Ponor and Iordache Will Battle for Rio

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At the press conference held by the Romanian federation this afternoon, nothing was said regarding the fate of the program overall, disappointingly.

But federation president Adrian Stoica did state the somewhat obvious – that the individual spot at the Olympic Games this summer will go to either 28-year-old five-time Olympic medalist Catalina Ponor or 19-year-old 2012 Olympic bronze medalist and four-time world medalist Larisa Iordache.

“We can’t make the decision now,” Stoica said during the press conference. “I had a discussion with them and they will be competing against each other to prove who is more likely to best represent Romania at the Olympics. The girls will participate in several competitions where they’ll be evaluated by neutral judges. It’s not a simple process. They’re both capable. They each want to be the best, which is an advantage on the way to Rio.”

Iordache couldn’t compete at the test event due to an injury to her fingers that required surgery in Vienna and six weeks out of the gym, something she sustained almost exactly six weeks before the qualification process. Now she’s back in the gym and hoping to make it to her second Olympic Games, but will have to contend with Ponor, who made her comeback to the sport last summer specifically for the 2016 Games, for the team’s single spot in Rio.

“We encourage each other and push each other,” Iordache told the press. “When you see your teammates doing better, it makes you want to do better.”

Iordache is also in a time crunch to come back for the European Championships, to be held in Bern, Switzerland from June 1-5. Stoica thinks the team at their full potential could earn a podium spot.

“I hope with all of my heart to go to Euros,” Iordache said. “I started training again as soon as I was cleared, and even if I’m not at my best by that time, I hope I’ll be okay and that I make the team. We all hope to be healthy and I think anything is possible.”

Ponor, who briefly considered retirement following the team’s unfortunate finish in Rio last week, also now aims for Euros as the next step in her journey to what could be her third Olympic Games.

“It will be a lot of work, and the second day back from Rio, I went back to the gym and started adding elements on each apparatus,” Ponor told the press. “I need to go to Euros. I said I’d come through, and I will come through. I want to make it to the podium with the team. And personally, I just want to be healthy and safe. The medals and results will come.”

Euros will definitely act as part of the selection for Romania’s Olympic spot, likely along with various internal tests or friendly meets before the decision is made.

“We both wish we could be there but these are the rules,” Ponor said. “It’ll be competition as usual between us. We encourage one another and whoever’s the best will be the right one to go on. Of course, I’ll be disappointed if it’s not me. I fought to get past injuries and I tried to help the team. I fought for the team and for the team to get a spot at the Olympics. But if Iordache is the better option, God help her be healthy and stay healthy so she can bring a medal home to Romania.”

Right now, if both are healthy, Iordache is clearly the better option by leaps and bounds. Not only has she been a mainstay in the program all quad, competing tirelessly to medal at every world championships in addition to making the rounds at various world cups, challenge cups, continental championships, and friendly meets along the way. She has the strongest chance for a medal in the all-around in addition to potential for additional medals if she hits beam and floor.

Ponor in comparison wouldn’t make a final anywhere but beam, and with the routine she’s been competing this year, a medal would be a reach, and would only come if gymnasts with stronger routines have mistakes. She says she’s upgrading on all three of her events, but with only a little over two months to go before they need to determine their representative, it’s unlikely she’ll boost her routines enough to make her a medal contender. Though if Iordache isn’t able to regain her full strength in time, Ponor could at least be a strong backup option, and you never know – beam finals this quad have been disastrous, and Ponor is nothing if not consistent.

It’s disappointing that the team’s top finisher at the test event, Diana Bulimar, isn’t even being considered for a spot, though if Ponor isn’t a big medal contender, Bulimar certainly won’t be. Since battling back from multiple knee injuries and surgeries following the 2012 Olympic Games, Bulimar’s performance ability has deteriorated greatly even on her best events, though I hope she’s at least considered as a reserve and is motivated to stay at her current level just in case they need to call her in at the last minute. I feel similarly about Laura Jurca, who finished eight in the world in Glasgow last year, but the federation seems set on their decision.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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24 thoughts on “Ponor and Iordache Will Battle for Rio

  1. Why is Ponor still training vault? I know she’s competing against Larisa but with no team and no bars, there’s no point to her training vault anymore. Her teammates score about the same as she does on that event and if Ponor transfers time training vault over to beam and floor, her medal chances in Rio (assuming a scenario in which Larisa can’t go for whatever reason) will increase on both events.

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    • I was just having this conversation with someone because like…even if she upgrades to a DTY, it literally doesn’t matter?! I mean, for Euros I guess, but there is absolutely zero point for her to train vault for the Olympics.

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  2. lol, how can she even be in contention for rio w.o a vt? I mean I understand she probably will make the beam final but that’s pretty much it.

    It really come down to if Larisa can make it to rio or not. If not, there is pretty much no hope for any medal in WAG for Romania at all this year.

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    • Yeah, Catalina has beam final potential and *maybe* a medal if there are falls from top contenders. She’s not making floor with that routine. There is literally no point for her to vault in Rio since she’s not doing all-around so I don’t know why she’s making it a focus aside from Euros! Larisa is clearly the one with the most potential out of the two, and I also have a soft spot for her giving it her all this entire quad as a team leader. It’s clear Cata only came back for Rio. She’s doing a great job but come on. Larisa deserves that spot.

