Ten Romanians you really must meet……..

Is an article I wrote for TCG:
It starts like this: "To continue the first part of the series, which was dedicated to the Soviets, I have selected ten of my favorite Romanian gymnasts that never had the individual success to measure up their talent. They were unlucky. Some, because they were competing in an era when the depth of the program was so astonishing that there was no room for them, others because they got injured at the peak of their careers and didn’t manage to fully recover.  Others because they simply lacked the drive to continue after a certain point such as a big event like winning a world or olympic gold medal or a having suffered a big disappointment."

One of the 10 gymnasts I chose is Mariana Tudor:

Read the entire article HERE.


25 reasons for which we love the 1999 Worlds (PART 3)

11. Andreea Raducan's debut
Because she didn't make a mistake the entire competition, maintaining very high scores on her best events, floor and beam. She went home with two individual medals: gold on floor and silver on beam. Bellu was amazed by the way she approached her first major competition and, as soon as they got back home, they started working on upgrading her vaults. He knew that if he did the right things, she would be the next Olympic all around champion.

12. Most popular gymnast of 1999: Viktoria Karpenko
Mostly because of routines like this one:

She won the silver medal in the all around and qualified for the vault and uneven bars finals but the general feeling was she could have done much more than that.

13.the Vault Final
I always like to watch the vault final. One important reason is that it all happens at a fairly rapid pace that meets my reduced attention span.

That year, the favorites were a former world and olympic champion (Simona Amanar) - who you'd expect to do well. We also had people with insane difficulty (Produnova, Trudy McIntosh) and we hoped that they will finally manage to stick those landing. There were also the people with great talent and difficulty but very inexperienced like Zamo, and we didn't know if they will be able to hold it together for those seconds... And of course, there were the "boring" gymnasts, like Maria Olaru. 

In the end, Olaru, Produnova, McIntosh and Lopez all finished within 3 tenths of a point. Olaru won the bronze. Amanar was good too, but the level of difficulty betrayed her and she did not really look like she was going to win - she ended up second. Zamo proved that she was capable of hitting under pressure and won the gold.

14. The Team Finals: Ukraine
It was probably the last year when Ukraine was a real contender for a medal as a team. They had solid performances on most of rotations: on uneven bars they manage to score above Romania, then, they had three stunning floor routines, by Karpenko, Shkarupa and Yarosh, on the other hand, their two beam finalists Roshupkina and Teslenko did not deliver during the team finals, and the vault rotation did not go exactly as planned. They ended up on 4th, less than 0.1 away from the bronze.

15. Mariana Bitang's hairstyle, different and funny:

16 Romania on floor
During the qualification and the team final, all 10 routines of the Romanian gymnasts got 9.7+ scores. Then, the three Romanians qualified for the AA scored above 9.8 during that final. AND in the EF Raducan and Amanar won gold and silver respectively. They owned the floor.

17. All Around, the final rotation
Because of the drama, what else? The top two gymnasts after three rotations (Karpenko and Olaru) competed on vault, which is a great, exciting way to conclude an all around final. I loved the waiting for Olaru's score.. until it was shown on the screen, you could not tell who the winner will be.
Oh, do you remember that time when Khorkina prepared Amanar's bars and she (Amanar) consequently fell? It was in that same last rotation - Simona was on 3rd place before the disaster struck.

18. Ina Skharupa's stunning floor routine

or you can also watch it here.

19. Ekaterina Lobazniuk
Her gymnastics was modern,  refined and refreshing. Unfortunately she was a bit underscored here and there by the judges so 1999 was not exactly her year. It is important to mention, though, that her total in the TF was the highest of her team mates.

20 Liu Xuan
Because of her beam routine and for the way she led the Chinese team to the bronze medal.
or watch it here.
... and for many other reasons that were very nicely put together by The Couch Gymnast.

21 Simona Amanar 
 After that competition I started to like her even more. The fact that she messed up during the team finals demonstrated that she was fragile and ... human. Ok, maybe not so much when she was doing her thing on vault or floor. That was magical.
or you can also watch it here.

22. Spain
For the three brilliant gymnasts that they put in the all around final: Sara Moro, Esther Moya and Laura Martinez.  

23. Produnova's vault
or you can watch it here.

24. Floor Finals
 because of Andreea's floor routine (and what many consider to be the best of her career)

25. Tatiana Zarganova
If someone would ask you to name the some event specialist of the last twenty years,  her name would most probably not come to mind. But between 1999 and 2002, she qualified for all the UB event finals at the Worlds or  Olympics. She was also the last gymnast from her country to do it.
Zharganova was a very talented still overlooked gymnast. A gymnast that never managed to win a major medal but she competed at a senior level between 1996 and 2004, went to two Olympics and qualified for numerous uneven bars event finals.



