Saturday, May 12, 2012

Romania is Revived at the European Championships

I just finished watching many of the routines that generous fans have uploaded from the team finals at the 2012 European Championships in Brussels and the thing that pleased me most was the revival of Romanian gymnastics. The Romanians overtook the stylish-but-erratic Russians for the team title.

While this result was hardly unexpected given the results from the preliminaries where the Romanians trounced the Russians (it was much closer in the final), it was a change of pace from how things had been going throughout most of this quad. As many gymnastics followers know, the storied Romanian program had not medaled as a team at the Worlds and wasn't really competitive with the three top teams--U.S., Russia, China--that medaled in 2010 and 2011. The lack of Romanian preparation and depth made for very anti-climatic team finals at these competitions. It was like watching a game of musical chairs where there were enough chairs for everyone. There were three medal contenders and three chairs, er, medals. 

This is why I've always maintained that the men's competition is much more exciting to watch--there might as many as 4-5 teams with legitimate shots at the team bronze. (The tussle for the gold and silver will be between the Japanese and Chinese, naturally.) Clearly, there aren't enough chairs for everyone.

The resurgent Romanian team, provided it will continue to improve and not suffer setbacks in the form of injuries, should make things interesting in the team finals. I don't think they, as of yet, can truly challenge the U.S. for the gold medal but at least with the Romanians back in the mix the team final should be exciting. At least there will be real fight over those chairs.

Here's a video of Catalina Ponor, a big part of the Romanian comeback and a member of their last gold medal winning team in 2004, on the balance beam. Karate chop hands aside, she's fierce. 

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