Gymnasts that never reached their potential: Part 2 - Sabina Cojocar

Sabina was the wunderkind of the Romanian National team of 2001. Her big debut took place at the 2001 Goodwill games. It was a huge debut because she won the All Around over Khorkina and Zamolodcikova. And if for Khorkin, who fell on BB, it was more of a competition of testing new skills (she fell on a full twist on the beam – skill that she never managed to master and to present in competition ever again), for Zamo there was no such excuse. That is why we are entitled to say that, the 15 year old Sabina Cojocar, had a huge debut as a senior.

But few were the ones for whom this was a surprise. Sabina was the Junior European AA Champion of 2000. She won that title over some more notorious gymnasts nowadays: Pavlova, Elena Gomez, Verona Van Deleur and Beth Tweddle. In the same competition she won the vault and the BB, placing second on floor.In the following year, at the worlds, she finished sixth in the AA, and fourth on beam. More importantly, she has contributed to the Romanian team’s gold, a medal Octavian Bellu, thanked Sabina for later, when he entered the Guiness book of records as the most medaled Coach of all times .

2001 ended with a shoulder surgery for Sabina, and the recovery was not regarded with optimism by anyone. Sabina was sent back home, to train at the local gym club, when the Romanian team was dissolved in 2002. She was asked to represent Romania again later that year, at the Worlds in Debrecen, Hungary. A fifth place on the Vault was Sabina’s top result that year. She also showed good a floor exercise, although she didn’t manage to qualify for the finals.

Her career seemed to be on the right track, she was the usual presence in International competitions, a very appreciated member of the Romanian team. No one expected what was to happen next year.

During 2002 Sabina kept complaining to her coaches of the fact that she wasn’t feeling well, she said she felt weak, without strength, finding it more and more difficult to concentrate on training. She was accused of being lazy and moody. No one believed her, until 2003 when she was diagnosed with a chronic liver problem. This came from that fact that she was treated for aHypercholesterolemia in 2000 and prescribed Zocor. The medicine was not intended for use by children, and had several serious side effects for Cojocar.

Sabina Cojocar retired in 2003.

Now, when she’s asked of gymnastics, after the many achievements, she mentiones her big regret. She says she misses the sport but still can’t watch gymnastics competitions. „The dream of any gymnast is to go to the Olympics. It hurts that I had to retire befor reaching that dream. Unfortunately, my health did not allow me to go to Athens. I would always start training again provided that I finish what I started: getting an Olympic medal”.

After giving up gymnastics, Sabina Cojocar has tried to build a musical career. From what I know, she has recoded two songs: „I don’t want to lose you” and „Nobody’s home” and a collaboration with a Romanian singer, Mihai Trastariu, with whom she sang in a few concerts.

Cojocar has written her own lyrics and she says that she wants to continue doing that because they represent what she feels. Her goal is to manage to compose her own music but only after she has learned enough. She has an agent and a canto teacher so she is very serious of her plans of becoming a singer.


Sandra is Up and running (literally)

Last week Prosport has arranged a meeting between Sandra Izbasa and Ioan Vieru (an athlete and European medalist in the 400m race). This was more of a photo shoot and the journalists have asked the two to coach each other, showing specific methods of training for their respective sports. The photos are brilliant, the two being very young and charismatic. Moreover, we the gymnastics fans were able to see that Sandra can run now (although it is mentioned she has a limp). She also said that next month she will start the technical preparation, hoping to be able to present a floor routine at least at the next worlds. You can see all the pictures here:


Great web-site discovered

I have just discovered a very nice website: ( Romania's Champions). Many interesting interviews can be found there, a few of which are with some Romanisn gymnastics' greatest stars. I read today a fascinatingly sincere and long interview with Nicolae Forminte. For a long time I wanted to write an article about him but having found this article, I no longer consider it necessary. Over the next days I will do my best to translate it in English. So here is part one:

Nicolae Forminte, a champion coach (Part 1)

Nicolae Forminte speaks about the state of Romanian gymnastics after the couple Octavian Bellu and Mariana Bitang have left the national team. Although people were considerring him the loser in this situation, as a successor of the ones mentioned above, he has managed to reach his objectives and, moreover, looks at the future contests with optimist.

Why Gymnastics?

I could say that my destiny wanted so. Initially, I wanted play football, as any other boy, but I wasn’t tall enough, I was too small, then Athletics became fashionable but I had the same problem with the height. In the end I was directed towards a gym, at about 8-9. There, at CSS1 Constanta I met a great man, if I were to call him only a coach, it would be too little. I can say that since then I have spent about 40 years in gymnastics.

How did you begin to coach?

I became a coach, with a diploma, in 1981, when I graduated from the University, but starting with my second year of studies I was sent to the gym as an apprentice. Back then, the Sports Academy had been dissolved and at the faculties that studied the sports the courses lasted for onlyr 3 years now. Only the first three students from every faculty were sent to Buchatest for a 4th year, then, they were able chose their speciality- I chose gymnastics, of course. For the foreign students, the 4th year was the final year but for the Romanians, the diploma was split into 2: you got one diploma for your 3 years, that wasn’t valid outside the country and a different certificate for graduating the specialty, which was recognized worldwide. It was a very selective year and you could refuse to do it, but very few would do this because the jobs that you had access to later, were better, and it was in general a guarantee that you would be hired in a city.

How did you get to Deva?

It was the normal course, I worked for 10 years at the local club in Constanta, I had good results and I trained some gymnasts that were selected for the national team. Then, Simona Amanar’s moment came and I was selected along with her for the national team in Deva. It is true, I had had the „Daniela Maranduca moment” before that and she was already in Deva. I remained there, in trials from 1992 until 1993 when I was oficially named.

What does gymnastics mean to you?

