You’ve earned a place at the Olympics on
your third try. What gives you a bigger reward
about this feat: a feeling of satisfaction of
knowing you performed a routine good
enough for a medal, or vindication for the disappointments of your past attempts?
The main thing for me was to perform my routine
as well as I knew I could. I didn’t think about the
reward, but in this competition it was going to be
all or nothing, anyway. Winning a medal and making it to the Olympics would come [together], or
not at all. And both things were very special for
me to achieve.
At what point were you sure that you would
win a medal?
When it was all over! There were six gymnasts to
compete after me, so I couldn’t be sure. My anxiousness went away only when there was just one
gymnast left to go and I was still in second place,
which meant that I would win a medal.
Because I would have to perform early among
the finalists, I had prepared myself to raise the difficulty to 6. 7. However, when I mounted the bars
and felt that everything was going well, I preferred
to play safe and go for the 6. 5 routine, as I had
done in the prelims. Judging by the result, it was a
choice that worked well.
What thoughts raced through your head when
you realized you won an Olympic berth?
It was the biggest vindication possible for all those
years that I’ve been competing and [for] the people around me who have also been fighting along
with me for my sake, all this time.
You once said that winning a world championships medal was a bigger dream than making it to the Olympics, because all of the best
gymnasts compete at the world championships. Now that you are headed to London,
has your perspective changed?
I think I would choose the world championships
medal, if I had to keep just one between them.
But I’m not quite certain. I will be able to tell for
sure only after I have competed in the Olympics.
First, I’ll have to feel the Olympic Games aura,
which is something I’ve never experienced.
How has Greece’s current economic state
affected your personal life, your training and
the progress of the Greek team in general?
My life hasn’t been affected so much, but all of us
feel a lot of insecurity about … the future. We
don’t know how things will be in our daily life, in
our children’s future and in sport.
Olympic sports are state-funded and the economic crisis has heavily affected gymnastics,
among other sports. The (Greek gymnastics) federation is no longer funded as it was in previous
years. This has caused us to have less than perfect
preparation. I didn’t have the opportunity to participate in many international competitions or
training camps, and the same applies for all of my
colleagues. However, we tried and we are still trying to do the best we can with the resources provided.
How do you financially support your training
and travel? Are you paid a salary by the government, or do you hold a regular job during
The Hellenic Gymnastics Federation provides us
with a small salary, and we also get bonuses for
medals. But in these times there is no financial
support by the state, so everything has stopped
for the moment. Athletes who had won medals in
the Olympic Games or world championships in
the past have been awarded an honorary salary by
the state, but this doesn’t apply to me. Luckily, my
parents and brothers run a couple of businesses
and they are able to support me. If not for them, I
couldn’t dedicate myself to gymnastics. I’d say that
70 percent of my expenses are covered by the
What gave you the motivation to continue
after you didn’t qualify to the 2004 Athens
It was a very important moment for me, I must
admit. Competing in your home soil is the biggest
thing any athlete can dream about. However,
although I didn’t make it to the 2004 Olympic
Games, I didn’t lose my will and went on into the
next Olympic cycle.
At the 2007 worlds in Stuttgart, the Greek del-
egation reacted to your mistake on parallel
bars as if it were a tragedy. What exactly went
wrong in your routine, and how did you man-
age to process the disappointment?
I think there was too much pressure on all the
Greek gymnasts in Stuttgart. We were too anxious
about making it to the top 12 of the team rank-
ing, in order to get a team qualification (for the
Olympics) for the first time. I hadn’t been well
enough prepared in order to perform such a diffi-
cult routine on parallel bars.
You have been competing with some popular
Greek gymnasts for a precious berth at the
Olympic Games—Ioannis Melissanidis,
Dimosthenis Tambakos and Vlasios Maras, in
particular. How have you coped with the pop-
ularity and success they have
enjoyed, since they are also your
teammates and rivals?
I always looked at them purely as teammates and not as rivals. These guys have
been great, but they have been specialists
on other apparatuses than mine. They
never competed directly against me on
parallel bars, so I never thought of them
as rivals. They did what they had to do
on their apparatuses, and that’s how they
succeeded. So, I knew that all I had to do
was be equally as good on my own
Stelios Karaoglanidis, IG’s Greek cor-
respondent, mentioned that Alekos
Ioakimidis, your coach since 2008, is
responsible for your “rebirth.” In what
ways has he helped you rejuvenate
I would rather say that Mr. Ioakimidis
taught me to work in a more professional
and disciplined way. The rebirth came
later, through the successes we enjoyed
together, specifically thanks to the medals
I won at the 2010 and 2011 European
championships. The moment I came
back into the medalists of that competi-
tion was the moment I felt born again.
In the past, your performances at worlds have
demonstrated as much excellence as frustration. Recently, however, you seem to finally be
consistent. To what do you attribute your new
level of confidence?
Above all, there is the experience. You learn how
to deal with a world championships and how to
prepare yourself mentally in the right way. Of
course, like I said before, there was a lot of help
from Mr. Ioakimidis. We had worked hard and in a
professional way. This has helped me feel more
self-assured in every major competition I’ve been
in since we have been working together.
Now that you have finally qualified to the
Olympics, how does the pressure of representing Greece well factor into your own
goals for London?
I don’t think it will affect me. The Olympic Games