Putting the puzzle together: team Romania

During the last two quads, we always talk about Romania’s lack of depth and their weakness on uneven bars, we always worry that with smaller countries rising, they won’t be able to stay among the strongest gymnastics countries in the world and every single time, they end up in the top 4. Hopefully this year, they will manage to overcome their struggled and prove that they still are a powerhouse in the sport once again.

CP1-ToEWoAEsrUDIt looks like there are four athletes who will definitely be travelling to Glasgow and those are, three times world medalist and national champion, Larisa Iordache, Olympian and two times European champion Diana Bulimar, 5 times Olympic medalist Catalina Ponor and world team member Ana Maria Ocolisan. The fact that an athlete who had surgery a few months ago, and an athlete who hasn’t even competed in front of an actual crowd for three years are locks for the Romanian world team says everything that needs to be said about the situation in the country right now. If world team members Stefania Stanila, Paula Tudorache and Andreea Munteanu had returned to competition this past weekend, we would have a puzzle to put together. However, it seems like those two athletes are not motivated and healthy enough to compete at the sports highest level. This leaves Romania with just enough athletes to fill a full team, and the only thing we need to discuss is who is going to be an alternate.

CP7YYVuWwAA1IYWWith Ponor, Iordache, Bulimar and Ocolisan, most events are already covered. Larisa will be the savior of Romania’s gymnastics for one more time. She has struggled with ankle pain for the entire year but that didn’t stop her from winning 5 gold medals at the recent Romanian championships. She is still capable of the ridiculously difficult routines that gave her the silver All Around medal in 2014 and she even has some minor upgrades, like a stalder full + maloney + clear hip half combination on bars and a memmel + illusion turn on floor. Her double twisting yurchenko is as powerful as ever, her bars continue to improve, her beam set is among the most difficult ones being done in the world and her tumbling and leaps on floor are absolutely fantastic. One has to wonder how can Larisa be right up there with the very best athletes in the world while her teammates struggle to break 14 on some events but one thing is certain: Romania would be in major trouble without her.

photo from Catalina’s facebook

2004 and 2012 Olympian, Catalina Ponor, is also back to save the face of Romanian gymnastics. Words can’t express how much I admire and respect this woman, who continues to do things that are considered impossible in the sport. After about 6 months of elite training, Ponor has all her difficulty back and she is determined to become the first Romanian athlete to ever participate in three Olympic Games. She is capable of a powerful double twisting yurchenko on vault, while she performs a fantastic beam routine with a potential 6.5 start value and she already has her double layout, her two whips into a piked full in and her triple twist back on floor. Her form is as messy as it has always been but her start values and the scores she can bring on the table are essential for the Romanian team. Ponor, has also always been renowned for her consistency, which is an other area where her country is currently struggling. She did not compete at the Romanian nationals due to a minor injury, that will force her to miss ten days of training, but she is planning to be ready for worlds.

photo from sportgymrus.ru

Diana Bulimar is also making her comeback after the third knee injury she has had during the quad. She only had surgery a few months ago and yet, here she is, throwing double layouts like it’s not a big deal. She definitely exceeded my expectations during Romanian nationals, where she helped her team win a gold medal while also earning an all around bronze and a balance beam silver. She only vaulted a full twisting yurchenko, but she had all her difficulty back on the other events, including her piked full in and her DLO on floor and her back handspring + layout on beam. Her bars routine was much improved, and she has added a brand new hindorff but she fell on it during the event finals and she only dismounts with a double tuck for the time being.

photo by John Cheng

Ana Maria Ocolisan, who was part of Romania’s 2014 worlds team, proved she deserves to go to worlds once again after placing 2nd in the All Around, third on beam and forth on floor at nationals. She is not a spectacular athlete, but she was a great double twisting yurchenko on vault, she can score above 14 on bars and she can be used on beam and floor during qualifications. Some of her most notable skills are her van leeuwen, her back handspring + layout and her triple twist.

So, with these four, the line up would look like that

VT: (Bulimar) Ponor, Ocolisan, Iordache

UB: Bulimar, Ocolisan, Iordache

BB: (Ocolisan) Bulimar, Iordache, Ponor

FX: (Ocolisan) Bulimar, Iordache, Ponor

photo by Inside gymnastics

The most obvious hole on this line up is on the uneven bars. Catalina Ponor hasn’t competed on this event since 2004 and she’s not planning on doing so anytime soon so Romania  obviously needs at least one more bars worker. They also need at least one double twisting yurchenko so they don’t have to count Bulimar’s FTY during qualifications. Stronger routines on beam and floor would definitely not hurt them either and there are only three more world class athletes in the team who could potentially contribute on those areas.

photo from sportgymrus.ru, by E. Michailova

The first of them is first year senior Laura Jurca. After showing massive potential as a junior, Jurca made her senior debut this year without any really spectacular results. She represented her country at the European championships, where she finished 7th in the All Around and at the 2015 European Games, where she didn’t manage to qualify into any individual finals. This is particularly sad to see, because Laura has the talent to be so much better than that. She has impressive skills, like a double twisting yurchenko on vault, a hindorff on bars, a layout on beam and a full in and a triple twist on floor. The fact that she is a solid All Arounder definitely gives her a significant advantage, because a team with as little depth as Romania, needs an athlete who can be a reliable backup on every event. Laura also did fairly well at nationals, winning a silver medal on bars and a bronze on floor. However, making the team is not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to actually deliver some big scores and help your country win medals and I’m not sure if Laura can do that.