It means Nicolae Forminte. Without it I wouldn’t be what I am today. It is the road the destiny brought me to and it brought me where I am today. I could not say that I regret or I am happy about it, I did something that I enjoyed and I still like it very much, I had the chance to find very talented children too. First of all I am grateful to the two emblematic gymnasts for me, at a club lever : Daniela Maranduca and Simona Amanar.

What did Simoma have that Daniela did not?

Daniela did not have the same chance Simona had, meaning she was taken away from me, by force in 1988 and sent to the centralized camp. Back then, you couldn’t express you disaproval although I did! It was then that my hair started to go gray! I told some people, older or newer, that were in control of the city’s administration, that, because I wasn’t a member of the Communist Party, they couldn’t tie me down and do what they wanted with me. I was probably a bit ignorant or I didn’t really care much because that year I had lost my mother and for me nothing was important any more. So Daniela did not have the chance to go with me to the national team but equally, she did not have the patience and the tenacity to tolerate me in training. On the other hand, Simona was able to absorb and demonstrate about 85% of all I knew about gymnastics. The difference between Maranduca and Amanar also consists of elegance. Daniela was very elegant and talented but she had less ability to work, but Simona had only the necessary amount of talent and a great ability to work hard.

How would you characterize yourself?

I have adapted or I have tried to adapt to the social command willingly or without my will. I could say that the education, no matter the domain in which you work, must determine you to „fold” on the social command. You either follow the line drawn by the ministry and the others that rule the social life or you are removed. I think I have managed to adapt to all the trends. I have trained gymnasts when the coach had to be tough, because that was a well regarded feature in the selection CV and now in this democratic stage, when the coach must show a lot of understanding, to accept many compromises and to entirely change the sportsman-coach relationship.

How much has the sport changed since you have become a coach?

Gymnastics is now a challenge to the extent to which it forces you to operate with different means. The disobedience, the indiscipline, the personality, lack of will, lack of ambition of the subjects with whom you work, must be replaced in some way by the coach or you must induce to the gymnasts different ways than the ones that used to be in place. Today, a coach is more the one under the loop; today as a coach you are less apreciated and more denigrated, and no one understands that this man has to do the same things but with different tools. There is no purpose in asking me to break the concrete as others did before, but with a little hammer when others were able to use the rigs. For me this is a challenge, still...


How about all those personal rankings?

I have noticed the past few weeks that many of the gymnastics bloggers are thinking about the past and are building all sorts of tops of last year's performances and events or the past decade's gymnasts and their performances. I have been doing a lot of thinking too and a bit of a re-watching some footage of the 00's. And I am tempted to make my own rankings. Sill, I am not going to come up with more tops today (maybe with a teeny tiny one... but later :) ) because I don't trust myself in terms of objectivity. I am a Romanian and I was only 15 when that decade has started. So as a teenager I don't think I was able to judge very well what was going on in the sport in the early 00's. Until, say, 2006 I was one of the kind hearted persons who hoped for the other team to make a mistake, for one gymnast or the other to fall... But in 2006 something happened and I learned my lesson. I was watching some tv, hoping Vanessa Ferrari will fall, so that Izbasa would have a better chance. But we all know the outcome. So since then, no more cheering for falls as they might be lucky falls :). I do have some memories of the 00's and this is how I remember things to have happened:
- Andreea Raducan's floor in the Team Finals in Sydney is one of my liveliest memories...
-then next big emotion came during the 2001's Team Finals when an obscure Romanian team (except for the very well known Andeea Raducan) managed to stay on top of the beam and deliver stellar-ly
- I somehow never forgot Zamolodcikova's performances in Sydney. I used to like her so much! Partly because I wasn't able to identify what bad form was and partly because she is such a lovable human being
- Then there was a girl named Khorkina. She was the one who threw away a silver medal in Sydney and cried for bronze in Athens. She was the greatest excitement of the first half of the period I am talking about. And she could swing some good UB sets.
- In 2004 I saw the best Romanian team since 1989. In terms of artistry they are still the best of the last 2 decades. But also the difficulty, the freshness and composition of the exercises, they are still amazing for me, every time I watch the footage.
- Also in 2004, a 25 year old American woman gained my respect: Mohini Bhardwaj (I hope I got that right). She was no beam specialist but she proved what being a mature gymnast truly is.
- then Monette Russo appeared in my heart and disappeared in 2006. I still secretly hope she will come back
- And Nastia was very unfairly beaten by Chellsie in the AA final in 2005
- Vanessa Ferarri appeared out of nowhere (nowhere for me, because she had actually been a very, very good junior). I was never prepared for the TWD (Total world dominance ;)) she served us.
- Catalina Ponor came back and then retired
-I remember He Kexin UB sets from 2008; then Shawn Johnson in the TF, laughing and trying to encourage Alicia Sacramone. Btw, the American team in 2008 knew how to accept a loss much more gracefully that the one from 2004.
- From 2008 I also remember Anna Pavlova's FX. Greatest EVER!
- 2009 was a nice little year too... Although to my mind Rebecca Bross is somehow AA World Champion(?!). Ana Myzdriakova is a star and Lauren Mitchell has replaced Monette Russo in my heart.
All in all it was a delicious decade with lots of drama, 5 different American girls AA champions (World and Olympics counted), plus Andreea Raducan or Simona Amanar, Sverlana Khorkina and Vanessa Ferrari.
In the next decade, I hope to see more Romanian gymnasts up there and more Russians or at least not to see US 1-2 in the AA, all the time. I hope Ana Porgras will become the star she deserves to be and that Amelia Racea will give Victoria Komova and Jordyn Wieber a run for their money.

I still want to make a top of the 10 best beam routines of the decade. Could I? Should I?