Millousi: “being a professional athlete in Greece is very difficult”

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Vasiliki Millousi, 30, is without a doubt the most well known female gymnast from Greece. The two time Olympian competes in the All Around competition but mainly specialises on Balance Beam.

We recently caught up with her ahead of the 2015 Cottbus Cup where she will will head up the female Greek contingent of Argyro Afrati, Evangelina Plyta and Maria Simou. Vasiliki is due to compete on beam at Cottbus. We last saw her compete at the 2014 World Championships where she narrowly missed qualifying to the AA final, placing as first reserve as well as ranking for third place reserve in the beam final. On the World Championships experience and looking ahead she told Full Twist: “After the World Championships I had some rest because I really needed that. This year [2015] is very demanding having to compete at 2 European Championships [Montpellier and European Games, Baku] and a very important  World Championships. This year I’ll start at Cottbus, continuing at the European Championships at Montpellier, afterwards at Baku and finally in the World Championships from which an athlete can participate at Rio’s Olympics.”

Vasiliki is part of a fantastic minority in Women’s Artistic Gymnastics, there are very few women competing into their 30’s, Vasiliki is just one of them. She competed at her first Olympic Games in 2000 at the age of 19, following this she retired for three years before returning to the sport and again competed at the Olympic Games in 2012. By earning a gold medal on Beam at the London 2012 Test Event she earned her country’s single WAG Olympic berth for the Games.

At the moment she leads a young team of women for Greece, with her Cottbus co – competitors all more than 10 years younger than her. We asked her how it is working with the younger girls and her role as a team leader: “To the younger girls I try to convey the love and respect towards artistic gymnastic. Via those elements, all the effort at the hard training, the sacrifices, the pain, the disappointments, the excitement and victory- all the incidents of an athlete’s life – [make it] seem easier!”. As well as working hard at her own gymnastics Vasiliki works with the younger generation of Greek gymnasts in her spare time: “Most of my time I spend in the gym. When my personal training finishes, I assist the younger ones. I also give Crossfit gymnastic classes”.

It is difficult not to be aware of Greece’ difficult financial situation in the EuroZone. As a small gymnastics nation it was always difficult to sit in the shadows of the bigger nations but even more so in recent times when the country has been in such a state of financial crisis. Problems with money, and the fact that the sport is not hugely popular in the country, has meant that the gymnasts training has been adversely affected by the financial situation in Greece. “Unfortunately, gymnastics in Greece is not popular. We have 3 training centers: in Athens, Salonica and Patras. Very few kids can take worldwide competition. At the moment, [being] a professional athlete in Greece is very difficult as funding is very restricted and doesn’t cover basic needs.” Vasiliki told Full Twist when we discussed the difficult few years that the sport has incurred.

Despite this she has had some fantastic highlights in her career to date. Vasiliki names ranking first in the world in the FIG World Cup category CIII competition 2012 – 2013 as a big highlight as well as securing a place for Greece at the London 2012 Olympics at the Test Event where she earned a gold medal on beam. She also cites qualifying to the All Around final at the 2013 World Championships in Antwerp as a career highlight stating “my strong point  is the Beam, but I am very happy to compete in all around as I enjoy the contest even better!”.

When watching her perform on beam, she exudes elegance and grace. When asked if there were other sports that she would like to be involved in if not involved in gymnastics, Vasiliki said that she would love to try ice skating and synchronised swimming – both beautifully elegant sports. We’d love to see her try these!

Thanks to Vasiliki for taking some time out of her busy schedule to chat and we wish her the best of luck in the run up to the Rio Olympic Games.

Image via Getty Images.

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