Sandra: Having the anthem played for you and taking Romania with you everywhere means more to me than any financial reward.

Sandra recently gave an interview to the Romanian newspaper Prosport in which she discusses her current and future plans, the London Olympics, her relationship with her coaches and team mates, finishing college, money, personal life as well as being among the most beautiful gymnasts in the world.

Read the English version here.

Photo: Prosport

On the life annuity (Romanian athletes receive this if they win a medal at a big championship): You won’t be able to live off this for the rest of your life, it’s just like an average salary. You can’t count only on this because you don’t know what the future holds. They can take it away in a month, a year or two. I’ve already made up my mind not to rely entirely on this, I’d like to work, not wait around for this. It will help you get things started, but that’s about it.

On statements around athletes going into early retirement just to receive the annuity: Honestly, I’ve been working since I was four. I never thought I would get here, I just loved doing gymnastics. I wanted to be successful but I never thought about the money. I don’t know if we should receive an annuity or not. What I do know is that I left home when I was 12 – I cried because family is everything to me – and I moved to Onești where life was not easy. I only realized what I was working for when I was 16 and I went to Senior Euros. A life annuity cannot compensate for the thousands of training hours, pain, suffering, the 18 years I spent doing gymnastics.

On beatings in gymnastics: Physical corrections – let’s call them that – existed in the Junior teams and our parents new about this. They were supposed to help us perform better certain skills. Nobody agreed with this, but you had to live with it. I don’t bear a grudge for it, it worked on some girls but it never worked on me. On the contrary! It made me fight against it even harder.

On her relationship with Andrei Bitang (Mariana Bitang’s son): We are two normal youngsters, we get along well and we don’t stand out, these are normal things for our age. It bothers me when people want to barge into my personal life and know about our relationship. I am not famous for my relationship with Andrei, but for my achievements in sport. I want to talk about this, not about my private life.

On her relationship with Mariana Bitang: I respect her as a coach for everything she’s done for Romanian gymnastics, for her willpower and stength. Being in a relationship with Andrei never mattered at all. On the contrary, she expected more from me in the gym. She knows how to separate things very well so I’ve never enjoyed a special status inside the team.

On training with Bellu and Bitang: Transitioning from Mr. Forminte to Mr. Bellu and Mrs. Bitang was not easy. I thought about their expectations while I was recovering after the Achilles injury. They asked me if I still wanted to do elite gymnastics and I replied: “Yes, I do, but I will never be able to go back to the level I was at before the injury.” What they told me was that they would take care of that. They basically believed in me more than I did.

On what she took from each coach: From Mr. Forminte, the ambition and knowing my own worth. From Mr. Bellu and Mrs. Bitang, knowing what I wanted and being myself. They defined my personality.

On her relationship with Catalina Ponor: We are team mates. Everyone wanted to see how we would get along, since we both have strong, stubborn characters. But I believe this only helped us – especially me – because we challenged ourselves on execution. I’ve always enjoyed being in a competition, I worked even harder on being first when someone was at the same level I was at. Other than that, we have nothing against each other.

On her future plans: Finishing college – I couldn’t get my degree last summer because of the Olympic Games – and getting a masters degree. I don’t like planning ahead, my experience tells me that if you do too much planning, nothing works out. I can’t see myself coaching, I’ve spent too many years in the gym, I’d like to do something else.

On her degree project: I am writing about the recovery of the Achilles tendon, about my own injury. I’ve put my experience into this, I’ve recalled every moment, every hour, from that landing in the Buzau gym until the first steps I gave after surgery. It’s not about opening old wounds but getting over them, being mature enough to look at this as something I’ve definitely left behind.

On being among the most beautiful gymnasts in the world: I haven’t done anything to be there. I try not to give too much importance to this and just be myself. I feel the same, it’s just me. I’ve never felt different from other girls neither in competition, nor in the gym.

On the Cheng Fei vault: I know there were many discussions around the vault medal, around the fact that I didn’t try something more difficult and I decided to go for safety after Maroney fell. Yes, I could have tried the Cheng Fei vault, I did that in the podium training, the judges saw it. I could have performed it but it would have been an unnecessary risk. I wanted to win gold, regardless on what apparatus. I am glad I won it on vault, I’ve been training it hard for the past 2 years. I expected less but it turned out that way.

On the worst moment from London: The fact that many people first comforted me for the fall on floor and then congratulated me for the gold medal. It was something like: “Well done, but too bad…” I would have wanted them to just stop after congratulating me.

One how rich a two time Olympic champion is: Rich at heart (laughs). What I experienced, the memories, the unique feelings, those make me happy. Having the anthem played for you and taking Romania with you everywhere means more to me than any financial reward I got after each medal.

On retirement: This moment will come. I have to think a lot about this because I don’t want to keep training and then make a fool of myself. I am aware of my age, the pain of old injuries is still there and I must know what I really want so that I don’t regret anything afterwards. For now, I will keep training for the galas and then we will see.

Original interview by Mirela Băsescu for Prosport here.