Twelve years after her Olympic debut, Greece’s
Vasiliki Millousi heads toward the London
Olympics older—and definitely wiser
you can’t stop training, even for a few months,
and more so when we are talking about three
years. So, I had to start from scratch. I spent
many months getting fit. Gymnastics had changed
significantly, so I had to learn quite a few new
skills, in order to prove to myself and to the
others that I was worth it, that I could reach my
fellow gymnasts’ level and surpass them. It was a
great step for me. It took a lot of courage. And
of course, it was hard to convince people around
that, at age 22, I could overcome a three-year
absence and make it to the top level.
By John Crumlish
FEW athletes return to Olympic ompetition for the first time 12 years after their Games debut, but Greek gymnast Vasiliki Millousi is hoping to do just that, having transformed herself
artistically and psychologically from youth to
womanhood since she placed 55th at the 2000
Games in Sydney.
For Millousi, who will turn 28 on May 4, the
chance to compete in this summer’s London
Olympics will mean the opportunity to continue
her gymnastics evolution.
What was the most difficult challenge you
faced: getting back into shape, adapting to
the new Code of Points, learning new skills,
or overcoming other people’s doubts that you
could do this?
Her success during the current Olympic cycle
is even more impressive considering that internal
politics forced her to quit gymnastics in 2003 (her
coaches were fired by the Greek federation), the
year before her hometown of Athens hosted the
games. Six years after Millousi commenced her
comeback, she has earned the Greek women’s
individual berth to London 2012.
It was a bit of all these things. My three-year
absence worked both ways for me. It has some
negative but also positive aspects. In gymnastics
In this IG interview, Millousi describes the
perspective that maturity has provided, and how it
continues to motivate her during this new phase of
her gymnastics career.
It is unusual for any athlete to return to the
Olympics 12 years after the first time. How
much have you changed since Sydney?
I have changed a lot since then, as a person and
gymnast. Back then I was just a kid, and now I’m a
woman. This brings a great change in the way you
handle a competition. With age comes the ability
to deal with pressure at the critical moment, and
perform your routine in front of the judges just as
well as in training. It doesn’t really have to do with
the way your body has changed. Mostly it is about
the change in your way of thinking and reacting in
EILEEN LANGSLE Y/IG (2000); THOMAS SCHRE YER (OPPOSI TE, 2012)
or not. I feared that I would get hurt worse, and
that some people might take advantage of me for
a short while and then throw away my hopes and
You are not only stronger than you were
in 2000, but your performances are more
expressive and beautiful. To what do you
attribute your artistic development?
I developed this kind of artistry since a very young
age, but when you are young you can’t express it
so well. When you are just a kid and you have to
perform in a major competition, the nervousness
drives you crazy and you never do what you’re
supposed to do, what you normally do in everyday
training. Growing up, you gain experience and you
learn how to express all these artistic elements.
Also, I have now become a woman and this makes
a lot of difference. I worked on the choreography
(of her current floor routine) with my coach,
Anastasia Donti, and her sister, (FIG judge) Olyvia
Donti. They worked on this, in collaboration with
me. By now, I have become mature enough to
know what kind of music is most suitable for me.
So, my coach makes some suggestions on music
pieces, but in the end I get to choose among them.
How are you planning to cope with the fact
that you will not be supported by a full team
It was too difficult to achieve a full team
qualification. We are used to having a one- or two-gymnast representation in the Olympic Games, so
being by myself won’t be so strange. For me, my
qualification to the 2012 Olympic Games is the
ultimate reward for the effort of all these years. It
makes it clear that I was right to make a comeback
and that I truly had much more to give. I couldn’t
compare the importance of the 2000 Olympic
Games with this one. They are two equally
important and radically different experiences. For
the 16-year-old girl I was then, it meant a lot to
live the atmosphere of the Olympic Games. Now,
I have completed a long route and it is a different
kind of achievement.
Why did you decide to make a comeback?
I decided (in March 2006) because I just wasn’t
over gymnastics. It was still ‘eating’ me, because
I had been forced to quit under unpleasant
circumstances. I felt that I had more to give and,
when I got the chance, I took it. Of course, I had
a lot of doubts, but my hesitations didn’t have to
do with my ability to make a successful comeback
How much extra pressure do you feel, from
yourself personally or from the Greek public
in general, to maintain Greece’s Olympic
gymnastics tradition in London?
During the last years, which have been successful
for me, I tried not to consider any tournament
more or less important than the others. I will try
to do this in London, as well. My aim will be to
get there stress-free and perform my routines. I
Millousi was one of two Greek female gymnasts at the 2000 Olympics (left), and she
qualified to London 2012 at the Olympic test
event in January (opposite).