February 4, 2009

Steliana Nistor: "Right Now I Can Barely Lift a Cup of Water to My Mouth"

A few days ago the Romanian online magazine VIP posted a story on Steliana Nistor in which the former Romanian national champion once again complains about her injuries (click here for an earlier interview in which Nistor mentions her problems) and the fact that the powers that be are doing nothing to help her. According to the VIP interview, Steliana's back is a "complete wreck" and her hand has been diagnosed with necrosis, an affliction which will sound awfully familiar to those of you who have been following our updates on Jade Barbosa. Perhaps Steliana should give Jade a call one of these days, to compare notes...

Anyhow, we are not familiar with VIP Magazine, but they seem to have done their homework in this case, talking not just to Steliana, but asking her former coach Raluca Bugner, national team coach Nicolae Forminte, former national team coach Octavian Belu, FRG President Adrian Stoica, and the doctor treating Steliana, Cătălin Cîrstoiu, to comment on the case. Nobody seems willing to accept the blame for the unpleasant situation in which Steliana currently finds herself, and Steliana herself doesn't seem to know what she wants or needs; all she knows is that she's in pain and needs money. Here's the story...

(Photo: Iris van den Broek/Gymnasticsphotography)

European Champion Steliana Nistor Does Not Have Enough Money to Get Treatment in Canada

The case of European gymnastics champion Steliana Nistor, who prematurely retired from competitive gymnastics due to recurring pain in her left hand and back, made waves at the end of last year. At age 19, Steliana left the training center at Deva and went home, to Sibiu, where she is a first-year student at the Faculty of Physical Education. Initially, Steliana did not want to quit the sport; she just wanted to take a break. Unfortunately her pain never disappeared, even when she stopped training and competing. It even got worse. At present, Steliana can only just support herself.

"Mr. Belu and Mrs. Bitang helped me to get a checkup at the Academic Medical Center in Bucharest, with Dr. Cătălin Cîrstoiu, who diagnosed me with necrosis in the left hand. I can tell you the pain is still there. Right now I can barely lift a cup of water to my mouth. No doctor has been able to give me a proper diagnosis of my backaches yet. They all said my back was a complete wreck! I still get physical therapy and kinetotherapy, but I can't say I'm noticing any results. Mr. Cîrstoiu promised to try and help me to go to Canada, but I'm not sure whether that would be for treatment or for surgery. Unfortunately, I don't have any money, because I'm not receiving any wages from anyone. I tried to be a fitness trainer for a while, but I wasn't up to it. Mr. Topescu [a famous Romanian sports commentator] promised he'd help me get a job as a gymnastics commentator for TVR, when my former teammates are competing in Romania," confessed a sad Steliana.

She is waiting for help from the Romanian Gymnastics Federation
Since she doesn't have the funds required for treatment abroad (she can barely even support herself in daily life), Steliana has decided to ask for her dues. "I can't and won't recover at my own expense. I worked hard for Romania and to have some meaning in my life, not to get treatment. But many people have already forgotten about me. The normal thing to do would be for the Romanian Gymnastics Federation to help me, but nobody is asking after my health anymore. I tried to ask Mr. Adrian Stoica, the President of the Federation, for help. He seemed happy that I had called him and told me to wait... I asked him to help me earn some money by commentating gymnastics competions on TV. Since then I haven't heard from him..." said the former athlete.

(Photo: Reuters)

Doctors blame repetitive trauma
With regard to Steliana's case, Dr. Cătălin Cîrstoiu told us [VIP Magazine]: "As with other sports champions, this is a case of repetitive trauma injuries. She was a competitive athlete at a very high level, and all high-performance athletes suffer from this problem. From my point of view, until she leaves for Canada (if indeed she does), she would probably benefit from conservative treatment, as she is still a young girl. I can't say yet how much her trip to Canada would cost, because Steliana hasn't even decided yet whether she wishes to undergo surgery or just to have treatment."

Adrian Stoica: "We will study the case"
The President of the Romanian Gymnastics Federation, Adrian Stoica, seemed surprised when our magazine [VIP] contacted him. "I should tell you that I'm currently at a judging course in Doha, Qatar, and I have no idea what's going on in Romania. Until just now, I didn't know anything about Steliana's problems. Color me surprised... It's true, I did talk to her about the possibility of commentating gymnastics competitions on TV, but that was all I did. Right now I can't say anything about money for potential treatment. I'll study the case. Right now I can't deliver a verdict!" Mr. Stoica declared.

Repetitive strain, the key to the problem
Regarding the causes of Steliana Nistor's problems, Octavian Belu explained: "This is an occupational disease. Tennis players often get epicondylitis [tennis elbow]; gymnasts get problems in their joints. Over time, the joints get worn down, even if you try to keep the problem under control by bringing in the latest equipment, etc. Some athletes experience such problems when are in their thirties or forties, others earlier than that. As a sport, gymnastics barely even makes the top-10 of dangerous sports; boxing, skiing, ice hockey and contact sports are more dangerous. Someone recently told me that soccer players are more prone to broken bones than K1 fighters. Anyhow, elite athletes all have [health] problems afterward, but some are stronger than others," said Octavian Belu in conclusion.

