Ponor is Romania’s Choice for Olympic Games

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The Romanian Championships were about as dramatic as everything else they’ve been through this quad, with the country’s two Olympic contenders – Catalina Ponor and Larisa Iordache – faced with injuries and illnesses that threatened to take them out this weekend.

Ponor came down with the flu, for which she was hospitalized, while Iordache faced a concussion during training and then some sort of knee or ankle injury during her bars dismount in event finals limited her for the rest of Sunday’s meet, where she showed weakness on beam before skipping out on floor completely.

For her first meet back since worlds, I wasn’t expecting much from Iordache, given her numerous injuries and ailments throughout the year. But I have to say, she totally wowed me on beam even if it was a tad watered down, and she had a great day overall, winning the all-around title with a 56.933 even with an FTY and some mistakes and weak form on bars. But her beam actually looked good, and she showed a great level of confidence, something I didn’t think would happen so soon.

Iordache actually won the bars title with a 13.8, even with some messy form and the jolted landing causing her pain, but on beam she placed second to Ponor with a 14.433, which was a bit generous given her difficulty level. There were too many bobbles and little form breaks compared to day one, and the step on her 2.5 dismount took her off the mat.

But Ponor had a fabulous weekend, even despite the illness. She’s still performing a solid DTY, which is a bit perplexing as she has neither a full all-around set nor a second vault, so I’m guessing she hopes to introduce a bare bones bars routine into her program for Rio. And on beam and floor, her work was mostly good each day, allowing her to win the titles on both beam and floor.

On beam during the all-around competition, she actually fell on her double spin, and yet still got a 14.366, which is only about three tenths less than she’s been getting on the event internationally for her best routines so far in 2016 (she averages a 14.5 for hit routines this year). She was strong otherwise but not strong enough to warrant an execution score that high, so this was a bit of a fantasy. She also broke into the 15s on both of her events in finals, which was again a bit high considering her performances, but either way there was no doubt that she showed that she was the stronger of the two Romanian Olympic candidates.

The Romanian federation wrote on Facebook today that Ponor is “more advanced in terms of preparation in relation to Iordache,” and then named her as the flag-bearer for the Games, but didn’t outright name her their Olympian, instead stating that both she and Iordache will travel to Rio, though based on their comments, it seems as though Ponor will compete and Iordache will act as the reserve, though Iordache could step in and take over if things change in the next few weeks.

Romania will compete at two friendly meets later this month, including this weekend in France and then on July 23 in Germany. The federation had initially stated that these meets would help determine the spot between the two top contenders, but it’s unlikely that Iordache will regain her 2015 strengths in just a few short days.

If Ponor is not competing all four events, it means she is hoping to medal on beam and floor, which is not going to be easy given that there are at least eight gymnasts on each event who have consistently outperformed her all season. Iordache at her best was looking like a bronze or silver medal contender, but where she currently stands, the podium would most definitely be out of reach, as would the beam and floor podiums as well. Thus neither is coming in as a major medal contender, though when looking at potential, Ponor currently has the strongest shot at making it happen should others not fulfill their potential. At the end of the day, Ponor is the correct choice.

It’s truly heartbreaking for Iordache, who fought through blood, sweat, and tears all quad long to help Romania’s weakest team in history through two world championships as the leader. It wasn’t easy, and while she got them to pull through for fourth in 2014, last year her efforts couldn’t make up for the fact that Romania had almost no depth on the world stage, leaving them out of the team picture for this year’s Games, something they couldn’t rectify at the test event in April.

There’s a lot of chat about “deserving” spots and my general opinion is that anyone who works out this hard to become an elite athlete “deserves” the Olympics. But with Iordache, she’s spent the past four years on a whole other level of being “deserving” which is why it’s especially sad to see her dream of making it to her second Games end after getting so good in the wake of her somewhat disappointing first Olympic experience.

But at the same time, it’s thrilling for Ponor, who will experience her third Olympic Games at 28 after coming back once again at just the right time to get into fighting shape. Even though she didn’t have the same fight as Iordache this quad, she still deserves to be there as would any other gymnast who proves Olympic readiness. I hate that the decision had to be one or the other, and think it’s ludicrous that Iordache’s world bronze medal doesn’t carry her over to the Games in the way an event medal would have. But at the same time, I’m choosing to be super happy for Ponor while also fully depressed about Iordache.

