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«I hope to teach them well»


The Romanian national championship of artistic gymnastics 2004 was held on Saturday, 10 July, in the sportshall at the center of Constanta. This second biggest City of Romania is located in the east of the country at the border of the Blacksea. Constanta is as well the hometown of the new all around national champion Catalina Ponor. Headcoach Octavian Belu spent some minutes after the competition to answer some questions from Christian Ballat.


CB: How are you content with the gymnasts today? Did you see some new talents?


Belu: The youngest gymnasts had their competition this morning. I wasn't there. I am sure, that each gymnast can reach a toplevel, if she is ready to work hard for the success. The competition around the national champion was just a snapshot, on the way to our big goal this year: the Olympics in Athens. I saw some skills which could be made better. I hope, to teach them well enough in the next weeks, so that they can reach the goal.


CB: Do you already know, which gymnast will be in the Olympic-Team?


Belu: That's not decided yet. At the moment I see seven possible gymnasts behind Catalina Ponor - all with the same high level. It will be hard to leave at home two of them

After this «Nationals» the coaches and the federation will have a meeting and talk about the selections. They are more internal competitions on the schedule. I think to know the 6 names of the olympic gymnasts after the 1st of august.


CB: What is your goal for Athens?


Belu: Everything is possible. The European Championship in Amsterdam was a good test for us. But there three «big» teams missed. In Athens our friends from USA, China and Australia will be at the start as well. Together with Russia and Romania these 5 teams will be the favourites. In the individual competitions there are more gymnasts from other countries, who possibly could win, i.e. Dos Santos from Brasilia or Tweddle from United Kingdom. Our gymnasts and the coaches will do their best, that we can reach some medals, but its not easy. All teams are very close to each other.


CB: View to population of 22,5 millions Romania is a small country. How is it possible, that your country can present since decades always enough gymnasts to compete for medals?


Belu: The polictical and social system in Romania has changed. In our sportsystem, we adapted all the good things of the time before the revolution. The gymnasts have to work as hard as before, seven days a week. Our job is, to help them on their way. At all this work we pay attention to their health. Thats the biggest capital of each gymnast. We have a good selection system, which allows to teach already the very young girls. They will be prepared to reach a top level. When they enter in our centres in Deva and Honest they are teached completly, sports and school. Who wants to gym here, has to work hard and to accept, what we ask them for.To reach the goal they have to cooperate.


CB: Where do you see the biggest problems?


Belu: I wish to do much more for the selection and the school of the youngest gymnasts. But since the change of the political sytem, we dont have enough money to do our work, how I would like to do. As the governement can't give us enough, we have to find other solutions. There must be a way to present the best infrastructure and the best trainers to the young gymnasts. I didn't find it yet.

Another problem is the personal changes in our team. We`ve lost many gymnasts in the recent years for different reasons. We had to change the whole team after the worlds 2001. Of course, we couldn`t win the Worlds 2003 with a totally new team. But the victory at the Europeans 2004 in Amsterdam shows us, that we are on a good way to the next event (Athens): Everything is possible.

Before Belu gave this interview to Gymbox, he did a short one for the romanian journalists and a TV-Station. After his talk to us, he was in a hurry to leave the arena. The gymnasts weren't allowed to talk to Media. Two minutes later all of them were sitting together in a coach and driving away. 


We know from a domestic journalist, why the romanian girls are called Andreea and not Andrea. Thats easy, was her answer: «Nobody would call his girl Andrea here, because it is a worst word and means something totally different to a first name.»


Special guest

In the audience of this national championship was Bruno Grandi, president of the FIG. He saw an interesting competition and presented the all around gold medal to Catalina Ponor. «What an honour», said someone in the audience. But another one joked: «He came to exercise here for the Olympic medal ceremony.»