Sandra Izbasa: We are a team, what happened at Euros created an even stronger bond between us.

What do the two vault titles you´ve won mean for you?

They motivate me for what will come next. I have to improve further because I don´t stand any chance at the Olympics with these vaults. My objectives for the European Championship were to help the team and medal on vault and it went well. I´m glad all the work I´ve put in was actually worth it.

There was this self explanatory image during the team final: you and Catalina holding hands, waiting for Larisa´s score…

(laughs) It came natural, we didn´t plan anything. This is just how we felt, tension was high, everyone was looking at the score board and we felt like doing that. We are a team and what happened at Euros created an even stronger bond between us.

Why didn´t you compete vault before?

I don´t know why I refused to do this since I did have 2 vaults. My technique didn´t help me though…Besides, after the 2006 Aarhus World Championship I stopped believing in myself after I did 2 perfect vaults and a South Korean gymnast, who had sat down both her vaults, finished higher. I told myself there was no point in trying, I would still be last.

What happened?

I changed my perspective on things. Mr. Bellu and Mrs. Bitang knew how to motivate me to take up vault again. They said I had good technique, that they trusted me and that I could do more. It was hard for me at the beginning, I could not find the right rhythm but then Mr Bellu taught me a couple of things which made things easier.

Do you count your steps before vaulting?

No. When I am getting ready I visualize the vault but I don´t do any numbers. If you did that you would miss the point. I try to run as fast as I can during those 25 meters to have enough strength for that vault.

How did you get to do the “Mustafina”, the vault you performed at Europeans?

I had to upgrade, I tried it and it went well. I started training it the third day after Worlds, somewhere around the end of October, last year. The month and a half break when I had the knee injury was a setback, but I managed to get it back before Euros.

How many times have you performed it?

This is difficult to answer. I do two vaults at some trainings and there are other times Mr. Bellu “forgets” me on vault. But this is for the better, if he told me to do it 20 times, I would probably be stressed out.

What height do you reach when you are performing a vault like this?

Four meters! At Izvorani we take the air conditioning as guideline and we reach that level, but there are vaults on which we need to go even higher.

You trained four apparatuses and you performed only on one. Wasn´t that frustrating?

It was. I admit it was not easy to accept the coaches´ decision, but they know what is best for the team. It was a wise decision though!

You are a floor specialist, was it difficult to just watch the competition?

I wanted to compete on floor as well but Mrs. Mariana advised to wait a little bit longer as I am not ready yet.

Do you see yourself competing on floor at the Olympic Games?

It will be difficult, but yes. Floor is still my favorite apparatus, I will be in London to defend my Olympic title. It´s true I also want a medal on vault but medaling on floor is my dream.

Did anyone ever call you Stana instead of Sandra?

(laughs) Oh, yes! It happened recently, live on TV. It is frustrating because she is a singer and has nothing to do with gymnastics, like I have nothing to do with singing. When you hear it for the first time you think someone is making fun of you. I get irritated by it!

What is the question that most bothers you?

“So, when will you retire?” I feel like they are waiting for me to retire. When I decide to retire, everyone will know.

You didn´t stop smiling at Euros…

I love to smile, enjoy the competition, being there. I made a decision: from now on I will smile all the time, I need to be positive in everything I do.

Sandra, on her colleagues:

Diana Bulimar – smart

Larisa Iordache – strong

Raluca Haidu – emotional

Cătălina Ponor – stubborn

Original interview by Mirela Basescu for Prosport here.