Beyond these two – because you know Romania still somehow exists outside of the Olympic battle?! – we saw two juniors get on the all-around podium with Iordache, probably the best look at just how decimated this senior field is. Ioana Crisan, a member of the junior Euros team who injured her shoulder during the beam final, came back with a vengeance here, hitting all four events very well for a 56.699 (including a 15.033 for her always amazing beam). Carmen Glavan, the leader of the junior B team who wasn’t part of the Euros picture, won the bronze with a 55.866 for her equally good day.

Maria Holbura, who has performed admirably all season and contributed great scores at the test event and Euros, was the top senior aside from Iordache, placing fourth with a 55.632 after hitting all routines. Other senior finishers include Andreea Ciurusniuc in seventh with a 54.666 and Silvia Zarzu in eighth with a 54.499. Anda Butuc, a member of the Euros team, competed only on bars and beam, with beam her standout event here.

In addition to these, the super powerful junior Denisa Golgota continued to impress on vault with a big DTY and floor with an excellent performance to finish fifth all-around with a 54.966 and Carmen Ghiciuc, also a member of the junior Euros team, was sixth with a 54.732. Their Bern teammates Olivia Cimpian and Alisia Botnaru did not compete.

In the event finals, Golgota won the vault gold averaging a 14.277 and then also came in for the floor silver with a 14.4. The bars title went to Iordache, who also won beam silver, and the beam and floor titles belonged to Ponor. Crisan won the vault silver and one of three floor bronzes, though struggled in the bars and beam finals. Butuc won bars silver, Holbura won bronze medals on bars and floor, Ciurusniuc got the beam bronze, Ioana Oprea got bronze on vault, and Ana Maria Puiu nabbed the third bronze on floor.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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20 thoughts on “Ponor is Romania’s Choice for Olympic Games

  1. Wow!!! Not sure what to say when I first saw the headline… really sad for larisa with her string of recent bad lucks. . At least I am glad she still get to go to rio… anything can happen I guess…

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  2. Wow. Just … wow. I am heartbroken for Larisa (if this decision ends up being final). It’s not an Olympic year if my heart doesn’t break several times, but this one really hurts. I wish the universe would stop conspiring against Romanian gymnastics. They’ve been through enough. Larisa is one of the most likeable gymnasts in the world and I know everyone was rooting for her. She fought and fought and fought to recover from her injuries. I truly believed she would get it together to make the podium at Rio. I can’t imagine the AA final without her.

    Congratulations to Cata. She is a legend and I hope she does compete AA. I don’t remember ever seeing Cata compete on bars. This should be fun to watch if it happens.

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  3. Keep the momentum – Gymternet – you deliver precise, funny and interesting reflections.
    And you are creative enough to come up with catchy headlines that does not at the same time mislead readers.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My heart is broken for Larisa but I’m ecstatic for Catalina! It’s mixed emotions. I’m still pissed that Larisa’s all around medal doesn’t count! Both girls deserve to be at the Olympics! I feel like Catalina is going to have to put together a bar routine that could at least score somewhere between an 11.5-12.5 or more so she can make AA final because getting into event finals let alone medalling is tough.

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  5. So unbelievably sad for Larissa. 😦 I was really hoping she would pull it off, but I’ve had the feeling all year that Catalina would get it in the end.

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  6. I’m sorry if this has been covered somewhere else… Did the FIG already select the one spot they can give to anyone they want to?

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    • Yes and they can’t actually give it to anyone they want – the tripartite spot can only go to gymnasts from countries that sent eight or fewer people to the last two Olympic Games combined, which was like six or seven countries. It ended up going to Panama.

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  7. Whoever is the competitor or alternate I hope they both are on the podium during competition, because the idea of Ponor or iordache moving from event to event with not a single teammate alongside them was depressing, it would be a comfort to see that they have each other in an olympics that is already devastating for them before it even begun. It’s sad to know that only one can go. I remember a petition was launched after worlds and revived after the test event to consider Iordaches bronze as an Olympic spot, but it never made it as an idea for the FIG, regardless actually working. Unless Ponor unveils an Amanar that scores a perfect ten along with a second vault and/or a 14 worthy bars set, I think she’s doing herself a disservice in terms of medal potential by training all around, no one can event pretend she’s basically s two event specialist. With Iordache, it makes sense since all around might be her only chance to make any impression for a medal since her floor has been hammered at worlds before injury and her beam, while could potentially could be a high scoring event, won’t have the preparation to count on for a medal. I hope they can bring home at least one medal, to bring home at least some consolation and hope for the program. Or maybe they can bring home no medals and come back next quad with one of their strongest teams ever like, Russia did from Beijing to London.

