Rio Test Event. The Romanian women’s team sees their Olympic chances fading away

Anamaria Ocolisan

Anamaria Ocolisan

A truly difficult day for Romanian Artistic Gymnastics, a position this team was not familiar with after so many successful years in the world’s elite but which is logical when considering the low number of healthy gymnasts Romania has had at its disposal in recent years. We could look at the format of this competition (5 up, 4 count), the fact that Romania had to compete in the first subdivision and start on Uneven Bars but the root cause of their problems are with an old system that does not fit anymore with the current elite gymnastics requirements.

The men were every motivated yesteday to try to qualify but clean routines were just not enough to surpass Germany, Ukraine, the Netherlands and France, all of which will compete at the Olympics. The women (Cătălina Ponor, Diana Bulimar, Anamaria Ocolișan, Dora Vulcan, Silvia Zarzu, Maria Holbură and Andreea Iridon as a reserve) had done very well in the podium training and looked prepared to handle the pressure that comes with such a moment. They opened on parallel bars today but their ability to qualify was already in doubt after the first rotation. Diana is still struggling to find her form on this apparatus and Maria, Anamaria and Dora posted scores in the low 13s and high 12s. With a total of 50 points, Romania would lose 5 to 6 points on this event compared to all other teams. It was hard to believe such a difference could be neutralized on the other 3 events.

Beam was next, typically Romania’s best apparatus led by a Cătălina Ponor which received ovations from the public every time she competed. She wasn’t at her best today here (at least not compared to podium training) but still posted a 14.600 for her routine. Diana had previously opened with a steady 14.1 and Maria Holbură was also there with a 13.533. Unfortunately, Dora fell on her Illusion and Anamaria missed her dismount. After two rotations, Australia led Romania by a wooping 6 point difference and Romania’s chances to make it through were falling short.

Things did not improve on floor despite two good showings from Diana and Cătălina whose scores were in the 14s. Dora and Silvia were both out of bounds and Romania had to count a score in the 12s here. Surprisingly, Maria Holbură, the youngest member of the team, was able to put the pressure aside and perform her routines to the best of her abilty throughout the entire competition. Romania did not convince today neither in the difficulty space nor in the execution, uncertainty being more likely the correct word to use for what we were seeing. The door was wide open for the other teams with Australia leading Romania by 4 points at the end of the rotation.

The competition of the first subdivision ended with 2 double Yurchenkos from Ocolișan and Zarzu and two Yurchenko full from Bulimar and Vulcan. Cătălina tried to help out here but her lack of training on the apparatus was clearly visible and she crashed her vault. Although the competition is still underway in Rio, it already feels like Romania missed out on its chance to maintain the tradition of not missing the Olympics and, honestly, it does not deserve to qualify based on today’s performance. It is currently placed in second, two points behind Australia.

This might be a good time for Romania to go back to the drawing board and understand what changes need to be made to its gymnastics systems before this new reality becomes the norm. It will take years anyhow to be able to rebuild what has already been lost…

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