Ponor back after eight-year itch
By Pritha Sarkar
LONDON (Reuters) - After struggling with withdrawal symptoms for the past eight years, three-times Olympic gymnastics champion Catalina Ponor will refuel her addiction by making a comeback at the London Games.
"Catalina realised she cannot live without gymnastics. At one point she said to me ‘it's like a drug for me that I can't live without'," Romanian great Nadia Comaneci told Reuters in a telephone interview from Oklahoma.
"If you had told someone a few years ago that Catalina is coming back after not competing for eight years, you'd say that's not possible. Because in gymnastics even a month or a year is a long time," added Comaneci, who has been a guiding force in Ponor's comeback.
Ever since a 14-year-old Comaneci mesmerized the world by floating over and under the asymmetric bars to land the first perfect 10 during the 1976 Montreal Olympics, the sport had become the domain of waif-like Nadia clones from all over the world.
Ponor, now 24, never fitted into the normal gymnastics mould.
While most future Olympians subject their bodies to a relentless training regime from the ages of four or five, Ponor was not even spotted as a future global champion until she was 15.
She was plucked out of Constanta in 2002, rather than Deva or Onesti - the hotbeds of Romania's women gymnasts - by national team coaches Octavian Belu and Mariana Bitang.
As a late bloomer in a sport where young girls end up drawing pensions from their sporting federations by the time they hit their late teens, Ponor knew she had a very small window of opportunity to make her mark on the world stage. Continued...