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Ponor, Petrounias Win Inaugural UEG Honors for 2017
(7 votes, average 4.00 out of 5)

Cătălina Ponor (Romania) and Eleftherios Petrounias (Greece) have been selected as the top athletes of 2017 in the European Gymnastics Union's inaugural "European Gymnast of the Year" honors, which included five categories.

Cătălina Ponor (Romania) and Eleftherios Petrounias (Greece) have been selected as the top athletes of 2017 in the European Gymnastics Union's inaugural "European Gymnast of the Year" honors.

With five categories — Female Gymnast of the Year, Male Gymnast of the Year, Team of the Year, Rising Star of the Year and Performance of the Year — the candidates were nominated by the 50 member federations belonging to the UEG (Union Européenne de Gymnastique), along with the UEG's eight technical committees. The top six in each category were presented to the public to vote for 10 days, garnering more than 25,000 votes from fans this month.

Ponor, who won her fifth European title on balance beam in 2017, won by the largest margin, garnering more than 70 percent of the vote in her category.

Still rings king Petrounias was a double winner, winning in the men's category and the "Outstanding Performance of the Year" for 2017. Since his sixth place on rings at the 2014 Worlds in Nanning, Petrounias has been undefeated on his specialty, winning three consecutive European titles, back-to-back world titles and the 2016 Olympic gold medal.

Greek club Olympiada Thrakomakedonon, whose team competes under the Gymnastics of All discipline, was awarded the team title. Danish tumbler Rasmus Steffensen, 18, won the Rising Star of the Year award.

Tina Gerets, head of media at UEG, helped initiate the concept of an annual award for European gymnasts, an idea that will hopefully spread to other continental bodies, including the Asian Gymnastics Union (AGU) and the Pan American Gymnastics Union (PAGU), as well as the overall governing body for the sport, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG).

"The idea behind the awards is [to give] the spotlight to the athletes and their fantastic achievements," Gerets told IG. "They deserve it. Also, I wanted to mix the different disciplines so fans got to know more about gymnasts they don't really know."

The awards will be presented to Steffensen and Petrounias at the 2018 European championships for tumbling and artistic gymnastics, held in April in Baku and in August in Glasgow, respectively. Gerets said the UEG is arranging an appropriate venue to present awards to Ponor, who retired at the end of 2017, and Olympiada Thrakemakedonon.

While a financial award for the winners had not been allotted in the budget for the first edition of the awards, Gerets said it is on the agenda for 2019.

Petrounias, who has largely self-funded his training amidst the Greek financial crisis of the past decade, said a financial prize would be "amazing." The additional recognition will provide inspiration for gymnasts, he said.

"I think it's a good idea for an athlete to have some more reasons to try to succeed," he told IG. "It will make the sport more competitive."

Petrounias was delighted with his double victory.

"I want to say a special thanks to the UEG, for this brilliant idea of the European Gymnastics Awards and for giving me the opportunity to be a candidate in two categories," Petrounias told the UEG. "These awards are something which our great sport needed, in order to gain even wider exposure. It is a perfect opportunity for the gymnastics fans to come closer to gymnastics through their vote and I just hope that this initiative will grow stronger and bigger each year. I wish to congratulate Olympiada Thrakomakedonon and the rest of the UEG Awards Winners, as well as all the candidates in each category. And of course, my gratitude goes to the thousands of fans who voted for me and elected me as a double UEG Award winner. Their support gives me a lot of strength ahead of the new season. I will try to be worthy of this honor and make happy all these people every time I can. Thank you all!"

Ponor, who turned 30 in September, was thrilled with the award which caps her remarkable career.

"Thank you so much, everyone, for voting for me!" Ponor said. "I feel loved and appreciated! Thank you, thank you, thank you all!"

