«

»

Olympic Games: No medals for Romania in today’s finals

Cătălina Ponor at the 2016 European Championships in Bern.

Cătălina Ponor at the 2016 European Championships in Bern.

We are experiencing an extraordinary Olympics. The level of gymnastics has been defined by many well performed, high difficulty routines and gymnasts who challenge each other to do better or more so that they can reach the podium. One step, one hesitation, the loss of a connection would often differentiate the medalist from the finalist. With such fierce competition, Romania could only hope this year’s tragic story would not repeat itself again in Rio. Marian and Cătălina bore the responsibility of Romanian gymnastics’ tradition on their shoulders during the toughest time for this team one can remember. And they fought for it as established champions who have nothing to prove anymore after an unexpectedly long career can only do. But gymnastics seems to recognize Romania cannot keep up anymore and, after a series of warnings in the past years, it refuses to make allowances anymore, even for individual efforts. It’s time to build something new which can keep up with today’s level of gymnastics. Romania will no longer be “forgiven” as it is no longer a gymnastics superpower.

Marian wrapped up the vault final just outside the podium, having lost the bronze medal to a rule. When two gymnasts receive the same score, it is the execution score that sets them apart. Japan’s Kenzo Shirai was better today. A single step when landing his very own vault, the Drăgulescu, kept Marian from winning the bronze medal that would have made his 2 year comeback effort worth while. The Games are over for him and no medal can be won now but he maintains his wish to compete at next year’s Europeans, held in Romania. And we are very happy to have the chance to see him competing for his own fans at home.

Cătălina did have a chance today in the beam final but it wasn’t meant to be for her either. Simone, Cătălina and Flavia all made mistakes today, the pressure was a heavy burden even for gymnasts who had the experience of major competitions. We are left with that “what if” the Romanian had performed perfectly today, the same way she did in Athens. It probably would not have been enough for gold, but a place on the podium was definitely within her grasp. We know how much she wanted this medal, a medal she lost at the last minute to Aly Raisman in London. And how she fought through injury, the tough moments with the team missing out on the Olympics and the unfair competition with Larisa for that last spot. Both gymnasts should have competed in Rio but for that unfair rule which prevented All-around medalists to also qualify directly at last year’s Worlds (a rule Marian benefited from by winning an event final medal). Previous to this competition, Cătălina declared she was thinking about continuing until the 2017 Euros as well. Hopefully, Larisa will also find that motivation. After all, the common point for these three Romanian gymnasts is the love for this sport.

It’s not the time to turn against Marian or Cătălina for not having achieved the expected results, they gave it their all in Rio and admirably fought to return to the biggest gymnastics stages in the world. They were also very close to achieving their goals. They are role models of tenacity, talent and lots of hard work. But it is now time for other kids to try to catch up with them. And someone needs to support them in their journey. Until this happens, let’s not wait for others to do this and let’s be the first in doing it. Let’s fill those arenas with fans at home!

Marian Drăgulescu at the 2016 Romanian Nationals.

Marian Drăgulescu at the 2016 Romanian Nationals.

This post is also available in: Romanian