Petrounias’s ‘road to recovery’ includes Austrian interlude

Vinzenz Höck, the 2014 European junior champion on still rings, and Eleftherios Petrounias of Greece. Photo: Austrian Gymnastics Federation.

Vinzenz Höck, the 2014 European junior champion on still rings, and Eleftherios Petrounias of Greece. Photo: Austrian Gymnastics Federation.

Preparing to defend his title at the upcoming World Championships in Stuttgart, Olympic still rings champion Eleftherios Petrounias of Greece says he has benefited from joint training camps with the Austrian team, including rings specialist Vinzenz Höck.

Petrounias is building back up after undergoing surgery for a partial tear in his left shoulder tendon last November. The 28-year-old initially withdrew from the 2018 World Championships due to inflammation from the injury that left him unable to complete his routine in training, but changed his mind and arrived in Doha, Qatar, just in time to compete in the men’s qualification round. He made the final and went on to win the title, then headed to Annecy, France for surgery.

He’s been on the road to recovery since. "I like Austria very much, and I’m enjoying the training in Innsbruck. I'm getting back into form after my shoulder surgery,” Petrounias said. “There’s been great cooperation with the Austrian team, and it's been very nice to train with Vinzenz. I'm impressed with how hard and purposeful he works. If he goes on like that, we'll see Vinzi very soon very soon.”

The five-time European champion plans to use the upcoming World Championships in Stuttgart as his comeback competition, where a medal would also guarantee him a trip to next summer’s Olympic Games.

The Greek and Austrian teams have enjoyed a “summer exchange” program facilitated by Petrounias and his good friend Fabian Leimlehner, who in 2012 became the first Austrian gymnast to qualify for an Olympic all-around final and now works as a sport director for the Austrian Gymnastics Federation. The Austrians were invited to a training camp in Athens, and followed up by having the Greeks over to train with them.

"The internal exchange between the Greek and our athletes works perfectly, producing exactly the desired effect,” Leimlehner said. “The boys can talk to other athletes about detailed exercise design, content and technique. It’s been a big plus for everyone.”

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