In 1976, Romania’s Nadia Comaneci became a household name after her iconic, gold medal winning performances at the Olympic Games, thrusting women’s artistic gymnastics into the spotlight, setting the standard of athleticism and perfection, and transforming the sport forever.
With legends like Amanar, Silivas, Gogean, and so many more, 24 Olympic gold medals, and team medals in every summer Olympics since 1976, and the record for most consecutive world championship titles (5 in a row and 7 total from 1994-2001) there has been no shortage of success in Romanian gymnastics. When we think about Romania, we think about a classic style of gymnastics perfectly paired with power and innovation.
But now, in 2014, the situation in Romania is looking especially dire, and with programs like Great Britain getting stronger every year, is Romania going to be nudged out of the “Big Four”? Are we about to witness the end of an era, or will Romania pull it together?
In May, a team comprised of Diana Bulimar, Larisa Iordache, Andreea Munteanu, Stefania Stanila, and Silvia Zarzu won the team title at Euros with a 2 point lead over Great Britain, and a 3 point lead over Russia. Iordache won bronze on vault, silver on beam, tied for the gold on floor, and was all-around champion. As team Romania set their eyes on the World Championships in October (and hopefully towards winning their first Worlds team medal since 2007), they went to Sweden for a training camp. Junior Laura Jurca joined the seniors, as she was selected to be Romania’s representative at the Youth Olympic Games, held this weekend in Nanjing, China.
With new skills and new choreography in the works, things were looking pretty good for Romania, until just a couple weeks ago, when Bulimar suffered a knee injury that will prevent her from competing at Romanian Nationals (beginning August 29) as well as at Worlds. Now that she’s out, the young Iordache – the baby of the team just two years ago – will have to carry a heavy load as team leader as Romania will struggle to fill the holes on bars, beam, and floor left by Bulimar’s absence.
A weakened Romanian team might open the door for Great Britain, whose program has been making tremendous improvements and capturing the attention (and the hearts) of gymnastics fans worldwide. Team GB was a whole 3 points stronger than Romania on uneven bars during team finals at Euros, and that was with Bulimar’s 14.133, Romania’s top bar score. Bulimar also contributed Romania’s second best beam and floor scores. Additionally, Great Britain is coming off of a stellar Commonwealth Games, where both England and Wales won team medals in addition to snagging eight of the fifteen available individual medals.
Of course, the bulk of Romania’s program’s depth now lies in the junior pool, so it’s likely a temporary hole they’ll be able to climb out of as quickly as they fell in. But this year, unless Iordache and her young teammates can step up to the plate and rise to the challenge of making up for Bulimar’s absence, team Romania might be left in the dust.
Article by Sarah Chrane