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    • The alternate actually isn’t allowed in the village/on the floor so unfortunately whoever ends up alternate will have to watch from the stands if they have a ticket for her.

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      • Yeah that’s what I thought, I was just hoping because I remembered Maria Paseka was on the floor with Aliya and the coach during Antwerp worlds and perhaps more relevant when the US alternate for the 1988 Olympic team was on the floor with the team during the team finals (when the stupid East German judge gave them a half point deduction when the alternate helped move the uneven bars springboard off the mat, even though the rule was that a coach wasn’t allowed to. And the alternate wasn’t labeled as such. Guess which country got bronze as a result). The situation is so sad. I hope Iordache is healthy enough and motivated enough to stick it out to the next olympics, whether or not she somehow gets the Rio spot (the Romanian federation seems extremely bent on Ponor so probably no)’and makes it, she deserves it.

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      • This is a shame, especially as it’s not true across all sports, I think the rhythmic alternate is dressed and ready to go. The synchronised swimming group alternate was in the pool calling out the counts when the teams were doing their last warm up in the competition pool, I don’t recall spotting them again, so i’m not sure where they were. I guess with these two sports the spare has to be able to step into any of the multiple roles in the team rather than practicing by themselves being a possibility.

        With regards to alternates watching, I think there is a lot more flexibility in seating than public ticketing might suggest, I had a really good seat for subs 3 and 4 in 2012 and when you enter on that level there are a bunch of sections for different categories of people, one of them being athletes (any athlete from any sport can go watch other stuff first come first served). I saw and spoke to ebee outside the arena, she’d obviously been watching it.

        I had a pair of seats for synchro which ended up not existing as they had been covered by a recording platform, we ended up sitting right by the VIP area and with the Egyptian staff not by the pool and possibly some families.

        If you look at where Marta and Bela were sat for Beam finals, that isn’t them buying the right seats it’s the organisers giving them some seats to use. The Romanians probably to have the ability to secure her a seat.

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    • She strikes me as the type to keep going if she’s able to. I don’t see why she wouldn’t be able as of right now. She did have that injury but it seems like something she can come back from. I can’t speak for her obviously but it’s not like she has something like the NCAA to compete in and my guess would be she’s going to feel like she has unfinished business. The thing that makes me angry is that this didn’t even need to be an issue if AA medallists were automatic qualifiers. I know many gymnasts miss out on spots due to technicalities of sorts but it’s so frustrating that a top athlete in a sport misses out on the Olympics Games due to such a thing!

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      • Thanks 🙂 It does seem like a lot of gymnasts not from the US stick around longer since they don’t have NCAA… and I totally agree, it’s so much hard work and now she has to wait another four years :/

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  8. Lauren, your objective and detailed writing is SO refreshing during this Olympic year with the wider “gymternet” seemingly run by uninformed trolls.

    Keep up the great work and I’m so stoked you’ll be providing real facts to the clowns over at NBC, glad they’ve done SOMETHING right by consulting your expertise.

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  9. Its sad that Larisa did not earn an automatic spot at last years worlds. The event medalists earn a spot, but all around medalists do not? Its so unfair, they both deserve to go, and they would both be successful as long as they are healthy.

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  10. I feel very bad for Larisa, but I thought it was obvious this decision was coming after watching her at Romanian nationals for all the reasons you said. Her routines weren’t just watered down, they weren’t executed that well and she’s clearly pushing through a lot of pain to try and come back quickly (that bars dismount! yikes!). It just doesn’t seem like there’s enough time for her and if Ponor looked equally unprepared all year then yeah, I’d send Larisa…but she hasn’t. I wish this had been handled better by both the Romanian federation and the FIG. Changing the selection procedure overnight = unfair. Not giving Larisa a spot for the AA medal last year = unfair.

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