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Petrounias Preparing for Podium Finish in 2013
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Rising rings specialist Eleftherios Petrounias of Greece told IG he's ready to own 2013 after closing out 2012 with an upset victory over the new Olympic champion.

Rising rings specialist Eleftherios Petrounias of Greece told IG he's ready to own 2013 after closing out 2012 with an upset victory over the new Olympic champion Arthur Zanetti of Brazil.

"For 2013, I wish to stay healthy, because I believe that it's 'my year,'" Petrounias said.

Petrounias, who turned 22 on Nov. 30, scored an early birthday present on Nov. 24 when he defeated Zanetti at the FIG Challenger Cup in Ostrava. In qualification, the two ringsmen had tied for the top score of 15.800, with Petrounias competing a 6.8 Difficulty score to Zanetti's 6.4. In finals, Zanetti increased his difficulty to match the 6.8 of his Greek rival, but Petrounias prevailed, winning 15.850-15.825.

The victory also landed Petrounias at the top of the FIG's world ranking list for the year, which is compiled using results from the seven World Cup/Challenger Cups held in 2012. Petrounias and Zanetti each competed in five of the competitions, but Petrounias totaled 120 points overall to Zanetti's 115.

"The best moment for me in 2012 was the ranking list in Ostrava after the win against Zanetti, because it's a big honor for me to compete and win against an Olympic Champion," he said.

Petrounias rang in the the new year starring in a holiday-themed gymnastics show over an ice rink at Allou Fun Park in Athens from Dec. 29 to Jan. 6. Petrounias performed in twice-daily shows alongside five other Greek gymnasts, including two-time Olympian Vasiliki Millousi and rhythmic Olympian Evmorfia Dona.

Despite the preparations for the show, Petrounias was able to celebrate a traditional Greek Christmas at home with family and friends.

"Normally I don't have a lot of time to see them," he said. "We have some special holiday traditions — the whole family eats a traditional dinner on Dec. 24 and a lunch on the 25th. On the night before the New Year we are all together and counting the last minutes before midnight. After that we have dinner and drinks and fun, and we exchange presents on New Years Day with the family and some good friends."

Petrounias has picked up nearly a dozen World Cup/Challenger Cup medals on still rings, including gold at the 2011 Maribor Challenger Cup. He was 13th in qualification at the 2009 World Championships in London, but was left off the Greek teams to the 2010 and 2011 Worlds, which served as qualifiers to the 2012 Olympics.

His top achievement to date is the bronze medal at the 2011 European Championships in Berlin. He was hoping for more hardware at the 2012 Europeans in Montpellier, but ended up disappointed when he missed a medal by a mere .1.

"The worse moment in 2012 was the fifth place at the Europeans, because I was planning for a medal," he said.

Petrounias says he hopes for a podium finish at this fall's world championships in Antwerp, as well as April's European championships in Moscow. He said he's eager to get back to competition, starting with the French International World Cup, March 16-17 in La-Roche-Sur-Yon, and the Tournament of Masters, March 22-24 in Cottbus.

"My new routine is 100 percent ready and I'm excited for that," he said. "I'm looking forward for a final and a medal in European and Worlds and [leading] the ranking list of course, because I'm ready for a quite good routine on rings with the new Code!"

Though primarily a still rings specialist, Petrounias also competed on floor exercise and pommel horse for the Greek team at the Europeans in Montpellier. But his specialty remains his passion.

"Rings are my life!" he told IG.

Eleftherios Petrounias (Greece), 2012 Ostrava Challenger Cup

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