One of the very few ways in which present-day gymnastics is an improvement over 70s and 80s gymnastics is the way gymnasts stay in the sport forever. Once upon a time, female gymnasts were bumped from the team once they reached the venerable age of eighteen; their places were invariably taken by fourteen-year-olds. Not so anymore. These days, older gymnasts abound. Oksana Chusovitina is of course the most famous example of a gymnast who just refuses to give up, but there have been other notable gymnasts who defied age. Svetlana Boginskaya, Svetlana Khorkina, Lisa Skinner, and Annia Hatch all did it. And today, Ludmilla Ezhova, Elena Zamolodchikova, Monica Bergamelli, Suzanne Harmes, Daniele Hypolito, and Daiane dos Santos are giving it a good go.
Occasionally a former gymnast will attempt to make a comeback several years after retiring. It didn't really work for Kim Zmeskal and Dominique Moceanu, although both gave it a good try. However, it did work for Isabelle Severino, until a torn Achilles tendon tragically cut her career short.
Now former Romanian great Corina Ungureanu is having a go at it. Libertatea reports that elegant Ungureanu, a member of two victorious World Championships teams, 1998 European champion on floor (tied with Khorkina), and equally well known for taking her clothes off in front of a camera on a few occasions, is back on the apparatus.
Here's the Libertatea article...
Corina Ungureanu (photo: Gymbox)
After a nine-year break during which she posed for two adult magazines and tried to open a business [in this case, a coffee house] in Ploieşti [her hometown], former double world champion Corina Ungureanu would like to become a gymnast again.
28-year-old Corina Ungureanu, world champion with the Romanian team in 1997 and 1999, has moved to England, but not before having posed once more for [the Romanian edition of] Playboy [in March 2008].
"I think the shoot was extremely professional. But this will be the last time I've appeared in an adult magazine," Corina stated.
In September the former gymnast, who coaches a group of kids at the Ellan Vanyn club on the Isle of Man, thought it wouldn't be amiss for her to make a comeback in the sport.
"After you retire, you keep wishing you could make a comeback. [After I started training again] I was having a difficult time at first. I'm doing beam, floor, and bars, but not vault. On my first few days back in the gym, I thought I was going to die, but after that things began to get better. Two weeks ago I took part in a competition with gymnasts from many English clubs. I competed on floor and beam. To my delight, I managed to do the same floor exercise I did at the World Championships," said Ungureanu.
Speaking of her current "sentimental relations," Corina said she had nothing to hide. "I've been together with a guy whose parents were born in Germany and South-Africa, respectively, for four months now. I hope the relationship will last, because we really understand each other," Corina told us.
So there it is. Nine years after retiring from the sport, Corina says she's doing the same floor exercise she did at the World Championships. That's impressive, if it's true. We'd like to see that! That said, we doubt Corina will ever be on the Romanian team again. Even if she regains her old level and the current Romanian team continues to suffer bad injuries, the fact remains that her relationship with the Romanian Gymnastics Federation is acrimonious at best (or so at least it used to be, after her first forays into nude posing). But wouldn't it be great to see her perform again? Corina was a beautiful gymnast, one of the more graceful ones Romania had in the 90s. She could even somewhat swing bars, although her casts to handstands left a lot to be desired. With some added maturity, we'd definitely like to see her back on the stage.
A couple of Corina's old routines for the sake of nostalgia: