictly horse people,” a source told PEOPLE later that year.

Athina rarely gave interviews, but in one 2013 talk with the French equestrian magazine L’Eperon, she talked about the life she’d made away from the spotlight. “The social whirl was never my thing. Everyone likes living in their own way. Me, I like the tranquility we have.”

Rumors continued to dog the pair, though. “Their marital issues were the talk of the [2015/2016] winter jumping season,” a source told PEOPLE Wednesday when news of the couple’s divorce broke. “Doda has been dating the sister of another equestrian as well as engaging in a series of casual relationships.” Their separation was allegedly initiated by Athina, who supposedly left their aforementioned Palm Beach farm when she learned of Doda’s wandering and has yet to return. A rep for Doda, however, denies any allegations of an affair.

You May Like