Four Romanian gymnasts are set to compete at Cottbus Cup (11th-13th of March 2011). This is the complete list of participants (I first saw the link on Full Twist)

So Romania will send: Ana Porgras (uneven bars and beam)
Amelia Racea (Unevem bars and beam) - I am thrilled to see Racea in the mix!
Sandra Izbasa (floor and vault)
Diana Chelaru (floor and vault)

From Russia, we will see Ekaterina Kurbatova, Diana Sapronova, Irina Sazonova, Yulia Belokobylskaya. Also, competing: Koko Tsurumi, Daria Elizarova, Gaelle Mys, Celine Van Gerner.


Octavian Bellu's 60th Birthday (TVR brief)

via Online Sport Forum, also, thanks Mihai for uploading on youtube.

"I feel spoiled" :)

This one is more interesting. Bellu is looks touched by the images he sees:

There are many links to articles in various newspapers. You can find them all on Onlinesport Forum


Romania to send only three gymnasts to 2011 Euros

Or at least this is what Octavian Bellu, the coordinator of the Romanian National team suggested, in an interview with Agerpres: „Being an individual Championship, only the most prepared will go, 1-2-3”. He also said that there is no rule that specifies you should bring  5 girls , in order to use a contest  as a training in front of an audience"...Well the rules specify a maximum of 4 gymnasts per country, but we get the point.
Bellu also added „You go if you have the chance to fight for a medal or if you have there an open field at a top competition  in order to present a contender for a World or Olympic medal. It is important to go to competitions but who quoted Coubertin did not say the whole quotation. It is important to take part but more important is to win. I am not saying that the competition is not important but Europeans are not as important as Worlds or the Olympics. Things are solved in stages and progressively, there is no point in forcing things for Europeans and then have a smaller number of gymnasts for Worlds or Olympics. In gymnastics, when you push and you force things, there will be injuries. It’s better to keep a gymnast at home and healthy and in preparation than to send her at Euros and risk an injury”. 

Mariana Bitang said a few months ago that the gymnasts that will go to Euros will have to start training whole routines in February. And it's already the middle of February so the decision has been made. 

The gymnasts that Bellu had in mind were undoubtedly Porgras, Chelaru and Izbasa, as they were announced to compete at the World Cup event held in Paris. It is unlikely that a change of plans occurs, since there will be no time. 

Porgras, Chelaru, Izbasa - probably the three gymnasts Romania will send to
2011 Euros
Read the whole interview here.


25 reasons for which we love the 1999 Worlds (PART 2)

6) Maria Olaru
In her own words: "I never thought that my work could remain unrewarded... Honestly, at that time what happened seemed natural, I did not have doubts that I wouldn’t win. I was actually waiting for the contest knowing that it will happen… The evening before the AA final... it was not a premonition, I was simply having the positive nerves, a good positive feeling and eagerness. In the previous contests, the team finals and the qualifications I ended up on first place all around, it was an unofficial title but therefore I knew that I only had to do my job the next day.

It was a deja-vu feeling, I could visualise that I will be overwhelmed by the press, that after I won I would be very busy and would not have the time to sign autographs for everybody. So the night before, in order not to upset people, I prepared 2000 autographs. And then this really happened. After I won they took me to the press conference, doping tests, everybody wanted me somewhere so because I was prepared I shared my autographs and I wasn’t left with any. At the press conference, when they asked me “how do you feel about being a world champion?” and I answered “It was the natural thing to happen”, they were shocked by my answer. I was either very well prepared or this deja-vu affected my thinking."

Watch the entire interview here

7) The beam final
the finalists: Laura Martinez,  Maria Olaru, Dong Fanxiao, Anna Kovalyova, Olga Teslenko
the medalists: Olga Roshupkina finished third: her dance elements probably had the best amplitude in that final, she had a nicely choreographed and complex routine plus she made the side somis look artistic;
Andreea Raducan won silver: perfect lines, daring skills (full twisting back tuck), worked with confidence and determination, she was world champion material - 
but the judges gave it to the home favorite, Ling Jie: Andreea had one step out of the full twisting back tuck and a hop on the dismount; also her routine seemed slightly imbalanced - there was quite a lot of arm waving in the second half and maybe too little gymnastics;
So, Ling Jie with her beautiful choreography and perfect line was Beam World Champion 
As they say, it feels right when a Chinese wins the Beam title...

8) Team Australia
The 34th World Championship was was the most successful, up to that point, for Australia. The increased efforts dedicated to making their team a top player in the world started to pay off: it was the first time Australians qualified for the team finals (finished 5th ahead of US!), they had 3 gymnasts in the AA finals: Alana Slater (9th), Lisa Skinner (16th) and Trudy McIntosh (25th) and Trudy also managed to qualify for the VT finals placing 5th, just 0.025 away from the bronze medal.
I thought that their best apparatus, as a team, was the FX but they were looking very polished on uneven bars as well.
My favorite routine was Alana Slater's uneven bars:

9) Zamo

Elena Zamolodchikova was so tiny and had such a long name that the TV commentators used to say it would go around her leotard if gymnasts had to write their name on the back like soccer players. 
This was her first world championship and she made a strong impression through her gymnastics skills and also her charisma. She won the all around bronze and the gold on vault. The positive attitude, the bright smile, the explosive style instantly made her a star.

