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Larisa Iordache: What kind of gymnast would I be if I didn´t win an Olympic medal?

“I want to represent Romania successfully and be the best. I only dream about this, this is my life!“

The 16 year old Bucharest native wants to take the world by storm in London, one of her first senior competitions.

Larisa Iordache will be 16 on the 19th of June. She is one of the surprises of the Izvorani team, coached by Mariana Bitang and Octavian Bellu. Larisa was first spotted while roller skating in the park when she was 5 and a half. She didn´t want to go into the gym the first time around but her grandmother managed to convince her. Larisa understood gymnastics isn´t about playing early on: “I realized this when I was 8, when I started working on more complicated skills.”

 

Then what is gymnastics for you?

It´s not torture because I like coming to the gym. If this doesn´t happen nothing will come out of it. You learn something new every day and you constantly improve on the skills you already know.

 

Larisa burned some stages, jumping from the Junior Olympic team which she joined early on in her career to the Senior team where she did the same. “My coaches wanted to bring me at a high level faster, this is why they wanted me in the team so early on.”. She doesn´t mention anything about her talent….

A gymnast´s nerves

Although she was born 20 years after Montreal, Larisa points Nadia out as her idol. “ My mum got me tapes, magazines, books for me to know everything about her.” When her idol entered the gym, Larisa was happy. “I did not ask her anything because I was the youngest gymnast here.” She grew up watching Sandra Izbasa and Catalina Ponor on TV and now she joins them in the gym. “The girls and I get along really well, we are a team and I am working on surpassing them. Their presence makes me more ambitions and hard working.”

 

“Have you reached the top already?”, Mariana Bitang asks from a distance.

“Not yet”, replies Larisa smiling.

 

Where does Larisa think she does better?

On floor and beam, but I have to be good on everything. I improved my difficulty but I still have to correct some things, to be more confident during competitions. I still have some work to do on bars and vault.

 

She does not want to say more because she wants this to be a surprise for everyone. Without having been to any similar competition, Larisa will have to face the Olympic Games directly: “You always have nerves, but you have to make sure they are constructive. You have to focus on doing everything as well as you can.” Before the Olympics Games, the European Championships will be a good check point. “I hope to make the team, I am working really hard for it. There are more competitions, I am taking this step by step, but the Olympic Games is the main goal. What kind if gymnast would I be if I didn´t win an Olympic medal? I really want a medal in the All-around, on beam and floor. I want to represent Romania successfully and be the best. I only dream about this, this is my life.”

 

Did you like any particular story when you were little? Gymnastics says you are a grown up already….

My grandma would tell me stories and my favorite is Cinderella. I like the fact that she went from being poor to being a rich girl.

Would you like to be Romania´s Cinderella at the Olympic Games?

Yes, of course.

 

The best advice she received from her loved ones is: “You are the best and you can do whatever you set your mind to do.” This is probably what her grandmother told her when she let her into the gym when she was 5 and a half.

Her first competition (and her first makeup session for it) came when she was 6: “My coach put me in outside of competition for me to get ready. After I finished beam she asked me if I had had nerves and I said no.” She loved the feeling and she would keep asking about the next competition and the next makeup session. Now she does her own makeup, but the restlessness about being in competition has stayed the same.

Not everything was always perfect, she also had failures and injuries. “I remember falling 3 times off the beam in the Schools Championships. I didn´t miss any routine last year and I hope to keep it that way. Going to a competition hoping to make the podium and miss your routine is the worst feeling ever.” She doesn´t want to talk about medical problems: “I don´t like not being able to train on the apparatus. I won´t say anything if something hurts. I don´t like doing the artistic and physical work, being on the apparatus is something else.” Mariana Bitang confirms what Larisa says.

At the EOYF she competed injured but returned home with 5 medals. Did she ever want to give this up? “There was this moment when I was 13. I wondered what it would be like to be a normal kid – we are normal too! – but I couldn´t give it up because I love gymnastics too much.” For Larisa, the time until the Olympic Games is not measured in days, but in trainings.

 

“There isn´t a gymnast who doesn´t like sweets.”

For Larisa, sport is the most important thing. She´s been doing gymnastics since she was 5.

 

What kind of gifts do you like to receive?

I´ve received many, but I love receiving leotards. I like simple, but special ones. In all colors.

What does time mean to you?

My time means work, rest and a couple of hours to relax.

What do you do then?

I´m on my Ipad.

On Facebook?

I have an account but I don´t spend much time online. I like to play Angry Birds. I go swimming, shopping, play Wii.

Do you collect anything?

Badges, I have around 80 of them.

Where do you keep the medals you´ve won?

At home, in the library, on the walls.

Do you like other sports?

I like figure skating and ballet.

Mrs. Bitang said you like chocolate cherries…

There isn´t a gymnast who doesn´t like sweets.

 

“Larisa is the kind of gymnast you rarely get to see today. She has the qualities, she wants and can reach the highest level of the podium. She wants to keep learning everything she can so much that she doesn´t say anything when something is wrong. A couple of days ago, the doctor told me after the message session that she suspected Larisa had back problems. I asked her if this was true and Larisa finally admitted it. She explained she was afraid I wouldn´t let her train.”

Mariana Bitang, Olympic team coach

Original interview by Roxana Fleseru and Mirela Neag for Gazeta Sporturilor here.