The Romanian gymnasts have had good results midway through this year. At first sight, Dan Grecu's men team had a better performance so far, winning 4 medals at the European Championships in Germany. Their performance is even more amazing, because Octavian Belu's team didn't have their best competition, as they used to, and they only won the bronze medal in the team event, a gold medal on vault, a silver on beam (Simona Amanar won both), and another silver medal on floor (Andreea raducan). Everyone had high expectations for Maria Olaru, but she got injured in Paris, and the coaches decided not to force her (ankle). In Paris, just like In Tianjin, none of our gymnasts shined, as it was the case in past with Lavinia Milosovici, Gina Gogean, or Daniela Silivas, and before them, Nadia Comaneci. Nadia retired in 1983, and she handed the "baton" over to Kati Szabo, but none of the gymnasts who followed her (Nadia) were able to match her performance.
There was always a gymnast who "pulled" the rest of the team with her. "The girls have to put their heart into the team. I was a mentally tough gymnast," says Lavina Milosovici. "Actually, all the problems that came up , be it related to the competition, or otherwise, fell on me and I didn't have any choice, I had to stand up to them. A leader must have the (right) personality first and foremost, but also the power to win, when the rest of the team is demoralized. Nowadays, athletes, are kinda doing it for themselves. I think our gymnasts will have a good performance in Sydney," adds the two-time Olympic champion from Barcelona, who wants to stop over at Deva before the team leaves to encourage the gymnasts.
The team for Sydney will be led by Amanar and Maria Olaru, even though neither of them is up to par with former team leaders. Amanar missed her bars routine at World in 1999, and she had a relapse at this year's Europeans, causing RGF president, Nicolae Vieru, to say "there is a certain resentment surrounding Simona's mistakes. She has problems concentrating because she missed her routine in a similar situation before. Simona is the team captain. As far as Maria Olaru is concerned, she had bad luck at Europeans, where she couldn't compete due to an ankle infection.", he explained. There's more to Maria Olaru's story. Right after Europeans, she had to undergo extensive tests in Bucharest, after she complained of lower back pains (the test revealed no further injuries).
Head coach Octavian Belu, the man who coached generations of gymnasts, believes that "Maria Olaru and Simona Am‰nar lead this team based on their results. They are part of the current team; these are our girls, with their strong and weak points, which we have to accept. This is the team we could put together right now, and we didn't have 20 gymnasts to choose from. It is true we had gymnasts who brought a sense of security to the team whenever they performed. The same thing is true now, but let's not forget all of them made mistakes, which is something that's almost unavoidable in gymnastics."
Leonid Arkayev, head coach of the Russian team, said he expects his gymnasts to win at least 5 gold medals in Sydney. "Last year, at the world championships, we had five gold medals and we don't want to step back from that." In the women's competition, their main hopes for gold rest on Khorkina's shoulders, a former gold medalist at the 1996 Olympics. Arkayev also hopes the diminutive Yelena Zamolodchikova (4 ft 9) will at least one gold medal for Russia.
Maria Olaru & Andreea Raducan are among the medal favorites in a recent list put together by CNNSI. Among the 10 gymnasts mentioned are Russia's Svetlana Khorkina, Ukraine's Victoria Karpenko and American Elise Ray.