July 2012 –Catalina Ponor came back to represent her county, Romania, at the 2012 Olympic Games. In 2004 she was part of the gold medal winning Romanian team, and went on to win two further gold medals in apparatus finals, on beam and floor. She then retired and missed the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, so her comeback is all the more remarkable considering her long absence from the sport. I caught up with her in London before the competition began, and asked her a few questions.
“Gymnastics is like a drug for me”
Tell me about your return to the Olympics, having competed in 2004 but not in 2008 – what inspired you to do it?
I retired in 2007 and came back in 2011. I missed everything about gymnastics – competing, training, camps. Gymnastics is like a drug for me.
What did you do during your retirement?
I started coaching in America for eight or nine months. First I was in New York, then Los Angeles.
What made you decide to return to Romania?
The decision happened overnight. I just woke up one morning and thought, I have to go back. It was like a revelation.
How difficult was it to return to full-time training?
I thought it would be very hard for me to get back in shape. It would be hard for me to get into a new team. I wanted to have a good comeback. It was my dream to do a second Olympics.
What do you feel your prospects are for these Olympics:
I’m very proud because I got over the pain, the sacrifice. I’m very happy I could help this team. I would like to do the same as in the Europeans (Romania won the team event in May). Why not? But it will be very hard.
After the Olympics, where would you most like to be?
On holiday somewhere hot, on a beach. I love hot weather!
Catalina went on to take a bronze medal with her team in at the 2012 London Olympics, and a silver on the floor exercise. She continued competing for Romania until the 2017 European championships in her home country, where she won the gold medal on beam.