“I didn’t want to regret not trying, so I said I would try first and see what would happen.
Nadia supports me emotionally; any support from her is welcome.
My dream is to play the piano, I like it.”
Adevarul: You bravely decided to come back this year after a pretty long break, a tough decision to take. How much time did it take to get back in shape?
Catalina Ponor: One night. I think I thought overnight I wanted to go back to gymnastics. When something is good for me, I don’t take much time to think it through. I didn’t want to regret not trying, so I said I would try first and see what would happen. I came back determined to do a good job, make the Olympic team and compete at Worlds, Olympics etc.
You were a little disappointed by the Tokyo Worlds. Are you still determined to go to the Olympics?
I am a very strong person and I am able to get through any problem. It’s true that I was very disappointed by what happened there, both for the girls and for me personally. We, Mr. Bellu, Mrs. Mariana and I, are used to winning or at least being on the podium while at this Championship we came really close to the podium and this was disappointing, even discouraging. I am a strong person, I will get through any problem and as you can see I am here and I keep training, so I got over this too.
You said that during the World Championships Nadia encouraged and supported you. Did she also encourage you to keep training for the Olympics?
Always. Nadia supports me emotionally; any support from her is welcome. I know her advice is good and I try to follow it. She was there for me after Worlds, she told me that failures are meant to push you forward. The disappointment makes you think this is pointless, that you should not go on but Nadia, my family and my friends were there for me and encouraged me to go on. You go through all kinds of difficult moments in life but they help you go even further than before.
If you weren’t a gymnast, what would you have done?
I would probably have played the piano. I like it a lot but I don’t know how to play it very well. I tried to learn online but I don’t have the time. I’m sorry for that as I like instruments like the piano, the violin. I’ve never tried playing the violin, although I really like how it sounds. Maybe I will find a teacher in the future, just to satisfy my curiosity…
Gymnastics is a difficult sport for kids as they are separated from their family, trainings are hard, discipline is needed. What would you advise parents, should they take their kids to gymnastics if they had the qualities?
Yes, I would advise parents to take their kids to do sport. Not necessarily gymnastics, it’s not mandatory for them to become gymnasts. It’s true that we need kids to come to the gyms right now but the most important thing is for parents to take their kids to do some sport, to move. Sitting in front of the TV or PC all day is not good if you want to be healthy, even if we are talking about just running in the street. If the child has the necessary qualities for gymnastics, please take him there. We don’t have kids anymore, maybe because it’s a difficult sport which requires sacrifices to be made. But if the child really wants it, like I wanted it – my parents had a hard time with me as I really wanted to do this – then let him follow his dream, see if he can do this or not.
Do you think Romania could stop making the podium in the future because of this reason?
I don’t even want to think about it. I have a positive attitude and I believe coaches support kids and they both want to reach the highest level. Ambition, strength and a desire to make it are decisive in whether that child can become an Olympic or World Champion.
You know that sport is optional in schools, what would you have to say to the Minister of Education on this?
The only thing I have to say is that this is stupid. You cannot eliminate sport at school; there are many kids that don’t even know how to run properly. They need to learn how to move, how to develop these qualities. We need these kids, Romania needs these kids.
Lately kids are also starting to have more and more weight problems…
And this is the main reason, they are not moving. They sit in front of the TV and the PC all day, eat at fast food restaurants…
You were born in 1987, one of the first generations to start school after 1990 in Constanta.
I was too young, I don’t remember much. My parents took me to school and I was amazed by the number of kids and parents and a little bit scared about how they would receive me there.
Did you cry on the first day?
No, I didn’t. I was used to being away from home and my parents. I started gymnastics when I was 4 so at 7 I was used to groups, friends…I’m not the type of person who cries a lot.
How did you combine training with school?
It was pretty difficult as I wasn’t used to doing both, but I liked school. I was anxious to go there, meet my colleagues and be with them.
Were they impressed with your gymnastics skills?
Yes, they could not wait for class so that we could show them some skills. They also wanted to do the elements, but they were not so good at it. We always told them they were doing great though…
Did you even run into the senior gymnasts when training?
It’s true it did not happen very often, but I ran into Simona Amanar when she was working with Mr. Forminte at the club. I was impressed by her and I wanted to be able to do the same and be as well known as she was back then.
Is there any teacher you particularly remember?
All our teachers were always there for us. They always understood and respected us, they wanted us to make it.
Were there any particular courses you liked at school?
I liked Romanian, History, Biology but I never liked Math, just Geometry a little bit…
Any particular year at school that you remember fondly?
I don’t know, I remember fondly the first years at school. It’s true that, as gymnasts,you couldn’t enjoy them entirely but we did the best we could. This period of time, up to college because then we didn’t have as much time as before, was really nice and I will definitely remember it.
I suppose you went to ANEFS (The National Academy of Physical Education and Sport). What did you major in?
Elite gymnastics. My master degree was on the same.
Are there any other sports you like?
Tennis, handball, there are a couple. If I hadn’t been an elite gymnast, I would have tried all of them. I love dancing, Rhythmic gymnastics…
Will you do this for your kids then?
Yes, of course.
Carmen Constantin for Adevarul, original interview here.
Translated by: RomanianGymnasticsFans