Greek table tennis champion Panagiotis Gionis has achieved his goal to qualify for participation in his fifth Olympiad, a rare feat for an athlete.
Gionis defeated Rares Sipos and Pavel Sicurek of Czech Republic in two consecutive games at the European Olympic Singles Qualifications tournament in Multiusos de Guimarães, Portugal, on Sunday.
“Finally, it’s my fifth participation in the Olympic Games. I am very happy that I succeeded. It was the toughest qualification of my career,” Gionis said in a video posted by the European Table Tennis Union.
Upon his return to Greece, the Greek athlete will begin his intensive preparation program for the Tokyo Olympics.
Tough win for the Greek table tennis champion
Gionis stated to the Hellenic Table Tennis Federation that his tension over the Olympic qualifying match had only allowed him to sleep for four hours the night before the crucial games, stating “I kept thinking of my competitor, his tactics and characteristics.”
“(The qualification) was something that I wanted very much and maybe that’s why I was quite stressed. I will hardly have the opportunity to play in the Olympics again and that is why I wanted to qualify at all costs”, he added.
“I enjoyed it, I am celebrating it now, but from tomorrow I want to forget the Pre-Olympic tournament and focus on what might be the suitable program to bring me in the best condition possible in Tokyo, so that I can I achieve something good”.
With regard to how the pandemic has affected Greek athletes, Gionis admitted that the situation in Greece has been very serious during the past year, while the quarantine keeps many amateur sports players inactive.
“I wish to offer a few smiles as a member of the sports community to Greek fans, as I wish my qualification to coincide with the countdown to the restart of the sport. I also hope that this success will contribute in making table tennis better known to many people”, he added.
A long history at top international tournaments
Gionis is a professional who has played in the biggest table-tennis clubs of Europe since 2001. He has played in Germany, France, the Czech Republic and Poland. However, he is based in Greece, where he trains with the rest of the Greek team at the the Peace and Friendship Stadium in Piraeus.
Gionis has represented Greece in the Olympics held in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 and has also participated in numerous European and World Championships.
In May 2011, he qualified directly for the London 2012 Summer Olympics based on his ITTF world ranking. At the 2012 Summer Olympics, he lost in the third round to Japan’s Seiya Kishikawa.
In April 2016, Gionis secured his spot at the 2016 Summer Olympics by winning the group final match at the ITTF European Olympic Games Qualification Tournament in Halmstad, Sweden. That year, he defeated Padasak Tanviriyavechakul of Thailand in the second round but lost to Jun Mizutani of Japan in the third round.