Rasmus Steffensen, who will turn 19 on May 8, helped Denmark win its first world championships medal in tumbling last fall in Sofia when he, together with Rasmus Gaarde, Adam Matthiesen and Anders Wesch, won the World Cup team bronze and finished fourth as an individual, .2 behind the bronze medal.

"Thanks a lot!" Steffensen said. "It means everything."

Olympiada Thrakomakedonon was the world group champion at the 2017 World Gym for Life Challenge in Norway, winning with a routine called "The Wolves and the Moon." Olympia Dragouni, the head coach of the Athens club, told the UEG of her excitement over the award for Team of the Year. Greece, where gymnastics originated, fittingly won three of the five trophies in these inaugural continental awards.

"I'm excited for this result!" Dragouni said. "I want to say a big 'thank you' to all gymnastics fans that honored us with their vote and gave us such a distinction: Our 'Wolves' have been chosen as the best European gymnastics team of the year, against very strong candidates! From the bottom of our heart, we thank you all for your support and your love! This is not just a victory for Olympiada Thrakomakedonon and for Hellenic Gymnastics. It is an achievement for the whole discipline of Gymnastics of All, which has gained an important place among the other disciplines of our sport, thanks to the vote and acknowledgment of the gymnastics fans. I want to congratulate all winners of the voting and especially Eleftherios Petrounias, but most of all I wish to congratulate the UEG for this exceptional idea of creating these European Awards for the first time. I hope that this idea will continue and will become a very successful and long-lasting tradition in gymnastics."

1st European Gymnastics Awards
2017 Female Gymnast of the Year
3,240 total votes

1.Cătălina PonorArtistic gymnastics2,28970.65%
2.Ellie DownieArtistic gymnastics2969.14%
3.Linoy AshramRhythmic gymnastics2517.75%
4.Nina DerwaelArtistic gymnastics1614.97%
5.Giulia SteingruberArtistic gymnastics1484.57%
6.Pauline SchäferArtistic gymnastics662.04%
7.Tatsiana PiatreniaTrampoline gymnastics290.90%

2017 Male Gymnast of the Year
8,681 total votes

1.Eleftherios PetrouniasArtistic gymnastics5,27760.79%
2.Marian DrăgulescuArtistic gymnastics2,54529.32%
3.Tin SrbićArtistic gymnastics4395.06%
4.Oleg VernyayevArtistic gymnastics1261.45%
5.Dániel BaliAerobic gymnastics1051.21%
6.Mikhail ZalominTrampoline gymnastics1001.15%
7.Pablo BräggerArtistic gymnastics891.03%

2017 Team of the Year
2,952 total votes

1.Olympiada ThrakomakedononTeam Gym1,70357.69%
2.Danish TeamGym senior men's teamTeamGym58619.85%
3.Israeli rhythmic junior groupRhythmic gymnastics51817.55%
4.Efi Sach, Yannay Kalfa, Lidar Dana & Daniel UralevitchSports acrobatics1454.91%

2017 Rising Star of the Year
1,544 total votes

1.Rasmus SteffensenTumbling78250.65%
2.Mélanie de Jesus dos SantosArtistic gymnastics39425.52%
3.Tin SrbićArtistic gymnastics19212.44%
4.Florentina Gruber, Melanie Trautenberger and Victoria LoidlSports acrobatics875.63%
5.Artem DolgopyatArtistic gymnastics613.95%
6.Vinzenz HöckArtistic gymnastics281.81%

2017 Outstanding Performance of the Year
8,921 total votes

1.Eleftherios PetrouniasArtistic gymnastics7,79887.41%
2.Samir Aït SaïdArtistic gymnastics3714.16%
3.Sara Moreno and Vicente LliSports acrobatics2873.22%
4.Lina SjöbergTrampoline gymnastics2332.61%
5.Dina and Arina AverinaRhythmic gymnastics1501.68%
6.Marina Chernova and Georgiy PatarayaSports acrobatics590.66%
7.Tatsiana PiatreniaTrampoline gymnastics230.26%
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