European Games champion Eleftherios Petrounias and European Games AA finalist Vasiliki Millousi were invited to the show “Κοινωνία ώρα Μega”. It is absolutely great to see them getting attention from mainstream media, but since the producers or the viewers about that show don’t particularly care about gymnastics, this is not the most informative interview out there. I am sure that none of you really care to hear about how much this Greek eats or whether or not he can do a cross on his bed so I chose to only translate Lefteris’ and Vasiliki’s answers.
You can watch the entire interview in Greek here
On when they started gymnastics
Lefteris Petrounias: I started at the age of 5 and I’ve been in the gym since then
Vasiliki Millousi: I started when I was 4. I stopped at 18 because of my age, because they told me that I was too old and I started again at 23. I went to my second Olympics 12 years after the first. My first Olympics were in Sydney and the second in London.
on how people perceive gymnastics
Lefteris Petrounias: People have come to me and told me “I think if I work out I’ll be able to do a cross on rings” I’m like “well, ok, you can try”
Vasiliki Millousi: In my case, people are afraid of the beam because they know that it is very thin but I have heard this about rings too, that it’s no big deal, we can do it too. I spend lots of hours up there in order to be able to balance and I still fall some times. I don’t hurt myself during training any more but there is a big danger.
on how it feels to be a European champion:
Lefteris Petrounias: It’s a beautiful feeling, basically, you feel that you are rewarded for all your hard work because before we got here we have been through failures for many years. Actually, they weren’t really failures, we just didn’t reach our goal. The goal is the medal and when you are out of the medals you think that you failed. But the truth is that being in the top 8 in Europe or in the world… I don’t think it’s a failure. However, in Greece we only get the lights of publicity when we win a medal, this is one of our biggest complaints.
on how it feels to hear your national anthem
Lefteris Petrounias: it’s the ultimate feeling
Vasiliki Millousi: Especially now, at those Games, during the financial crisis it was very important. We were all crying. We were crying because we were happy for Lefteris and we were crying for our flag.
on who supports them financially
Vasiliki Millousi: Thankfully, we have sponsors
Lefteris Petrounias: We are sponsored by stoiximan.gr and it really has made this so much easier for us. It’s the sponsor of both of us, as well as the sponsor of other athletes of other sports. They are next to us in whatever we need.
Vasiliki Millousi: We are both now “adopted” because mr Kapralos (the president of the Greek Olympic Committee) created a program called “Adopt an athlete in the Road to Rio 2016” and now we are adopted by stoiximan. It helps us financially, it’s really important to us and we wouldn’t be able to continue doing this without their help, it’s not possible.
Lefteris Petrounas: Things have been like that for years. The state always had trouble producing the budget and paying the federations, so the federations can pay us and then chaos was created. This has been happening for years now, it’s an old story. It’s always been like that for me because I started being succesful during the financial crisis
Vasiliki Millousi: I’m older and I have lived all the eras, the good and the bad and this one is the worse. It takes lots of hours of training and it is our entire life. The training hours are long and it continues outside of the gym. As an athlete you have to pay attention to what you eat and what time you go to bed.
On the training conditions in Greece compared to other countries
Vasiliki Millousi: There’s a huge difference compared to other countries and that’s something we talk about all the time. It’s like the others are running with a formula and we only have a dray. What we have, what they offer to us… behind the others there is an entire team of physiotherapists, choreographers and doctors and we have nothing. Just think that the equipment in our gym is from 2004 and we still train on that. I found out yesterday that the Federation of International Gymnastics has made a donation and that we are finally going to have new equipment. There is a huge difference between the equipment we have in the gym and the ones we use in competitions.
Lefteris Petrounias: I was thinking about suggesting to my sponsor to provide us with new equipment but then I learned about the donation. Every four years the technology of the apparatus change. In the rings, there are now springs in the place from where they hang and there’s a massive difference in the bounce of the apparatus
picture from here