9 time Australian Champion Perry Drakopoulos reflects on amazing career
When you think of sports and athletes, you generally associate those with medals and trophies but for one of Australia’s most loved gymnasts, Perry Drakopoulos, there is more to sport than just those moments.
Drakopoulos would be most known for being one half of ‘Perry and Tara’ in the Acrobatic Gymnastics community alongside his Mixed Pair partner, Tara Sahagiuan.
Thinking back on his career, Drakopoulos remembers a moment that continued to strike him.
“Tara and I had almost decided to quit early in our career," Drakopoulos said.
“At that time Tara was recovering from a broken arm following a mistake two days before the World Championships in France, and we were becoming extremely uninterested and unmotivated by the whole idea of another two years of hard work.
“Nevertheless, I vividly remember sitting together and jotting down the pros and cons of continuing on, we never admitted this to the coaches or our parents as we knew that their advice would of course be to continue.
“In hindsight, I think we made the right decision as our collective judgement was what made the following two years of training the best ones we’d ever had. Apart from missing out on the bronze medal at the World Championships in China by 0.01, we achieved everything we wanted to.”
A common word always seems to come up when asked about what it means to the athlete to represent Australia and Drakopoulos felt honoured with every opportunity he received.
“Representing your country is one of the most exhilarating feelings I have ever experienced in Acrobatics and when I look back, I am constantly reminded how privileged and honoured I am to have done that.
“That feeling of stepping onto the competition floor for the first time in America in 2012 was the same feeling I received for my last competition in China in 2016.
“Knowing Tara and I had our families, our club SXL gymnastics, Gymnastics NSW, Gymnastics Australia and countless other supporters behind us, brought out a sense of joy and ecstasy.”
An athletes insight in to what the sport was like when they first begun shows just how much sports evolves and changes every year.
“Only speaking on behalf of Acrobatics, it appeared that while there seemed to be enhancements to the standard gym equipment, each year the coaches would have the advantage of employing modern technology and several other devices and applications to help us athletes take an objective view of our performance," Drakopoulos said.
“Moments where I would be accusing Tara of wrongdoing would eventually result in me being proven wrong. While I believe the evolution of acrobatics has come a long way even from its traditional Greek roots, to 2002, and then to 2019, I surmise that the essentials remain the same.”
“Gymnastic has and will continue to develop just as it has since when I started almost two decades ago.
“I hope by 2024 or 2028 that Acrobatics will be a competitive gymnastics sport in the Olympic Games.
“This would definitely be a chilling moment to witness particularly for acrobats during my time, as I believe that era helped foster the exposure, as well as establish an awareness to a large audience that included ‘gym-watchers’ and ‘non-gym-watchers’.”
The simple fact that Acrobatic Gymnastics was a team sport meant Drakopoulos was able to love and joy the sport more than he ever could have thought.
“I don’t think I could have ever loved the sport as much as did if I didn’t have Tara,” Drakopoulos said.
“The eight golden years we spent together is a testament to the wonderful sport and what it has to offer.
“We were very fortunate to be recognised by the acrobatics community and this only helped further encourage us to keep driving for more success.
“Although our partnership came to an end, the Acrobatic Program has still acknowledged my/our impact in the sport, making my appreciation of the sport to be everlasting.”