Remember Steliana Nistor? Of course you do. For a few years, she was Romania's most successful representative at international competitions, winning all-around medals as well as medals on several events, including (gasp!) bars. She retired after the Olympics at age 19 because she was suffering from several injuries, most notably bad backaches. For a few weeks after she announced her retirement, she was the center of attention. Then there was silence, until ProSport (who else) caught up with her and asked her a few questions about her new life. This is what Steliana told them.
After her retirement from competitive sports, 19-year-old Steliana Nistor went home, to Sibiu, to be close to her family. "She's dividing her time between college, her apartment, and her family. All I want for her is to be healthy and find some peace," Steliana Dovlecel, Steliana's mother, confessed. Stela, a double World silver medalist in 2007 and bronze medalist with the team in Beijing, told ProSport what her life is like these days, how she is going to spend her first family Christmas, and what operations she is going to undergo in the future.
Her life after gymnastics: "It's very different. You have a lot of freedom, in the sense that you know you don't have that strict a schedule. You have to learn how to manage your own time and life."
University: "I'm a freshman studying Physical Education and Sport in Sibiu. The courses are interesting. I try to attend all my classes, because I just love the atmosphere. I'm also doing some gymnastics here. Admittedly, not on the same level as before, but it works for me."
Her fellow students: "They received me with open arms. They didn't wait for me; they welcomed me [of their own accord]. They're great people. I've learned a lot from them."
Pastimes: "I still go out with my classmates. [Note: The Romanian says "colleagues," which could refer to either her classmates or her former teammates. We think she's talking about her classmates rather than her former teammates, as she uses the masculine version of the word rather than the feminine one she'd probably use if she were referring to her teammates, but we're not sure.] It was strange at first, because I had the feeling I didn't know how to behave or what to say, but now it's okay."
Fame: "When you're on the team and competing, everyone wants you. Afterward no one cares about you. During the first month after I'd retired, I still received a few phone calls. People were still interested in me. After that there was absolutely no sign of interest. Just quiet and people forgetting about me."
Bitang helps her
Her health: "My back still hurts. It's as painful now as it was when I was a gymnast. I also seem to have developed a problem with the joint of one of my hands. I now have a 'liquid fist.' Sometimes I can't even lift a pitcher of water."
Steliana wearing several braces that indicate the full extent of her injuries (photo: ProSport)
Surgery: "I'm currently awaiting an answer from Mrs. Mariana Bitang, who is helping me a lot. She's very supportive and she's told me she'll try to help me. I'll first undergo surgery on my hand next year, and after that we'll see what to do about my back."
The gym: "I can't tell you how much I miss the gym. I wish I could be there now, but I can't anymore. I miss the whole atmosphere and everything."
Competitions: "I watch competitions on TV and my heart breaks when I think that I too could have been there. But no matter how much I'd like to be there, I can't go on. My injuries just hurt too much."
Coaches: "I still talk to my coaches. I keep in touch with them because I know they helped me and I wouldn't have gotten anywhere without them. I greatly respect them and I'm grateful to them. So it seems normal to me that they should want to see how I'm doing."
She lives on her own
Family: "The best thing that has happened to me is that I've been reunited with my family. I'm closer to my dear family now, making up for all the years during which I was away from them."
Her own apartment: "It's all done up. I moved in 2 days ago. I've furnished it and decorated it. It was team work; my mother and I did it together. I love the way it has turned out."
Housekeeping: "It's a bit harder, living on your own, but I like it. I have responsibilities I've never had before. I love absolutely everything that's happening to me right now."
The holidays: "I'm celebrating Christmas with my family, in my apartment. It will be a kind of housewarming party, with my beloved family. I don't know what I'll be doing on New Year's Eve. I don't have any plans yet."
Steliana in her hometown, Sibiu (photo: Gazeta Sporturilor)
Our response? We're sorry to hear Steliana is still suffering the injuries that caused her to retire so early, but we're glad to hear that Mariana Bitang seems so supportive. That's wonderful news. We hope the operations will improve Steliana's quality of life.
We're also somewhat relieved to hear that Steliana does in fact miss gymnastics. We were a bit concerned when she said just after retiring that she didn't miss the sport at all, as if her heart hadn't been in it for the past 14 years or so. Turns out it was, and she does miss the sport. Phew.
All the best, Steliana. Rest assured you're not forgotten.