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  3. As much as I love Larisa, sometimes I think people give her too much credit for EF medal potential. She is very inconsistent and has never medaled on beam at Worlds. And her top floor score last year (during AA) wouldn’t come close to getting a floor medal either.

    I agree completely that the spot should go to Larisa if she’s healthy. But I think in terms of potential, it comes down to Larisa’s AA vs. Catalina’s BB (instead of Larisa’s AA/BB/FX vs. Catalina’s BB, like most people are saying). Am I crazy?

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    • No, you’re totally right, she has blown it on beam pretty much every year. But the potential is still there as much as it is for anyone…I think her beam last year was much stronger than Cata’s this year so if it’s the two of them going for a medal, Larisa would be my pick…but Cata’s more consistent so it’s kind of a risky decision. BUT I do think either way, Larisa is the stronger candidate. She is a top contender for an AA medal unless something goes wildly wrong, and if she gets an EF medal, that would be a bonus.

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  4. Although Larisa is a talented gymnast I think she would need others to faulter in order to make the AA podium. EF medal potential is slim if she continues her streak of falling in beam finals and the competition on floor has surpassed her. In my opinion she peaked in Nanning. Now she seems to have regressed a bit especially on floor.

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    • I don’t know, in terms of the AA she made the podium last year and the only other AAers in the world right now who top her are the Americans. I can see a Russian like Melnikova getting close but honestly there aren’t that many top notch AAers in the world who can break 60 and Larisa if healthy is one of them. In international meets last year she had AA scores of 59.107, 59.75, and 58.15, which are among the highest AA scores of all of 2015…and that was after coming back from injury that kept her out for the entire season up until September. Two Americans will likely end up on the podium with the third spot up for grabs, but Larisa has as much of a chance at it than any other AAer given that the top international AA score right now aside from the Americans is Flavia Saraiva’s 58.4 at Jesolo and then beyond that is Isabela Onyshko with 57.55 at Gymnix. The odds are actually in Larisa’s favor.

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      • A fully healthy Larisa is a threat but she has been struggling with injuries since Nanning. Also I’m waiting to see what kinds of AA scores the Chinese gymnasts produce this year. Shang Chunsong came 4th last year at Worlds so I wouldn’t count her out.

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        • Yeah, unless she’s upgraded vault it’s going to be tough for her. Obviously Larisa can have mistakes but so can anyone. Even injured Larisa with downgraded routines beat Shang on a fully hit day last year, so even if Larisa is in her 2015 worlds shape, I still think she’s a contender over almost anyone else. Melnikova is definitely on the rise but her international scores aren’t great and she can be inconsistent as well. We’ll see but Larisa has just as much of a shot as any of the other non-US contenders.

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      • Am I missing something? The competition between Larissa and Shang Chunsong for aa bronze in Glasgow was tight. If Shang could increase her vault difficulty, it seems she is a major podium contender for Rio.

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    • Shang unless upgraded her vt to DTY will hv trouble in AA placing higher than worlds… melnikova looks good but we hv yet see her international meets so will hv ti wait a bit… aliya is not at full AA strength and likely wont be… theres not really many gymnasts aside from us currently beeaking 59+ so larissa chance for podium is real good providing shes bk to her 2015 world shape… she does have a streak of bad luck in qual and ef holding her bk from ef medals..

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      • What about Steingruber? Didn’t she place second in qualifications during Worlds last year? Do you think she might sneak in there? Her Rudi has gotten slightly better and except for BB she has been pretty consistent in the AA in the past, don’t you think? She’s also the current European champ in the AA.

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  5. I really don’t understand why the federation is waiting to decide who goes. Larissa is the obvious choice. She’s the backbone/heart of the team, and has been around ALL quad, and is one of the best AA gymnasts in the world. Ponor, Bulimar and Jurca should ALL be considered as reserves, not just Ponor.

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  6. I agree that they should keep Bulimar, Jurca, and Ocolisan in the conversation as well. Why not motivate those girls to train this year and recognize their contributions to the team?

    Larisa’s health (and mental state) is a big question mark. But, coming back from injury in Glasgow, she was only a few tenths behind Douglas, one point ahead of a hit Shang, and two points ahead of Steingruber and Black with one mistake each. Melnikova is for sure a contender, but Iordache has a real AA medal shot (and has been pretty consistent in AA situations).

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    • Waa going to say this! Jurca, Ocolisan and Bulimar should all make AA finals even with mistakes. I love Ponor but an off day in qualifications, or good days from others, and she doesn’t get out of quals. Iordache makes most sense but at least send an AAer!

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  7. In my opinion, the FIG’s rules for qualifying to the Olympics need to be changed!!!!!! Why should Larissa’s aa bronze from Glasgow not give her a spot, just like EF medalers? If that was the case, she would have a secured spot, and the nominitive spot from the test event would be for a second Romanian – be that Ponor or anyone else they choose.
    This seems like a no-brainer to me. Obviously, it won’t change this year. But one Romanian who deserves to go to the Olympics won’t because of the oversight in these rules. But, really, at least our American fake-Belarussian with a 52 aa score (or whatever it is) has her spot. Go diversity. Good job, FIG.

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    • They’ve changed this for 2020. Think it’s historically been unusual or unheard of for AA medalists not to be part of a qualifying team?

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