The Rise of Romania

Romania Winning 2012 European Championships. Photo Credit:

Can you climb to the top of the podium in one year? Romania sure thinks that you can. And you can bet, that just like every other Olympics, Romania will come out and kill it with consistency in 2012-  hitting every beam routine, nailing every landing and doing it all with beauty and grace. I have said it before and I will say it again- you can never, ever count Romania out in an Olympic year. Or as Stoi! so eloquently said  “Octavian Belu can never be ruled out in an Olympic year, never. There is only one certainty in gymnastics: he is cannier than you.”

Back in May, I wrote a post talking about how far the Romanians had come since bringing back their coach Belu in 2010. I thought that it looked very, very likely that they would challenge for silver. Now, just two months later, it seems possible that they can challenge for gold.

This weekend at a Romanian friendly meet, four gymnasts debuted their new floor routines. Ahh, a feast for the gymnastics aficionado that has seen every routing countless times. Four new routines at once! Three of these routines brought in scores over 15.

But what was really impressive was their killer beam rotation.

Catalina Ponor 15.7

Larisa Iordache 15.95

All total, they scored a team total of 180.2. This is almost EIGHT POINTS higher than they scored last year at worlds. A World Championships where they did not even win a single medal. In the world of gymnastics that is counted in tenths, increasing by eight points in one year is nothing short of phenomenal. What’s more, is that this beats the team winning score put up by the USA by eight tenths.

And the team gold isn’t all they are hoping for. Last year at Worlds, their highest event finals placing was 5th on beam. This year, they could seriously challenge for an event finals medal on vault (Sandra Isbaza has scored the 4th highest score of those who will be competing), beam (Catalina Ponor and Larisa Iordache are currently first and second) and floor (Ponor and Iordache are currently fourth and fifth). In addition, Iordache is has the fourth highest all around score posted of those that will be competing.

This year, the USA will be adding another amanar to their arsenal, as well as two upgraded bars scores, an upgraded beam score and two upgraded floor scores from last year’s Worlds. Difficulty wise, they will still come in as the favorites. However, Iordache is rumored to be adding in her amanar by the Olympics as well. Romania is definitely putting on the pressure.

Without a doubt, if the USA or Russia makes a mistake, Romania will be right there. They will be consistent, error free, and waiting to pounce. If you give them an inch, they will take a mile. Romania has broadcast loud and clear. Don’t count us out.

Romania Upsets Russia to Win 2012 European Team Championships

BRUSSELS, May 12, 2012 — Romania stood on the top of the podium, receiving a well deserved standing ovation as they were presented with team gold medals at the 2012 European Championship. For the first time in this quadrennium, Romania came through as a shining, dominant team. They started off with a substantial lead, and managed to hold off Russia’s charge to win the gold in an incredibly exciting team finals.

Romania came into the finals first, after a strong performance in qualifications. Russia had their worst showing in years with three falls on floor and weak performances on many other events. Could Romania put in another top performance? And even if they did, could they hold off Russia if Russia put up the type of competition we have come to expect from them?

The order was set for high drama. Russia was to start on beam and finish on their best event, bars. Russia started out of the gate with a fall on beam from Anastasia Sidorova. Anastasia Grishina was up next and came through with a strong routine. Viktoria Komova finished the rotation with a wobbly but stuck beam routine.

Romania started on vault with three solid double-twisting yurchenko vaults all scoring above a 15.0. Sandra Izbasa scored a 15.2, the highest vault score in the competition. Romania led after the first rotation while Russia was in fifth by almost 4 points.

Next stop, floor for Russia and bars for Romania. Bars are not just Romania’s weakest event, Romania is incredibly weak on bars. Russia is usually brilliant on floor, but in qualifications every one of their gymnasts fell. Russia got through floor without any falls. Aliya Mustafina put up a better routine than in qualifications, but it is still a long way from her former glory. Grishna was the stand out once again for Russia with a beautiful routine.

Romania got through bars as well. No falls, and a great routine from Larissa Lordache. Russia inched up about half a point on Romania and finished the second rotation in fourth while Romania continued their lead.

Romania moved on to the beam, an apparatus they have ruled for decades. Russia was on vault. Russia put up a respectable performance on vault with three double-twisting yurchenkos. However, only Mustafina put up a score above a 15.0.

Romania came through beam with a mixed performance. Diana Bulimar led off with a good routine, but Lordache came up short with a fall! I wasn’t sure it was possible for Romania to fall on beam in a team final. Even with a fall, Lordache’s routine was so magnificent that she basically equalled Russia’s highest beam score. Catalina Ponor anchored with a brilliant routine, scoring a 15.4. Russia had whittled away at Romania’s lead and was just over three points behind them, sitting in second.

It would seem that Romania should have had it all locked up going into the last rotation with over a three point lead. But Russia was on bars. Without a doubt, Russia currently rules the world with their top three bars routines. Romania was on floor, which is notoriously the lowest scoring event in women’s gymnastics. Russia knocked routine after routine out of the park, scoring a 15.3, 15.7 and 15.8.

Romania’s first routine by Bulimar was great and Ponor followed up with a solid routine as well. But their scores could not come even close to keeping up with Russia on bars. After having a commanding lead throughout the competition, it came down to the very last routine. The most retweeted tweet throughout the championship was a simple “Iordache needs 14.281 to give ROM the title…” from GymExaminer. Even through the computer, you could feel the tension!

Lordache put everything she had into it and it seemed like it would be enough. Everyone stood anxiously waiting for the score to be posted. Russia looked worried and a bit frustrated, Ponor and Izbasa held hands as they waited for the news.  Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner captured to moment best in her quick hits (which are fabulous, read them for a thorough experience of the championship).

“Really nice dance, putting everything she’s got into it. Double tuck, just a small movement — I think that does it for Romania! 15.033 — yes! Romania will beat Russia! ROM ends with 176.288, RUS 175.536 in a thriller!” – Blythe Lawrence

What an incredible moment for Romania. Italy and Great Britain battled it out for bronze. Great Britain placed second on bars and third on vault but counted two falls on beam to finish fourth. Italy took the bronze, finishing second on beam and floor and third on bars.

A week ago, it felt highly unlikely that Romania would beat Russia. But as it is said again and again in gymnastics. You can never, ever count Romania out. What a wonderful upset as we lead up to the Olympic games. Russia is far from out of the picture. They still have time to get things together before the Olympics. But then again, so does Romania. Maybe we will have a four way battle for the gold in London after all.