Two months before the World Championships in Ghent, the Romanian national gymnastics team is facing another crisis. For the past two days, assistant coach Mariana Bitang has received house calls from doctors in Deva, and the gymnasts who are a few pounds overweight are looking for excuses to get out of training. The team coached by Octavian Belu and Mariana Bitang is the defending Olympic champion. Romania hasnít lost the world team title since 1994.
PS: Mrs. Bitang, what is happening at Deva?
MB: What could be happening? For now, Iím bed ridden. The doctor left just a few minutes ago.
PS: Are you sick?
MB: Yes! My nerves are frayed! Iím just too tired and stressed out. Iím almost at the end of my rope. Iíve been getting piracetam, calcium, magnesium and other shots. I have to take medication through shots lately because taking it orally doesnít have much of an effect anymore. My doctor told me I have to leave this place as soon as possible.
PS: Why are you so upset?
MB: The World Championships are only a few weeks away and these girls donít know what planet theyíre on. They went to Bucharest for their physicals, missed two days of training, and came back weighing 6 lbs more.
PS: And they canít be brought back to ideal weight
MB: It is possible, but in order to do that, they need to work.
PS: And they donít work?
MB: I think weíre witnessing a new phenomenon in gymnastics. When you tell gymnasts to work, they refuse to do it. After the recent death [of Alexandra Huci] at CSS Deva, there have been strange things going on. Today, two of the girls have headaches. I tell them to go to the dorms and rest. The dayís already gone. The next day, itís the same story. I send them to their room. The third day, itís stomach pains. Thereís nothing I can do about it, so I leave them alone. And before you know it, weíre only working 2 days the whole week, and waste the other 5.
PS: Maybe they are sick
MB: Look here, you canít call one of them fat anymore without having her burst into tears. However, the risk of injury is greater when they are overweight. Their backs are under a lot more stress then. These are sacrifices thousands of girls have made until now, but they think they only have rights. Now theyíre billionaires and they have cars. Thatís just not fair. Thereís a lot of money invested in them.
PS: Theyíre still kids
MB: Billionaire kids. I gave up many years of my life to coach. I stayed with them and treated them like my children. This cannot go on.
PS: Is there anything to worry about before Worlds?
MB: Iíll wait for Octavian Belu to come back. Heís in Australia with Cojocar and Ulmeanu right now. Weíll see what needs to be done. If they [the gymnasts] donít wake up soon, this could be serious. They think putting on the Romanian team leotard is enough to make them world champions.