The 2012 Romanian Olympic TeamThe Romanian Team has been going through a bit of a dry spell recently in women's gymnastics. Before the start of 2012, you had to look back to 2008 for their last major international Gold medal, which was at the 2008 European Championships. But you have to go back to 2004 to find their last worldwide Gold medal which they took at the Olympic Games in Athens. With only 4th and 3rd place finishes since the European Gold in 2008 it was obvious that something had to change in order for the Romanian team to start competing for the top of the podium once again.
And changes certainly have been made. After retiring in 2005, head of the Romanian team Octavian Belu was reinstated in 2010 with the aim of helping to prepare the team for the 2012 Olympic Games. And Octavian Belu is not the only familiar face back in the team. This last year has seen the return of former Olympians Catalina Ponor and Sandra Izbasa. The team has seen a complete overhaul and has started to climb back towards the top.
Catalina Ponor is already an experienced Olympian having competed in the Athens 2004 Olympics. She had an incredibly successful games, taking Gold on every event she entered: team, beam and floor. This also made her the first female gymnast to earn three Gold medals in the same Olympic Games since 1988. After a successful European Championships in 2006, where she became the first female gymnast in history to win three consecutive European beam titles, Catalina decided to retire. She made a brief comeback in 2007 where she helped the team to a bronze medal at the 2007 World Championships but then retired again in December of that year. It was not until 2011 that she came back out of retirement, after more than two years out of the sport, and resumed training with the newly reinstated Octavian Belu. Her first major international competition was the 2011 World Championships where she led the team to a 4th place finish, with the highest scores on the team for vault and floor and second highest on beam. In 2012 she was part of the team who returned to winning ways, taking the Gold medal at the 2012 European Championships. She also staked her claim on individual medals once again, taking the Gold on beam and Silver on floor. She is a very mature and composed competitor and watching her now it is hard to believe that she was out of the sport for so long. She is a delight to watch and will be a great asset to the team going into the Olympics.
Larisa Iordache is a first year senior who has greatly impressed in her first major senior international competitions. She was part of the team which took the Gold medal at the 2012 European Championships and was one of only two gymnasts to secure a place in three of the four individual finals. She gave up her place in the bars final and went on to take the Silver medal on beam and the Gold medal on floor. She is a sparky and dynamic young gymnast, pitting her youth against the more mature members of the team and posting some very high scores. She was the only Romanian to work all around in the team final, posting the highest team score on two of the apparatus and the second highest on a third. She will definitely be challenging for medals at the Olympics, hoping to perform well all around as well as on beam and floor.
Sandra Izbasa is another experienced Olympian having competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She went into the 2008 Olympics having spent two full years competing as a senior and with many European and World medals to her name, both team and individual. Floor was her most successful event and she consolidated this by taking the Olympic Floor title as well as helping the team to take the Bronze. 2009 was a disappointing year for Sandra. She was struggling with injury early in the year which hampered her performances in the 2009 European Championships, and a torn Achilles tendon and a hand injury meant that she was unable to compete in the 2009 World Championships. In 2010, under the coaching of Octavian Belu, Sandra started her comeback after being out of major competition for almost a year. In the 2010 World Championships she led the team to a 4th place finish, failing to medal individually because of mistakes in competition. By the beginning of 2011 she was back on form taking two Gold medals at the 2011 European Championships, on floor and vault. Unfortunately, foot trouble meant that she was unable to compete at the 2011 World Championships. She only competed on vault at the 2012 European Championships, where she scored the highest vault score for the team then went on to take the Gold medal in the event final. In a recent friendly meeting against Italy and France amongst others, Sandra was not only back competing all around but posted the second highest score behind Larisa Iordache. I really hope she will be on top form at the Olympics as she will be a great help to the team and she is a joy to watch.
Diana Bulimar turned senior in 2011 but her first senior year was to be blighted by injury. A foot injury meant that she was unable to compete for the first half of the year, and though she was part of the team that took 4th at the 2011 World Championships she had to withdraw from the floor final to which she had qualified, again due to a foot injury. She recovered to be a part of the Gold medal winning team at the 2012 European Championships but although she qualified 4th on beam and 6th on floor she was unable to take part in the event finals as two of her team mates had qualified above her. She is a lovely gymnast to watch and I hope that she performs well in London.
Diana Chelaru has been one of my favourite Romanian gymnasts over the past few years. She has a sparky personality which shows through in her routines, especially her floor exercises which tend to be dynamic and well suited to her cheerful expression. This last place on the Romanian team was much in doubt, but I for one am very pleased that Diana made it on to the team. She has been a been a regular member of the Romanian team since the start of her senior career in 2009. She helped contribute to the team Bronze medal at the 2010 European Championships and has achieved three individual apparatus medals on floor, taking Silver at the 2010 World Championships, Bronze at the 2010 European Championships and Silver at the 2011 European Championships. I was delighted when I found out that we would be seeing her compete at the Olympic Games as she always gives energetic, lively performances and you can tell that she is enjoying every minute. She is a gymnast who always makes me smile when I watch her.
The Romanian Team
As a team, the Romanians are looking stronger than they have for a long time. They will definitely be challenging the other top three nations of USA, China and Russia for a team medal. They have already shown at the 2012 European Championships that they have a team that can beat the Russians, but will that translate through to an Olympic medal, and if so what colour will it be? As a team, they are incredibly strong on floor and also have good beam and vault work. Their one weakness is bars: at the 2012 European Championships the highest Romanian score was Larisa Iordache with a 14.333 and during 2011 World Championships Team final, their highest bars score was only 14.066 from the now retired Ana Porgras. If they could improve on this apparatus, they would be a force to be reckoned with. As it is, they have to hope that high scores on the other apparatus can carry them through to the medals.