The road to Rio: comebacks, medals and the first names for the test event

Diana Bulimar

Diana Bulimar

The first names for the Rio test event, where the last tickets for the Olympic Games will be at stake, were announced last week. Cătălina Ponor, Diana Bulimar, Laura Jurca, Anamaria Ocolișan, Dora Vulcan, Silvia Zarzu and Anda Butuc were nominated for the WAG team (with Larisa Iordache injured and out for the event). Romania missed out on the first 8 qualifying spots at last year’s Worlds and is forced to gain its ticket for the Olympics at April‘s test event. Brasil, France, Belgium, Germany, Australia, South Korea and Switzerland are the other contenders for the 4 qualifying spots, with Romania competing in the first subdivision and starting out on uneven bars. Mariana Bitang and Octavian Bellu took the reigns of the team again after last year´s Worlds and selected 12 gymnasts to work with in the 6 months they had at their disposal to put together a team for the event.

In the last two weeks we had the chance to watch these gymnasts at work, first the at open training session before the MAG match between Romania and Spain, held in Bucharest last week and then at this weekend´s Doha World Cup. All the gymnasts´ statements address the Rio test event, the control they would like to show in competition and the health issues they´d like to solve or avoid in the meantime. The Romanian team faces the hard reality of not having the possibility of replacing a gymnast, like Larisa Iordache, with another who is able to score as high. The effect of an injury on the mindset of the team is of high impact, as we could clearly see at last year´s Worlds. The girls´ health status is essential for the team´s success at the test event.

Cătălina Ponor, the leader of this team, made her comeback in competitions at the Doha World Cup, where she only competed on beam. She is not fully recovered yet from the foot surgery she suffered last year and still experiences pain that prevents her from taking on other apparatus. She did win beam in Doha, though, with a confident performance out of a 5.9 (6.0 in qualifications). Considering she has less than one month before the test event, it´s not certain Cătălina will be able to compete on floor or vault.

Diana Bulimar competed on floor and uneven bars at the Doha World Cup and took home the silver medal on floor with a 14.100, behind Giulia Steingruber (14.700). Diana is an All-arounder whose consistency is extremely important for the team. She has had to face many knee surgeries in the past years and this prevented her from adding up to her difficulty scores.

Laura Jurca is also an All-arounder who demonstrated, at her first Worlds last year, she can cope well with the pressure of an important championship. Her performances on vault and bars are extremely important for the team.

Anamaria Ocolișan‘s nomination is not a suprise, the team needs her on vault and bars. Her injury right before the qualification event at last year’s Worlds had a great impact on the team’s mindset. The surprise comes at the nomination of Dora Vulcan, who does not have the difficulty scores but showed confidence in her performances. Her scores (around the 13s) will not make too much of a difference for the team but she can open up nicely for the gymnats with more difficult routines. Silvia Zarzu and Anda Butuc close the nominative list, with Andreea Iridon being left out at this time. Interestingly enough, Andreea and Anda share their preference for beam and bars but the first doesn’t seem to find consistency in competition.

Marian Drăgulescu, Andrei Muntean, Marius Berbecar, Vlad Cotuna, Cristian Bățagă, Andrei Ursache and Daniel Rădeanu make up the MAG team for the test event. They will be facing Germany, France, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Spain, Canada and Belarus. Last week, the Romanian team lost to Spain by 2 points in a friendly meet held in Bucharest. The good news is the return of Vlad Cotuna, who was injured before last year’s Worlds. He posted good scores on floor, high bar and rings. In turn, Andrei Muntean and Cristian Bățagă did not compete at the event but the head coach of the team, Ioan Suciu, mentioned it was not because of any serious injury.

This post is also available in: Romanian