December 16, 2008

"Afterward It All Went As If I'd Been Unleashed": Sandra Izbasa Reviews 2008

Interesting articles are being posted left, right and center at the moment. We're having a bit of trouble keeping up with them, but eventually we'll translate them all. Promise.

In Romania, two interesting articles on Sandra Izbaşa were published this week. This is one of them, courtesy of ProSport. We hope to have a translation of the other article up in a few days. Enjoy!


The Sound of Music

She comes from a sport in which, in Romania, only gold counts. All or nothing: the pressure of results.

"If only you knew what they said about us until we won the gold at the European Championships! There was a lot of criticism, and many people who didn't believe in us, who didn't give a dime for our chances, who cut us to pieces."

She came off a year [2007] full of bad luck and injuries. Full of ambition and a wish to show what she was worth, and pressure not to fail. "I was scared. Last year my foot was in a cast for two months, and at the Worlds I only competed for the team. This [2008] was the most important year [for me personally]. There were the Olympics and other competitions where I dreamed of being the best. I was fighting for myself."

Sandra Izbaşa is not a typical Romanian gymnast. Tall (1.64m - 5'5''), blond, expressive, and with an impressive beauty, the leader of the women's team always has a smile on her face. Serious and focused before every routine, she relaxes afterward, posing for the judges and the crowd.

"That's my way of thanking the crowd that has supported me. And my smile during my routines is, well, a bit more formal. But sometimes I'm so pleased with the music and what I'm doing out there that I just feel like smiling the whole time," she says with a smile.

(photo: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

With the floor exercise for which she received the Olympic gold, she demonstrated that dance and gymnastics make a great union.

The first fight: The European Championships in France

There weren't many gold medals for Romanian gymnastics in 2007. Instead, Nicolae Forminte's girls always seemed to place second. In addition, the team was "hit" by injuries.

"The Olympic year promised to be hard. There were many emotions and many expectations. Furthermore, I was also very frustrated, because I hadn't attained even half of my goals, and on top of that I was afraid. We couldn't afford to make a single mistake," confesses Sandra.

Thousands of hours of training, endless repetitions, corrections and the same thing all over again. The first test of the year 2008: The European Championships in Clermont-Ferrand. The first casualty: Cerasela Pătraşcu. "It was terrible. I saw how angry she was that she couldn't help the team. When I left the room to go to the competition, I said to her: 'Cera, I promise you that the gold will be ours.' Afterward it all went as if I'd been unleashed," Sandra remembers. It was Romania's first European title in its new formation. In 2006 the team had only won silver. It was the beginning of April.

Olympic gold = perfection in sport

Sunday, August 17th. A very emotional day for Sandra. "I hadn't qualified for the beam final. I was sad about that, and at the same time I was afraid because I only had a single shot left at an Olympic title. I couldn't afford to make any mistakes," she relates.

The floor final was marked by many mistakes, until Sandra stepped on the floor.

(photo: AFP/Getty)

"I couldn't believe I was there on that floor. I was so nervous my legs were trembling. Mr. Forminte encouraged me, telling me that he believed I could do it and that now was the time to show everyone what I was made of."

Her first four passes were perfect. Then came the last one.

"On your first few passes, you do everything on auto-pilot. You think: 'Now comes this, then that, then that.' But on your final pass, you're confronted with yourself. I heard the crowd applaud, I felt Mr. Forminte restlessly pacing back and forth, and I kept repeating to myself: 'I have to stick the landing.' I knew that I'd win if I had a perfect landing," she said, reliving the moment.

And she did stick the landing. She went straight to the highest step of the podium, the only female European gymnast to win an Olympic title in Beijing. The title belonged to Sandra and to Romania.

(photo: Harry How/Getty Images)

"It was a year with many good aspects: my strong comeback after my foot injury, our winning the team gold at the Europeans, the fact that we stayed on the podium at the Olympics, and my Olympic gold on floor," Sandra said, reviewing the year. "And that which didn't work out this year will certainly work out next year..."

She is not at all thinking of retirement. She still has battles to fight and goals to attain, the most important one of which is the world title. "That's still missing from my prize list. I want to get everything I can get on floor," she stated.


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