Then we have, worlds, European and European Games team member Silvia Zarzu. She is also capable of a double twisting yurchenko but it is not as clean and powerful as it could be, and a decent beam set, which includes a spectacular front tuck mount and gorgeous leaps. The event where she could contribute the most to the team is floor exercise. She starts her routine with a 1.5 + triple full combination and she shows amazing flexibility in her leaps. She won a silver medal at nationals on this event and she can score higher than Jurca, Bulimar and Ocolisan, so she can be part of their team finals line up there.

photo by inside gymnastics

Two times European Games champion Anreea Iridon was supposed to be a future bars and beam specialist for Romania, since she showed great potential on those events as a junior. However, she has only hit two uneven bars routines since she turned senior and she is usually shaky on beam. Andreea is one of the most beautiful and artistic gymnasts out there, and she would fit perfectly into the Romanian team, but she is just too inconsistent. It looked like she was determined to prove herself at the first day of the Romanian nationals, where she hit her routines on both events but then she fell at both event finals and didn’t manage to win any individual medals during the competition.

So let’s take a look at how the line up would look if Jurca and Zarzu made the team and Iridon was an alternate.

VT: (Zarzu) Jurca, Ponor, Ocolisan, Iordache: 5.8, 5.8, 5.8, 5.8, 5.8

UB: (Zarzu) Jurca, Bulimar, Ocolisan, Iordache 5.1 5.6 5.7, 5.6 6.5

BB: (Ocolisan/Zarzu), Jurca, Bulimar, Iordache, Ponor 5.6/5.5, 5.5, 5.7, 6.5, 6.5

FX: (Jurca) Zarzu Bulimar, Iordache, Ponor: 5.7, 5.7, 5.7 6.4, 6.0

4: 94,6

3: 72

This is probably the team that will travel to Glasgow. It is a fairly good team that is very likely to finish in the top 4 if the athletes deliver. The biggest problem is their uneven bars line up (surprising, I know). Without Iridon, Zarzu will have to perform on bars at qualifications and she is weak there even for Romanian standards. Silvia can barely break 13 with a good routine, and that means that if Jurca, Bulimar or Ocolisan fall, they will have no back up and they’ll need to count a score in the 12s. This really is a problem, especially considering that Jurca and Bulimar have been inconsistent on this event.

A team with Jurca and Iridon, where Zarzu is the alternate.

VT: (Bulimar) Jurca, Ponor, Ocolisan, Iordache: 5.0, 5.8 5.8 5.8 5.8

UB: (Jurca) Bulimar, Iridon, Ocolisan, Iordache 5.6, 5.7 5.7 5.6 6.5

BB: (Ocolisan/Jurca), Bulimar, Iridon, Iordache, Ponor 5.6/5.5, 5.7, 5.9, 6.5, 6.5

FX: (Ocolisan) Jurca, Bulimar, Iordache, Ponor 5.6, 5.6, 5, 6,0, 6,4,

with 4 scores counting: 95

with 3 scores counting: 74.3

I think this is the team with the highest scoring potential and I would absolutely love to see this group of athletes competing at worlds. However, as mentioned above, Iridon has been terribly inconsistent and it’s hard to trust her to hit her routines at worlds. Romania has lower difficulty than the rest of the big 4 so they need to rely on consistency and Andreea has fallen more times than she has hit this year.

A team with Iridon and Zarzu, where Jurca is the alternate

VT: (Bulimar) Jurca, Ponor, Ocolisan, Iordache: 5.0, 5.8 5.8 5.8 5.8

UB: (Zarzu) Bulimar, Iridon, Ocolisan, Iordache 5.1, 5.7, 5.7, 5.6, 6.5

BB: (Ocolisan/Zarzu), Bulimar, Iridon, Iordache, Ponor: (5.6/5.5), 5.7, 5.7, 6.5, 6.3

FX: (Ocolisan) Zarzu Bulimar, Iordache, Ponor: 5.6, 5.7, 5.7, 6.0, 6.4

difficulty total with 4 scores counting: 94.7

with 3 scores counting: 71.8

Both problems mentioned above are present here. Zarzu needs to compete bars at qualifications and Iridon is terribly inconsistent so this team is very unlikely to happen. My final prediction is that the team will be Iordache, Ponor, Bulimar, Ocolisan, Zarzu and Jurca, with Iridon being the alternate.

You can find full results of the Romanian nationals here

Photo credit

One thought on “Putting the puzzle together: team Romania

  1. Looks like they will again barely hang on as the last of the Big4, given that they are already so significantly handicapped by SV right out of the gate. Even the best possible SV of 74.3 is still at least 2+ below Russia and China, never mind comparing to US’s possible 78+. They will definitely have to count on being very consistent and hoping for mistakes from others to have any chance of getting on podium.

    At least the picture looks much better once we move past TF. No doubt in my mind Larisa will medal in AA, beam (if she stays on), and probably FX (though it could be challenging if Afan hits).

    Guess you will do team Russia next? They are even easier :).

    Why does US has to make it so difficult for all of us 😦


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