Ioannis Melissanidis
Ioannis Melissanidis is a retired Greek artistic gymnast and the 1996 Olympic champion on the floor exercise. He was also the 1994 European Champion on floor and the first Greek gymnast ever to medal at the World Championships
World Artistic Gymnastics Championships
The World Artistic Gymnastics Championships are the World Championships for artistic gymnastics. They have been held since 1903.* * First time track and field event fully disappeared from the sport of gymnastics.- All-time medal count :...


Early life and career

Melissanidis was born in Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

, Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 to parents Evaggelos and Aikaterini, Greek nationals who were working in Germany. He has two siblings, Maria and Spiros. When Melissanidis was 2 years old his family returned to Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki , historically also known as Thessalonica, Salonika or Salonica, is the second-largest city in Greece and the capital of the region of Central Macedonia as well as the capital of the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia and Thrace...

, which he considers his hometown.

Melissanidis began training gymnastics and classical ballet
Classical ballet
Classical Ballet is the most formal of the ballet styles, it adheres to traditional ballet technique. There are variations relating to area of origin, such as Russian ballet, French ballet, British ballet and Italian ballet...

 at the age of 9 and a half. His parents were not originally supportive of the idea, and, according to Melissanidis, only relented and took him to the Spartakos Thessaloniki gymnastics club after he refused to eat for two days.

At his first Junior European Championships in 1991 Melissanidis placed a modest 18th in the all-around, but earned a bronze medal on the floor exercise, placing ahead of future World Champions Ivan Ivankov
Ivan Ivankov
Ivan Ivankov is an artistic gymnast who competed for Belarus. The 1994 and 1997 all-around World Champion and the 1994 and 1996 all-around European Champion, Ivankov has competed for over a decade on the international circuit...

 and Yordan Yovchev. Two years later, in 1993, he won the floor title at Junior Europeans and placed third on the vault.

In 1994, his first year competing as a senior, Melissanidis enjoyed success on the world stage. He won the floor exercise title at the 1994 European Championships in Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

. At the 1994 World Championships
1994 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships
The 1994 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships were held in Brisbane, Australia from 19–24 April 1994.Only the all-around and apparatus events were contested at this meet. A team World Championships meet was held in Dortmund, Germany in November 1994...

 he tied with Great Britain's Neil Thomas for the silver medal on floor. With this win, Melissanidis became the first Greek gymnast, male or female, to medal at the World Championships. Melissanidis' fortunes changed after 1994: at the 1995 and 1996 Worlds he did not qualify for a single event final.

However, at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Melissanidis was the surprise winner of the floor exercise gold medal, winning the event with a score of 9.850. The win marked the first Olympics gymnastics medal for Greece since 1906.

Melissanidis continued competing after 1996, winning the vault title at the 1998 European Championships in Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

. He represented Greece at the 2000 Summer Olympics
2000 Summer Olympics
The Sydney 2000 Summer Olympic Games or the Millennium Games/Games of the New Millennium, officially known as the Games of the XXVII Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event which was celebrated between 15 September and 1 October 2000 in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia...

 in Sydney, but, struggling with injury, competed only on vault and high bar.


Melissanidis has two vaults named after him in the Code of Points; both are variations of the Yurchenko
Yurchenko (vault)
Yurchenko is the name of both a specific vault and a vault family in artistic gymnastics. The Yurchenko was named after Soviet gymnast Natalia Yurchenko, who originated the vault in the early 1980s....

 double back. In the current Code of Points, his vaults carry A-score difficulty ratings of 6.6 and 7.0.


In recent years, Melissanidis has been active in various social and athletic causes. He is a supporter of Greenpeace
Greenpeace is a non-governmental environmental organization with offices in over forty countries and with an international coordinating body in Amsterdam, The Netherlands...

, and, in 2003, publicly supported the Melina Mercouri Foundation's campaign to return the Elgin Marbles
Elgin Marbles
The Parthenon Marbles, forming a part of the collection known as the Elgin Marbles , are a collection of classical Greek marble sculptures , inscriptions and architectural members that originally were part of the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens...

 to Greece. A gymnastics hall in his hometown of Thessaloníki has been named in his honor. He was also one of the torchbearers in the 2004 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony
2004 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony
The Opening Ceremony of the 2004 Summer Olympic Games was held on August 13, 2004 at the Olympic Stadium in Maroussi, Greece, a suburb of Athens. 72,000 spectators attended the event, with approximately 15,000 athletes from 202 countries participating in the ceremony as well...

 in Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...


In 2004, Melissanidis graduated from Aristotle University in Thessaloníki with a degree in medical science. Currently, he is a student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts
American Academy of Dramatic Arts
The American Academy of Dramatic Arts is a fully accredited two-year conservatory with facilities located in Manhattan, New York City – at 120 Madison Avenue, in a landmark building designed by noted architect Stanford White as the original Colony Club – and in Hollywood, California...

 in Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

. He is also an invited guest of the 2008 Olympic competition in China and will tour Chinese universities as an International Olympic representative.

External links

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