Tuesday, August 30, 2005

They Train Gymnasts, Don't They?

ViaAssociated Press [English] & Mediafax [Romanian]

Romanian women's gymnastics team disbanded

Tue, Aug. 30, 2005

BUCHAREST, Romania - Romania's gymnastics federation disbanded its women's gymnastics team Tuesday after two leading gymnasts left a training camp and were filmed at a birthday party.

The decision comes after triple Olympic gold medalist Catalina Ponor and Floarea Leonida left a training camp Saturday night without permission in violation of their contracts, said Adrian Stoica, the federation's secretary general.

Stoica said the federation decided all gymnasts would train at their own clubs. The other gymnast on the team, Daniela Sofronie, has sided with her teammates and has threatened to retire.

Ponor, 18, told a Romanian television station that she attended the birthday party of a male gymnast where only athletes were present. She denied reports that she drank alcohol and vowed to train hard for the world championships in November.

"I hope I will prove that it's possible to perform well even without the tough restrictions at the training camp," Ponor said.

Team coach Octavian Belu said the gymnasts would get a chance to prove their form at the national championships in October.

Belu and his assistant Mariana Bitang asked the federation to cancel their contracts as coaches. They said they have been left without a gymnastics team to train after Monica Rosu and Alexandra Eremia were sent to their clubs last week because they were overweight.

The new crisis raises doubts on whether Romania, which dominated women's gymnastics in recent years, will take part in the world championships.

© 2005 AP Wire and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved (http://www.aberdeennews.com)


It's somewhat fascinating that AP mentions the gymnasts' partying habits and overweight issues, while Mediafax focuses on the contract stipulations of the Olympic team's coaches.

Truth be told, Romanian gymnasts have some of the hardest training routines in the world, which has paid off tremendously in the past. Imagine you're 18, training about 8 hours a day and bound by contract to remain within camp premises on your friend's birthday. It's incredible to me how these girls get motivated at all. At one level or another, I believe human determination functions based on incentives and rewards. Sure, winning the Olympic gold medal is a fantastic reward, but would the achievement be possible without the aforementioned sacrifice? I’m not claiming the training routine is not sufficient, but I doubt it is truly necessary. Obviously, all athletes must give up on the idea of having a "normal life", but how far is too far, and were the Romanian coaches overly demanding?

The thing with Romanian gymnasts is that when your country is ruled by a dictator, when the line of people waiting for milk goes around the block at 4 a.m., when Pepsi is a luxury and BBC is the anathema of “free” radio stations, there is no "normal life"; succeeding through sports is a fantastic motivation to emerge out of the poverty hole. That said, this is not the case of present-day Romania - though in transition and "developing", the country offers enough opportunities, attractions and distractions to keep the average 18-year old happy.

Romanian young girls might have envied Nadia Comaneci for becoming famous, traveling the world and succeeding altogether. Today we face the flipside of the coin: gymnasts are feeling trapped, worked to death and tyrannized; they demand their freedom, their youth, their choice. They envy the "normal" Romanian young girls.

Whether the varsity gymnasts leaving the Olympic team will still be successful while training at local clubs, it remains to be seen. But should they be sensational at National and World Championships, Romania may have to face yet another great consequence of transition - the loss of fierce discipline and sacrifice. And I'm not exactly sure how dreadful that is. Maybe it's about time these girls realized they have alternatives.


Blogger Blogger said...

Te-ai intrebat vreodata de ce gimnastele americane nu au rezultate la fel de bune ca echipa Romaniei? Chiar si cu Bella Caroli ca antrenor...

11:54 AM  
Blogger Zidezi said...

Yes, I realize American gymnasts aren't as successful as the Romanian ones. My point wasn't that America doesn't have more distractions and opportunities than Romania; I was rather questioning those temptations and wondering whether the Romanian girls will still be successful without the strenuous training routine.
Ever wondered that maybe the reason American gymnasts don't do so well is because some nations have an innate proclivity for certain sports? At least one well-known American gymnast (Dominique Moceanu) comes from a Romanian background...

2:00 PM  

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