Although she was offered a 3-months contract by the Klagenfurt gym club in Austria, Maria Olaru decided to come back home before the end of the contract and focus on her studies at the Sports University, where she is a 3rd year student.
PS: Maria, why did you come back from Klagenfurt so quickly?
MO: I was really home sick. That city was almost dead. You hardly ever see people walking around the streets, and the ones who do go out, take their car. I missed home so much when I first moved there, I didn't eat anything but a sandwich and salad the first five days. That's how I lost about 10 lbs. After I was done coaching, I didn't want to go back home, so I would stay at the gym and train by myself for 3 hours.
PS: When did you receive the club's offer to coach for them?
MO: In February. The club's President knew me since I was a gymnast, and asked me to work as a coach for their club for 3 months. I wasn't exactly thrilled. I wanted to have summer break all to myself, so I can rest and go to Turkey. I did all that and I was still left with one month where I didn't have any definite plans. So I left [for Austria]. They offered me $1,000 and paid for all other expenses, transportation, room and board, everything.
PS: This was the first time you worked as
a coach. How was it?
MO: Over there, you can't force gymnasts to do a routine they don't want to do. I worked with girls aged 9-14 and I had to win them over using all sorts of games. In the beginning, I worked with 14 girls, but towards the end, only 12 were left. I became very close to them, and if I started out counting down the days left until I could leave, I was ready to unpack my bags and stay by the end. I was starting to understand them, even when they were making jokes in German.
PS: Which language did you use to
communicate with them?
MO: English, but also German. I surprised everyone when I learned the German names for all the skills after the first week. Whenever the people around me would speak, I would repeat the word to myself and see if I can say the same thing they were saying. They managed to learn some Romanian words, too, like "sarmale" [the now famous stuffed cabbage rolls]. Two nights before I left, I cooked them about 50 sarmale & mamaliga [corn mush, another traditional Romanian dish] and they devoured them as quickly as possible.
PS: What are your plans now?
MO: I'm invited to Klagenfurt in November for an international competition where my gymnasts are also scheduled to compete. Until then, I still have school to worry about. That's the main reason I came back home to begin with.