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Marian Dragulescu: I want to offer this country a new Olympic champion in men’s gymnastics.

When he speaks about gymnastics, Marian Drăgulescu, 30, relaxes a bit. Even the orthopedic boot seems easier to wear. He breathes gymnastics, a “drug” he takes every day, which he tries to pass on to others through his World medals.

Which was the apparatus that drew your attention when you went into the gym?

I was drawn by the….sponge pit, the ropes, the net. I thought we were playing.

Did you imagine you would become, in time, the top specialist on floor and vault?

No. Interestingly enough, my first important medal came at a Junior European Championship….on pommel horse. In time, I developed my legs, I started doing floor and vault and I chose to perfect these. I chose well.

Is there any particular apparatus you don’t like to work on?

Rings are pretty difficult, the joint and muscle pain is strong as you use your muscles at maximum level. Parallel bars are difficult too, your skin peels off and your palms really feel it.

You added new and difficult elements on floor and vault. Where can you take the difficulty level?

There are no limits in modern gymnastics. Strategy matters. You must have difficulty in your routine but you must be accurate at the same time.            Photo by Friedemann Vogel/Bongarts/Getty Images

Without balancing the two, you cannot achieve great results.

Do you still watch the vault named after you?

Years ago I only watched my execution of the vault because I was the only one performing it. Now, great gymnasts are performing it in any final, including the Olympics. I watch them and I notice small details. They have perfected this vault. Everything can be “stolen”.

How did this vault come to happen?

 There was this element called “handspring double front”. When I did this vault I could not get the landing, I either opened too late or too early. Then came the idea to change something. I tried to do a 180 degree turn to see the mat when I landed. And this is how the vault was born.

Do you know how high you fly during this vault?

They measured it on the Internet: 3.50 meters!

Motivated by the competition

When he is competing in an important event, Drăgulescu is motivated to achieve the best possible results: “The atmosphere matters, the public’s support, the stake of the competition and even your ego. If you have set a certain standard for yourself, you cannot let people down. When you put your hand up to show you are ready, you must be focused and you must control your nerves.”

Did you ever receive offers to compete for another country?

I never received such an offer, but I could have competed for any other country. I did not feel the need to take this step. I am Romanian and I want to offer this country what it deserves: a new Olympic champion in men’s gymnastics. I am happy with what I’ve done in Romania.

How does it feel to be the veteran of the team?

Excellent, I don’t feel old. If it weren’t for this ankle problem…I feel great both physically and mentally. I believe I would have won at least a medal for Romania if I hadn’t been injured at the Japan Worlds.

Romanian men’s gymnastics seems to lack valuable gymnasts. When will we see a new Drăgulescu or a new Urzică?

While I am still here, you don’t need to worry. Gymnastics is in good hands. We’ll see what happens after that.

Do you think Romania could implement the pay for play system in gymnastics?

This kind of project would be interesting, in spite of the crisis. Maybe if this would be piloted in a center we could see the effects of this system. What we do know is that, if no one invests in this sport, it will disappear.

Do you consider yourself rich after so many years in gymnastics?

Rich? This is just a nice word. But not for me…It’s always been a pleasure for me to do gymnastics. I have lived for the sport and I’ve never cheated it. If a gold medal at the World Championships is now worth 10.000 euros, it was worth much less in the past. So you can figure for yourselves if I am a rich man or not.

Was Berbecar’s 0 score difficult to take?

It was sheer bad luck. Marius has a lot of that. I’ve been through this kind of moments myself. I missed my steps at a 2001 World Cup event in Germany, I landed on my head and scored a 0. It can happen to anyone. This actually happened to me at this year’s Nationals: I ran by the vaulting table and I got the same score. 0!

What should a young gymnast learn from you?

 I liked challenges. I have always been and will always be a stubborn gymnast. I believe any kid who comes into the gym should learn about the joy of doing this sport and its beauty. Learn to love it and say: “Look, I’m doing this sport because I watched Drăgulescu”. They have to think about the fact that they can make a name for themselves in this less promoted sport. When it is promoted, they air it at impossible hours and on channels no one follows.

What you didn’t know about Marian

  • What he thinks about before performing a vault:

I think about the technical part, running, the spring board, the flight off the table. Everything matters. Any mistake can move you away from the podium.

  • Superstition:

It’s good to keep yourself “warm”. This is why we wear those gloves and we keep moving before competing. You’ve probably seen on TV no one is sitting down.

  • Future:

I like coaching. Especially when you have a good child who gets it fast, you cannot wait to get to the gym.

  • Secrets:

I always take a hot bath before any competition. It’s not a whim, it relaxes the muscles. I am really happy when I have a bath tub in my hotel room to take that hot bath.

Original interviews from “Libertatea” here and here.