10) The team Finals: China's UB rotation

During the team finals, China had a great uneven bars rotation. They were spot on: three of their five competitors, Huang Mandand, Ling Jie and Liu Xuan,  got scores above 9.7.  
Even the other two gymnasts, that were not known as bars specialists managed to pull off beautiful routines which included a Comaneci release by Dong Fanxiao and a full twisting double straight by Bay Chunuye.


25 reasons for which we love the 1999 Worlds (PART 1)

(34th World Championships Artistic Gymnastics Tianjin (CHN) October 9 - 16, 1999) 

1) The Team Finals: Romania vs Russia

Romania: Amanar, Raducan, Olaru, Presecan, Boboc, Ungureanu
Russia: Khorkina, Produnova, Zamolodcikova, Lobazniouk,Kovalyova, Kuznetsova

I still remember that morning: it was my first year of high school and I had classes in the after noon. Back then, I was a pretty easily distracted "scatterbrained" child so I was always late for school. That morning I had serious reasons to forget to leave the house: Russia - ruled by the most annoying gymnast I had ever seen in my life, which I also considered my personal ennemy (I had changed my opinion since)- was challenging the Romanians – a bunch of  inexperienced lambs led by the shy Simona Amanar. 

And the final begins at around 9-10 am with Romania on beam and two disasters (Amanar and Ungureanu). The Russians on floor, could not care less: they manage solid routines and my number one ennemy puts on yet another outrageous performance for which she gets a ridiculously high score. On the next rotation things look okish: Romanians manage to recover a big part of the gap - they do not put a foot wrong on floor while Russia faces some long-messy-legs – all-over-the-place related problems on vault. Next: Russia’s darling apparatus – UB- where everything goes according to plan for them, while Romania gets honorable scores on VT.

Final Rotation: Romania on UB… oh well, we know what that usually means. Not that day! Now, that I have re-watched the competition with more mature eyes, I can say that the judges must have been looking at some other apparatus… or maybe they were doing their nails.

Khorky - circa 1999-wearing one of
her most unfortunate leotards

Anyway, Russia does not have the same luck on BB but they are still ahead. And the last routine finally arrives: Sveta on Beam. Sveta the queen of long slow people. She needs a 9.4 (again, I know this because I watched it again a few weeks ago :P) And on her signature move, slowly, and gracefully steps outside the beam. A walk on air. And Romanians were champions again. And I was in the 9th grade and I got to school 30 minutes later only to find my colleagues in the courtyard waiting for the teacher who was late.
Coolest day of that fall :) 

2)Khorkina on UB
That year, unlike many other times, her favorite apparatus seemed to be on her side: qualifications, TF, AA, EF, she hit 4 good ones at the same competition!
Besides her Uneven Bars Gold, Khorkina also medalled on floor.
You can watch all her routines from the 1999 Worlds here.

3) Octavian Belu - at the height of his coaching wisdom.
It was around that time when Belu, who had already led Romania to three Team Golds in a row, started to be more transparent with his coaching philosophy. He was by then a very successful coach. Three times world champion is not an accident. He felt he had brought to the table the facts and now it was the right moment for him to speak comfortably about his team. He declared that his motto as a coach was "Never enough", that he was not satisfied and nor does he know the feeling.  

4) The Newcomers - the gymnasts that were for the first time at a World Championship had a great success that year: they won 4 out of five individual golds. Gymnasts such as Raducan, Zamo, Olaru, Olga Roshkupkina, Little Lobazniouk, Laura Martinez, Esther Moya, and many many more took the world by storm in the pre-olympic year. It was a feast of newcomers that shone through their artistry and brought the competition to a whole new level.

5) Elise Ray

She was the best US gymnast of the moment and much more than that. For me, Elise had all the qualities: pretty decent consistency, original skills, great technical abilities, some pirouettes and handstants on UB that were quite rare back then, a wonderful floor routine (nice choreo, good execution and a triple twist to punch front on the first pass) interesting gymnastics overall . Vault was the only piece of the puzzle missing.
She placed 8th in the all around and 7th in the Uneven Bars final. But it was a real shame she did not won a medal on floor... I would have given her the bronze over khorky:)

Watch Elise's Floor in the AA

The Discussion: The most underrated female gymnast in the world?

It's a pretty difficult to decide, no?

I chose a gymnast that was underrated by me: Celine van Gerner. Did you ever think about the huge potential of Celine? Neither did I, until I saw her Floor routine that almost put her in the EF at the worlds - she was only a reserve :( .

And because I posted Celine's FX in another article, here are her bars:

Read what other bloggers had to say here.