Sandra Izbasa: I can win a lot of bronze and silvers, but I need gold.

From one Olympic champion to another: Andreea Răducan interviews Sandra Izbasa at the Izvorani gym for her show The Medal Factory. Here is what Sandra told Andreea.

Andreea Raducan: I have with me Sandra Izbasa, one of the experienced gymnasts of the team. There are high expectations from her although she has been through a very difficult time after an injury coming at an age when many gymnasts are thinking about retiring and living their lives anywhere else but in the gym. She found strength to come back to training and returned from the 2011 Euros with two gold medals, on floor and on vault. I knew floor was her favorite event, I din not expect her to compete on vault, it was a very nice surprise. But we are going to discuss all this directly with Sandra. Welcome Sandra!

Sandra Izbasa:Thanks Andreea, I´m very happy to be talking to you today and to tell the viewers more about myself.

I was born on the 18th of June 1990 in Bucharest. My parents, who were sportsmen, decided to take me there as well, first just to have some fun, and then, if I liked it, maybe professionally. They really wanted this for me as they hadn´t made it far themselves. I first started to play tennis, I held the racquetball and I was scared….it was bigger than me, I was only 4. Then I moved to fencing, but I imagined the sword, being too sharp, would hurt me. I didn´t understand it back then like I do now. Then I went into the gym. I liked the girls, they were doing all kind of elements which amazed me. I told my dad I liked it and he said: “OK, we´ll come back tomorrow.” At 7, they moved me to an advanced group and I worked out at the club until I was 12. They then took me to Onesti until 2005, to Deva until 2009 and from then on I have been here, in Bucharest.

Andreea Raducan: Where did you really begin gymnastics?

Sandra Izbasa: At Steaua, it´s close to home and I liked how it was organized inside, with protection.

Andreea Raducan: Who were the coaches you started with?

Sandra Izbasa: Lia Ciampelea, Eliza Stoica, Angela Cacoveanu, Mariana Ristea, Gicu Neagu and then Marius Vintila.

Andreea Raducan: Before being selected for the National Junior team, I´m sure you had some results and this is how the Federation spotted you. Can you name the most important ones?

Sandra Izbasa: I wouldn ´t say there were very important results, I was not on the podium at the club, I was somewhere around the 8th, 15th, 22nd position…I was there, but far from the podium.

Andreea Raducan: When were you selected for the Junior team?

Sandra Izbasa: At 12.

Andreea Raducan: And the coaches were…

Sandra Izbasa: Livia Ponoran, Daniel Ristea, Ovidiu Serban, Raluca Bugner, Crina Purice and Catalin Meran.

Andreea Raducan: What did you feel when you got to the Olympic centre in Deva?

Sandra Izbasa: At Deva? Much better than how I felt when I got to Onesti.

Andreea Raducan: Why?

Sandra Izbasa: Because I started crying, I was very little and my mum had told me I was going to be there for only 2 weeks. I believed her and after two weeks I asked her to take me home. But my mum told me the coaches said I was good and they wanted me to stay and I started crying…

Andreea Raducan: So going away from home was pretty rough, right?

Sandra Izbasa: Yes, it was very difficult, it took some time to adjust….at Deva I felt better.

Andreea Raducan: Do you have any brothers or sisters?

Sandra Izbasa: No.

Andreea Raducan: So it was hard for your parents as well, to send you off to the Olympic center…

Sandra Izbasa: Yes, my mum told me later that she cried and felt bad, but she knew this was best for my future.

Andreea Raducan: Sandra, how many hours a day does a gymnast train?

Sandra Izbasa: Around 6 hours, but it depends on the training stage. If it´s right before a competition it can be 4 or 3 hours.


Andreea Raducan: You have been working with many different generations of gymnasts, I am one of them. How is this new generation different from let´s say, Lavinia´s or Gina´s generation?

Mariana Bitang: From a technical or physical point of view they are not more or less talented than the previous ones. It´s in the way the see the competition, they don´t have that desire to win anymore. We are trying to help them regain…or gain…a winner´s state of mind and to want to win. Even if they don´t win – it´s not always possible to have the gold medal – but at least to want it and to regret not winning it….


Sandra Izbasa: I wanted to retire after medalling at the Olympics, but I wondered if I could still win other medals and I kept motivating myself like this, maybe at the next competition I would win more medals or more valuable ones – I can win a lot of bronze and silvers, but I need gold. And this is how I found the motivation, I want to improve after every competition.

Andreea Raducan: What is your favorite competition, is there anything you particularly remember?

Sandra Izbasa: The Olympics was the supreme thing, I went through everything at the same time, good and bad, but I had my happiest moment there.

Andreea Raducan: Why bad?

