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Mariana Bitang: Your passion for a certain profession is like a virus you cannot get rid of.

The National team members have been back at Izvorani for the past two weeks. Larisa Iordache, Diana Bulimar, Raluca Haidu, Diana Chelaru, Dana Andrei, Amelia Racea and Sandra Izbaşa are now training for the upcoming autumn season. Mariana Bitang and Octavian Bellu are also back in the gym, although they have not signed a new agreement with the Gymnastics Federation yet. They looked at 30 of the young gymnasts going for Rio and are now putting together programs and strategies. Gymnastics’ “Iron Lady”, as Mariana Bitang is sometimes called, has talked about the new faces of this team, upgrading bars and what motivates her to keep going.

How is training going?

The girls returned almost two weeks ago with a couple of extra pounds. There are a couple of competitions this autumn, but mostly for Ponor and Izbasa. We won´t be pushing the girls, especially since there is a new code of points. We are more interested in their health, the recovery process and restructuring the routines to fit the new requirements.

How do you see this new code?

I got a chance to look through it, there aren´t any big changes. There are changes, but not important enough to impact our training.

Will you make significant changes in the girls’ routines?

No. OK, we want them to add more difficulty and the code goes in favor of some of the girls. There are elements with difficulty H now, we only had G before. Happily, we also have someone performing one such element (the Silivas for Larisa Iordache). Then there are a few new connections, some vaults have been devaluated: the Amanar is no longer a 6.5 vault, it´s now worth 6.3.

Will you coach this team for another Olympics cycle?

I don´t know, it´s too early to say. There are many things that are not in our hands which need clarifying. We are not asking for money or other material things, we are asking for the minimum infrastructure needed for the system to keep producing elite gymnasts. When the basic conditions are fulfilled, it´s much easier to keep going.

What keeps motivating you to go on?

I don´t know. I keep looking for motivation, but I don´t know. It´s probably like a virus, the passion you have for a certain profession is like a virus you cannot get rid of.

Have you already chosen the first competition for this autumn?

Not yet. It all depends on how the girls come back to training. Besides, there are a lot of competitions and you cannot send just anyone, you usually get invited to one. Right now, we are getting invites for Ponor and Izbasa. If anyone else is ready, you cannot send her. I believe this closed system is not doing gymnastics a favor.

Are you happy about Sandra´s decision to keep training?

Sandra keeps training for this autumn´s galas. Neither Sandra nor Catalina have taken a decision on whether they will continue through 2013. We must have that conversation with them and the rest of the girls as well.

I have noticed you are using grips on bars…

This is it! We decided we were going to use grips after London, where Larisa´s palm was bleeding before the team and individual competition. We´ve tried grips on more girls but if one of them could not get used to them and quit using them it would have been very difficult to prepare the bars during competition. Using grips on bars implies using more chalk on the bars. If you don´t, you use honey, chalk and water.

Have the girls adapted?

We´ve seen some flying over here, the bars slipped but they´ll get used to it. Bulimar is trying to convince me she cannot use grips but I´ve made it clear that we won´t give them up, not even if we have to give up all competitions this autumn. It´s in their best interest as well because they will be able to train more. We want to put together a strong team and that implies starting with bars. We know we are weak here but we have time now.

How will the team look like after the Junior evaluation?

It´s too early to say. We are evaluating the number and quality of the potential team members, but also the coaches´ willingness to enter certain programs. We are working on changing the system. For example, we don´t have a National team in Onesti since there are no coaches so we are trying to put together a technical staff to cover the structure.

What did London mean to you?

It was a competition that made us feel Romania was back on the map. I´m glad the team is back on the podium, there is no point in complaining. We could have done much more, but this is what we did.

Interview by Mirela Basescu for Prosport here.