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Made in Romania

As soon as the gymnasts went out on the floor for their last warm-up, Maria Olaru had a premonition. She goes up to head coach Octavian Belu and tells him that "You'll see that we're going to sweep the medals. Andreea will finish first, Simona will get silver, and I'll get bronze." The coach looks at her half scared, half worried. What's gotten into this girl? The thought remains with him the rest of the competition.

Amânar, started off on bars with a 9. 512. Răducan has two solid efforts on vault for a 9.706. She didn't even feel that the vaulting horse was set up 5 cm lower than it should be. "I tried to do my vaults. The (height) difference didn't matter to me", she explained later. Before Maria Olaru's mounts the beam, China's Liu Xuan gets a 9.750. Maria has a few wobbles, but she covers up well, and gets 9.700. On floor, Svetlana Khorkina wows the public and the judges, with her elaborate Russian Ballet moves and scores a 9.812. Our gymnasts are 5th, 6th, and 16th.

Simona is first up on beam and scores a 9.662, but Elena Zamolodchikova, the girl who replaced Produnova in the AA, gets a 9.700. Andreea does well on bars for a 9.575. A few minutes later, Khorkina jumps high above the horse and lands on her knees, almost begging for her forgiveness. She sticks her second vault, but to no avail. The Russian gestures towards the crowd. Apparently, a spectator who got up from his seat bother her. Olaru goes out of bounds on floor, and the red flag promptly goes up. If it weren't for that mistakes, she could have scored a 9.7+. Meanwhile, Ukraine's s Viktoria Karpenko makes her presence felt, scoring a 9.8 on bars. After the second rotation Olaru is 4th, Răducan is 5th, and Amânar is 9th.

Andreea excels on beam for a 9.787. Maria's premonition doesn't seem so far fetched anymore. She gets a 9.656, on vault, while Simona has the crowd clapping along to her energetic floor set, scoring a 9.812. Khorkina has a total melt-down, falling on bars on the same skill she missed in the team competition. It's all over for her. Karpenko gets a big 9.775 on beam, and everyone remembers the past two AA Olympic Champions came from Ukraine. Zamolodchikova falls, too on floor of all places. After 3 rotations, Karpenko is first, followed by Răducan and, the surprising Lisa Skinner of Australia. Will the Australians medal in the AA? Simona is 4th, and Olaru 5th.

Maria Olaru is the first one to compete in the last rotation, scoring a 9.6 on bars, and taking the lead. Skinner's low start values on vault are very costly, and her score is only a 9.168. On the same event, Amânar gets a 9.656, and moves ahead of Maria. The only one who can factor into a final that's about to turn into an all-Romanian affair is Viktoria Karpenko. Unfortunately for her, she has a nightmare of a floor routine. Competition ends with Andreea Răducan on vault. Her routines et to Irish music comes alive, and even the judges are impressed awarding her a 9.825, the highest score of the night. Andreea throws hers;ef into Belu's arms who carries her on his shoulders, as she waves to the crowd. Maria Olaru was right. "She has the clairvoyance of a witch (sorceress)", says Belu. "She scares me. From now on, whoever wants to win the lottery, should go and ask her what numbers to bet on." It took a lot more than just luck for the Romanian gymnasts to win yesterday's all-around competition.

Yesterday, the entire city of Barlad was talking about Andreea Răducan's win in the AA. Her apartment on George Enescu street was inundated by phone calls and visitors. Gheorghe Răducan, Andreea's father could barely keep up with things. "At first I wanted Andreea to be a boy, but now that she's a girl I wouldn't trade her for 10 boys. When competition started I got nervous, and took a distonocalm pill (the Romanian prozac, basically). Got some wine going, too, added some water...We somehow managed to make it to the end, and I've never been happier", said the father whose daughter spent only 16 days in Barlad in the past 4 years


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