Vinzenz Höck made Austrian gymnastics history at last spring's Junior European championships in Sofia, where his gold medal-winning performance on rings made him Austria's first European champion in artistic gymnastics. Pictured: 2012 Austrian Olympian Fabian Leimlehner with Hock at the Austria's 2014 "Youth Sport Gala Evening."
Vinzenz Höck made Austrian gymnastics history at last spring's Junior European championships in Sofia, where his gold medal-winning performance on rings made him Austria's first European champion in artistic gymnastics. That achievement was just the first of several milestones and honors that Höck achieved by year's end.
Following Europeans, Höck graduated high school, enrolled in the military and embarked on his senior international career.
Höck performed on five apparatuses at the world championships in Nanning in October, where he helped Austria place a credible 27th out of 48 in the team competition. At the Austrian championships in November, he finished second all-around, first on rings, and second on pommel horse and vault.
Höck's achievements throughout the year won him second place in voting for Austria's most successful youth athlete of 2014, behind a world junior champion canoeist. 2012 Austrian gymnastics Olympian Fabian Leimlehner gave the laudatory speech at the Youth Sport Gala Evening where Höck received his prize of €3,000.
Also, Höck placed third in Austrian sports' Newcomer of the Year voting, behind Olympic medal-winning ski jumper Thomas Diethart, a former gymnast, and European senior swimming championships medalist Lisa Zaiser. Höck received this honor at the 2014 Sport Gala Night that was broadcast live on Austria's main television channel.
On Jan. 1, Höck was named Austria's Male Gymnast of the Year for 2014 in a poll of experts, VIPs, media representatives and fans.
Höck, who will turn 19 on March 6, is eager to build on last year's successes. In this IG interview, he recalls his 2014 experiences and outlines his plans for 2015 and beyond.
IG: Where and how were you notified of your Gymnast of the Year award, and what was your reaction?
VH: First I followed the voting online and I was very pleased that I got 81.9 percent of the jury voting, and I think that is why I ended up in first place. In my opinion it is a great honor to win this title, especially because I am still quite young and just moved from junior to senior level, so I was very pleased to get named as the Austrian Male Gymnast of the Year.
Höck with his historic gold medal in Sofia
IG: Why do you think you won the award, and what does it mean to you?
VH: Of course I think I won the award because I achieved something special - the only European title for Austria ever - and probably also because I was one of the youngest team members of our world championships team.
IG: It's unusual that a gymnast would compete so well at the Junior European championships and then the world championships in the same year. What enabled you to make the jump from junior to senior competition so quickly?
VH: It was a really rough time for me, because straight after Europeans I finished school. Just one week after I finished school, I had to join the military, because every Austrian male citizen has to join the army for at least half a year. I managed to join the army as a sportsman, so I could start my preparation for worlds almost perfectly and with only a small break.
Benno Poduschka and Jörg Christandl are my home coaches (at Allgemeiner Turnverein Graz), but because I am a sportsman in the military now, I moved to Innsbruck to practice under the eyes of our national coach, Petr Koudela. Petr works with me on all six apparatuses.
IG: What did winning in Sofia show you about your potential to challenge for rings medals at the senior level?
Höck on rings at the 2014 Austrian Championships
VH: I think it was some kind of wake-up for me. Before I won the European title I knew that I was not too bad on rings, but did not even imagine to challenge for any medal at a major competition. Now things have changed a bit. Now I know that I am quite good on rings, and have some potential, and so I hope that maybe I can challenge for another medal at a major competition in the future.
IG: Based on your experiences in 2014, what will be the focus of your training in 2015?
VH: My main focus is the all-around. I want to improve my weaker apparatuses and get some upgrades on those. Above all I have to develop my routines to a better senior level, because all my routines are still on a junior level, but I hope I can develop them to senior routines in the near future.
IG: What are your thoughts on competing on all six apparatuses, as opposed to focusing on rings?
VH: My plans are, as I said before, to focus on all six apparatuses. I do not want to focus only on rings, because I think I am too young to become a specialist, and my goal is to participate at the Olympic Games one day. So my only possibility to qualify for the Olympics is through the all-around.
IG: What are your key goals for 2015?
VH: My main goals are to finish my step up from junior to senior, and get into the top three Austrian all-arounders and qualify myself for the Austrian team for the first European Games (in Baku in June). If I could manage this, I would be very pleased.
IG: What do you think you will need to break through at the world level in 2015?
VH: The most important thing is to stay healthy and continue to practice without any bad injuries, but I also need a lot of luck, I guess.
International Gymnast magazine's coverage of Austrian gymnasts includes:
“Rocking to the Top” - Marco Baldauf profile (July/August 2006)
“From Torn to Reborn” - Lisa Ecker profile (July/August 2013)
“Fueled and Focused” - Barbara Gasser profile (April 2012)
“Central European Sojourn” – includes IG's visit with Carina Hasenoehrl in
Graz, Austria (January/February 2010)
“The Courage of Carina” – Hasenoehrl memoire (July/August 2007)
To order back issues, or subscribe to the print and/or digital edition of International Gymnast magazine, click here.