Sandra Izbasa: Because it was really difficult for me being in China.

Andreea Raducan: Because of the jet lag or the food?

Sandra Izbasa: The food was ok, salad and meat and all that….and I didn´t have a jet lag problem. But the temperature was really high, the humidity, going from hot to cold because in the gym it was really cold and we had to put clothes on….It really bothered me, I didn´t like it.

Andreea Raducan: OK, I take it you didn´t like China, is there any town or country you particularly like?

Sandra Izbasa: I really liked the US because we had more time to see it, for the rest of them we only got to see something in between going to the hotel and the gym. I liked Japan, France, Holland, Germany…

Andreea Raducan: Now that the Euros are behind you and you are getting ready for Worlds, where are you with the training and what are your expectations?

Sandra Izbasa: The training will become more intense, because we need a strong team and a good qualification for the Olympics. This is like a rehearsal for the Games, what I want is what I am missing….a gold medal at the Worlds, regardless if it’s on vault or floor.

Sandra Izbasa: (about the atmosphere inside the team) Yes, they ask for advice, but I do too….it´s mutual. We get along well and we help each other, no one is the boss. What I love is the collaboration, you can really see we are a team.

Andreea Raducan: How do you work with the coaches, with the technical staff right now at Izvorani?

Sandra Izbasa: Very well, I have no problems, I try to listen a lot. I´m the rebellious type but I´m controlling it…


A day in the life of the gymnasts…

Sandra Izbasa: We get up and some of us have to go to school….from 10 to 1pm we train, then there´s lunch and rest. From 5 to 8pm we train again, then there´s rehabilitation, message and sauna. We do this every day with Sunday as an exception.

Andreea Raducan: I know that free time is little, but what do you do to relax?

Sandra Izbasa: It depends on the time of year. If we don´t have competitions, we can ask for permission to go to the mall, to the park if there is nice weather, we don´t want to sit in our rooms…


Sandra Izbasa: I´ve always liked the Romanian gymnasts, I remember seeing the Sydney Olympics at Steaua, I was really impressed by Romania….just Romania, because for me if Romania wasn´t there there was nothing….I didn´t have a model, I just wanted to be myself, but I think I tried to take something from every gymnast.


Sandra Izbasa: (about nerves) I take a deep breath and I say to myself: “I can do it”.

Andreea Raducan: What goes through you mind then?

Sandra Izbasa: Before beam or floor….I am really nervous on these two apparatus. Not so much on vault, don´t know about parallel bars anymore.

Andreea Raducan: Why don´t you train parallel bars? You went back to vault successfully, are you thinking about parallel bars?

Sandra Izbasa: I will start slowly because at the Olympics you need to have 5 gymnasts for 4 apparatus. If, God forbid, someone gets injured, someone needs to step in. I have been thinking about it and I will slowly start to train.

Andreea Raducan: You mentioned injuries, I know this is the no. 1 enemy for an athlete. You´ve been though a very difficult time because of an injury and I´d like you to tell us more about it, about the rehabilitation and how you managed to go back to training…

Sandra Izbasa: Everyone remembers the Achilles tendon injury, but I also had the hand one. I mention it because it was very difficult to have both injured at the same time, for rehabilitation and everything. I moved with difficulty…I´m glad the rehabilitation was really fast, in April I already could move, run, jump. It took 2 months to solve the hand problem. I went through a very difficult time and I´m very happy my family was there for me, I don´t know if I would be doing gymnastics right now without them.

Andreea Raducan: All this rehabilitation had to be done after you went into surgery, how much time did this keep you out of the gym?

Sandra Izbasa: I competed exactly one year after injury. I remember that last year at Resita I competed at the same time I had competed when I got injured, it was a weird feeling because I was afraid it might happen again.

Andreea Raducan: Are your ligaments more sensitive now?

Sandra Izbasa: No, it was because of the fatigue, I had to do all the autumn competitions after the Olympics, which were meant for other girls. But they unfortunately retired and I had to cope with all of that. The fatigue and the weight gain led to injury….

Sandra Izbasa: (about her qualities) I am charming, honest (this is most often also a flaw), faithful, energetic and that´s it….

Andreea Raducan: You are full of qualities…

Sandra Izbasa: And thus also full of flaws….but I´m not telling any.

Andreea Raducan: What are your hobbies?

Sandra Izbasa: I don´t know if this is a hobby, but I really like make-up. I like to combine colors, to investigate this on the net or read a book about it. I can spend hours in front of the mirror putting on the perfect make up, I guess it´s already a hobby…

Andreea Raducan: I realized that at Euros. Do the girls ask you to help them out with this?

Sandra Izbasa: Yes, if I have time I do it, if I don´t….I explain them when we have some free time, I show them some tips that can help.