(Photo: Reuters)

Belu urges prudence
The [former] head of the National Sports Agency, Octavian Belu, recommends prudence before the former gymnast decides to go to Canada. "First of all, we should check whether there isn't some hospital closer to Romania, in Hungary or Slovenia. The problem is that many athletes have gone abroad without recommendations from Romanian doctors, and their treatment didn't sort any effect. Marian Drăgulescu also went far away to have kinetotherapy, and he still messed up at the Olympics. If it's necessary, we will help her with everything, from our own pockets. There is no clause for this in the ANS's budget. Neither the Federation nor anyone else can make public funds available, but organizing TV appeals or enlisting the help of business people who want to help out financially might be a solution," said Belu.

Nicolae Forminte: "Steliana was in pain when she joined the national team"
As for us [VIP Magazine], we have tried to find out when the health problems troubling the European champion began. Nicolae Forminte, the coach of the national women's gymnastics team, told us: "Steliana never had any injuries in Deva, not while training with me. In 2000, when I was coaching the juniors at Oneşti, she was healthy when I left the place. In the meantime, she trained there [in Oneşti] under several coaches, so I don't know if she ever had a serious injury, and if so, when. What is certain is that she was complaining of backaches by the time she came to Deva. And just a short while ago, when I last spoke to her, she told me her back wasn't hurting too badly anymore and the main problem was her hand. While she was training at Deva, she never told me her hand was hurting. But be that how it may, our door will always remain open for her, whenever she needs help."

The champion's first coach says accusingly: "The problems with her hand started in Deva!"
Coach Raluca Bugner is the one who discovered Steliana Nistor when the future national team member was only six years old. Accompanied by Raluca Bugner, Steliana later trained at Oneşti and won three titles at the Junior Europeans. After that she went to Deva. When we asked her about this subject and told her that Nicolae Forminte denies that Steliana sustained a hand injury in Deva, Mrs. Bugner fulminated: "He's blaming others! The problems with the hand started at Deva and Mr. Forminte knows it. Prior to that Steliana never had any [hand] injuries. As for her backaches, I myself went to Germany with her for treatment back in 2005. I was always worried about her when I coached her, and I believe Steliana's problem was caused by repetitive strain."

To be continued, we expect.

The troublesome left hand (photo: VIP)


  1. I think injuries and diseases are having a good year. They're always in the spotlight. As for the gymnasts with the injuries and diseases, they're definitely not having a good year.

  2. The Romanian Gymnastics Federation seems awfully fond of recruiting girls from impoverished families, making them work their tooshies off, providing them with just enough to give them an incentive to keep going (e.g. college education), and otherwise ignoring their pleas when they retire.

    It sounds like this is what's going on in Stela's case. I remember reading an article after her retirement saying that she really didn't have any choice but to stay with gymnastics because she wouldn't have even graduated from school otherwise. Now that's she done being of use for the Romanian Gymnastics Federation, she's ignored. Poor girl. I hope she manages to recover, somehow.

    Anyway, it's ridiculous that the Romanian coaches lament that Romanian girls don't want to be like Nadia anymore when there are all these horror stories are going around!

  3. What also worries me is that these girls are used to training with such an incredibly high level of pain as part of their every day experience, they have no idea how much damage they are doing in the long term. I am sure they are encouraged by everyone around them just to suck it up.
    I really hope something can be done to help Steliana. She seemed to be so well loved over there, that there is a chance someone might come through with some finance for her treatment. I really hope so,

  4. Nistor should come to america. There are a lot of coaching opportunities here.

  5. I'm sitting here shaking my head. WHY am I not surprised? The RGF chews these kids and spits them out when they can't use them anymore-and as Muffy said-they then wonder why parents won't let their kids do gymnastics. Adrian Stoica doesn't give a flying (censored) about Stelu or any other ROM gymnast-and neither does Belu. They're only in gymnastics to line their own pockets and to hell with the girls.
    And then they wonder why the rest of the gymnastics world hates them. Gee, could THEIR BEHAVIOR have something to do with it?
    Poor Stelu-I hope she gets the help she needs, and soon.

  6. Is there anything we can do for Stela? Like donate money?

  7. Poor kid, I hope someone helps her and that all the finger pointing will stop. It's just silly I don't think Stela cares who's 'fault' it is - she just wants help.

    Its really awful these coaches how they sort of force them to 'suck it up' when half the coaches and the federation people etc don't live with the pain their athletes do.

  8. I can't believe they would do this to one of the best gymnasts that they've ever had! I was shocked in the U.S. if a coach did that he'd be under arrest. Is there anything that can be done?

  9. Dear Gym Girls,

    How do you get so many articles about gymnasts??
    How old are you all anyway?? Are you working or just a student? Don't be worried Steliana, I still remembered you since the Olympics eventhough I'm not from Romania.. Hope we can chat and keep in touch Gym Girls. Bye

  10. This is awful.The poor girl is crying out for help but no one seems to care.Why hasn't anyone set up a fundraiser or given donations.

  11. did she ever receive treatment??