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Romanians storm to victory in gymnastics

Pritha Sarkar | August 18, 2004 09:41 IST

Romania underlined their superiority over the rest of the field by storming to the women's gymnastics team gold at the Olympic Games on Tuesday.

The Romanian teen brigade stole the spotlight from experienced rivals the United States and Russia to retain the title they won four years ago with a score of 114.283.

The Americans had to settle for silver with 113.584.

Romania's Catalina Ponor performs on the balance beam during the artistic gymnastics women's team final.The presence of double Olympic champions Svetlana Khorkina and Elena Zamolodchikova could not prevent Russia from suffering their worst showing in an Olympic gymnastics team event as they finished third.

With an average age of just 17, the Romanians constantly impressed the judges with an array of dazzling and daring displays on all four apparatus.

From the moment Daniela Sofronie, Catalina Ponor and Monica Rosu nailed their double-twisting Yurchenko vaults to open Romania's account, there was no stopping them.

"All of Romania had been waiting for this," said Andreea Raducan, a member of the winning team at Sydney in 2000.

"People didn't know what to expect as they are so young and don't have a senior member to look up to but they proved they can do well themselves. It is a great night."


Twenty-four hours after their male counterparts had lost their grip on the title in the final rotation with a fall from the horizontal bar, Ponor and company kept their wits to ensure they would not suffer the same fate.

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Even when the United States soared into the lead with a flying display on the asymmetric bars -- traditionally the Romanians weakest apparatus -- Octavian Belu's charges retaliated by displaying sublime balancing skills on the four inch beam to regain top spot as they went into the final round.

With all of their closest rivals having competed before them, the Romanians knew the score to beat as they took to the floor exercise.

All-round hopeful Sofronie and Oana Ban kept their end of the deal with performances full of drama and intrigue and it was left to Ponor to complete the memorable night.

The moment Ponor landed her final double back somersault layout, the Romanians went into a celebratory huddle as they anxiously stared at the scoreboard to confirm their victory.

As Ponor's score flashed up on the screen, the teenagers erupted into loud celebrations before blowing kisses to all corners of the arena.

"It's a big satisfaction to win a second time just four years later and with a completely different team," said Belu.

"These children now have a medal and they worked very hard."

Blonde pin-up Khorkina had looked well below her best during the training session just before the start of the competition and things did not improve much during the final.

She overstepped on her vault and she appeared to be equally frustrated following her sub-standard routine on the asymmetric bars.

The temperamental Khorkina finally lit up the Olympic Indoor Hall with a beaming smile following her balance beam routine but she failed to win over the judges, who awarded her 9.437 much to the disappointment of a hissing crowd.

China turned in the most disappointing show of the night as they failed to live up to expectations on both of their signature apparatus -- the bars and beam.

Fan Ye made an unglamorous landing on her bottom from the asymmetric bars while team mate Li Ya was left distraught after slipping off the beam. China finished seventh.

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