Assistant coach Mariana Bitang agreed to give an exclusive interview to Romanian newspaper Curierul National following the 2001 National Championships.
CN: How satisfied are you with the gymnasts’ performance
MB: I’m only pleased about getting a chance to see the level we’re at right now. We have several things to correct.
CN: What are some of the team’s problems?
MB: First of all, we don’t have a true all-arounder, a gymnast who could perform equally well on all 4 events.
CN: What events are you struggling on?
MB: The vaulting table is the apparatus where we’re having the most difficulty. Especially since at this edition of the WC, we will use the table to vault, not the horse. We had very little time to accommodate to the new apparatus. Half of the year we trained on the old horse and half of it on the new table. I don’t know what will happen at Worlds.
CN: You were unhappy about Andreea Raducan’s scores on vault and beam. Why is that?
MB: Andreea has been going though some tough times lately. She’s been injured and she’s not in top shape yet. Moreover, it seems like she cannot recover what she lost [I’m assuming she means she’s struggling to get back old skills], and she’s gained a couple of pounds. That’s why she’s not able to perform at her best. She received higher scores than her routines warranted, maybe in order to motivate her, but this reward could be taken the wrong way.
CN: Why would that be?
MB: Because if she was awarded a 9.75 on beam, which is a very high score, she believes this reflects her performance and doesn’t want to work anymore. This doesn’t suit us. Cojocar and Stroescu were better than her, in my opinion.
CN: Do you miss having a team leader?
MB: Yes. Let’s not forget that after Sydney 3 of our main gymnasts retired. Rebuilding and finding new talent is very difficult in such a short time span.
CN: Sabina Cojocar and Silvia Stroescu are up-and-coming stars. Do you think they’ll reach the same level Andreea Raducan or Simona Amanar did?
MB: They are two good gymnasts, but they’ve only competed in junior events. Sabina’s competed at the GWG recently, where she won the AA. But Worlds require a lot more effort and concentration. We’ll see how everything goes. We want the Romanian team to stay on top.
CN: How much does the team miss Simona Amanar?
MB: It’s hard to find another gymnast like Simona. No one can fault her for anything. She set a standard that will be hard to reach. She never complained about anything and worked until she was exhausted. Gymnastics entails pain and sacrifices. If someone doesn’t understand that, she cannot be competitive. At the same time, nobody’s forcing them to do anything.
CN: Do you think the increased prize money and Olympic retirement grants had a boomerang effect?
MB: It’s possible. After winning an Olympic title, your bank account is set and it’s hard to keep focused and work as hard as you did before. We have athletes, who could quit at 16-17, and they’ll get 15-16M lei/month ($375). I think it’s easier for them to sit around and take the money rather than work hard.