The Romanian Gymnastics Federation has named the team that will compete at the Olympic test event in Rio de Janeiro next month.
The news comes following the announcement of a hand injury Larisa Iordache sustained last week. While training on beam, she fractured one of her fingers and required surgery, leaving her out for six weeks while she recovers, causing her to miss the important qualifying meet held in mid-April.
Without Iordache, two-time Olympian Catalina Ponor and her London 2012 teammate Diana Bulimar will lead the young team that includes 2015 worlds team members Ana Maria Ocolisan (who was injured the day prior to qualifications and was unable to compete, leaving the team a bit shaken), Laura Jurca, and Silvia Zarzu in addition to Dora Vulcan, who turned 16 last year but missed her first senior year due to injury. New senior Anda Butuc, a member of the 2014 Junior European Championships team, is the alternate.
Notably missing is 2015 worlds team member Andreea Iridon, once considered the most promising young bars specialist as a junior, though she hasn’t quite lived up to her potential, hitting only three of her nine bar routines in competition in 2015, and showing her worst performance of the season at worlds qualifications, where she had just an 11.9.
Even without Iordache, the team has many strengths, and should be among the top of the eight teams still left to qualify into the remaining four spots. However, they were also in a good position ability-wise to qualify automatically in the top eight at worlds in Glasgow last year, missing out not because they’re weak but because they couldn’t hold it together mentally, counting multiple falls to finish just 13th. They have the potential to win in Rio next month, but not if they can’t hold it together mentally.
Ponor has taken to Instagram on multiple occasions with words of motivation and inspiration for herself and her teammates. “Remember 2011 Tokyo, Diana?” she wrote. “I [taught] you how to stay together and supporting to make a strong team! Well, here we are again! That’s what we have to do now again! To fight no matter what is happening.” In another post, showing a photo of her with Bulimar, she wrote “be faithful and everything will be just fine.”
If they don’t qualify a full team, they will still qualify an individual spot, which will be non-nominative, meaning the spot goes to the Romanian federation, not to the gymnast who earns it by placing highest in the all-around. If this is the case, Iordache will have the chance to attend the Olympic Games as an individual, given that she is the strongest in her country and will likely be the one the federation chooses to attend.
But that’s getting a bit ahead of ourselves. While the loss of Iordache is a huge blow to the team, they still have the numbers to make themselves a team to beat at the test event. They just have to make sure their mental competition reaches the same level as their physical.
Article by Lauren Hopkins