Catalina PONOR will join Doha Cup 2012
Catalina was THE star of the Olympic Games in Athens. She was the only gymnast there to win three Olympic titles – on Floor, Beam and Team. Hardly known until the end of 2003, she stormed onto the international stage to win the 2004 European titles on Floor and Beam in Amsterdam and then repeated her success in Athens. She is planning to improve her A. Bars routine, so that she can challenge for the world title. Steady, stylish and a very feminine gymnast – Catalina has all that the audience could wish for in Women’s Artistic Gymnastics. 2004 Glasgow Grand Prix and World Cup – Gold on Floor and Beam. Ghent World Cup- Gold on Floor and Beam.
On winning both Women’s Event Finals (Beam and Floor) held 23 August:
“I’m very happy for my medals. Today it was a dream that came true. I would like to thank my coaches for the courage they gave me during the competition, and for the preparation.”
On the competition:
“The atmosphere was wonderful, simply unique. Adding these two titles to the team’s gold is an amazing feeling. I was not afraid that I was going to lose the gold medal on Floor. I supported and cheered for my team-mate Daniela Sofronie (who earned the floor silver in Athens).”
On comparing her gold medals:
“When I won the gold medal on Balance Beam, I was very emotional. I had wished to win that medal forever. I became even more emotional when I won the gold medal on Floor Exercise, because it became a second gold medal, and a gold medal is very hard to get.”
On the progress she has made in international competition:
“I think I’m only at the beginning of my career, and I hope to continue as well as I have begun.”
On the Athens Olympic Games:
“Athens is a unique place for me and I hope to live the Athens experience once more in the future.”
Early career (2002–2004)In 2002 Ponor was selected to move to Deva, the location of the training facility for the Romanian National Gymnastics Team. National team coaches Octavian Belu and Mariana Bitang had discovered her while watching her train in Constanţa. Her first coaches, from “Farul” Sport Club, were Matei Stanei and Gabriela Dosoftei. The next year Ponor was selected for the team for the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Anaheim, U.S., where she won a silver medal with the Romanian team, as well as individual silver medals on balance beam and floor. In the European Championships, Catalina won the gold in the event final, while her teammate Alexandra Eremia won the silver.
In 2004, Ponor followed up her result at the World Championships with even higher finishes at the European Championships in Amsterdam. Ponor won three gold medals at the event: team, balance beam, and floor exercise.
2004 Summer OlympicsPonor later competed at the European Championships and captured three gold medals on the same events (team, balance beam and floor exercise). At the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, she won gold in every event she entered, unprecedented in Olympic gymnastics. She was part of an immensely successful Romanian women’s gymnastics team (four golds, one silver and one bronze in six events) that also included Oana Ban, Monica Roşu, Silvia Stroescu, Daniela Sofronie and Alexandra Eremia. Though the team members were less experienced than most of their rivals, the Romanians hit every routine to take the team gold by a comfortable margin. World champions USA were second, and the Russians, led by Svetlana Khorkina, took the bronze.
Ponor scored 9.787 to win beam, the highest women’s score of the entire Olympics, where she beat all-around champion Carly Patterson on her best apparatus. Her teammate Alexandra Eremia was third. Ponor followed this with a 9.750 to easily win floor, in a final where many gymnasts faltered. This performance earned her a place in the record books: no female gymnast had won three gold medals in the same Olympics since her compatriot Daniela Silivaş in 1988. Others to have achieved this honor include Nadia Comăneci, Ecaterina Szabo, Nelli Kim, Olga Korbut and Larisa Latynina.() Ponor was also the only gymnast in that Olympic Games to use the difficult full-in dismount from beam. Though once a reasonably common sight in the mid ’90s, it had virtually disappeared after the 2000 Olympics. Previously Ponor had dismounted with the more common double pike, but she upgraded for the Olympics.
Post-Athens (2004–2006)Following her Olympic success, Ponor competed in various exhibitions and in more minor competitions, such as the Glasgow Grand Prix. She crowned a successful year at the 2004 World Cup Final in Birmingham, where she won gold on beam and silver on floor. That year, Ponor remained undefeated on the beam in major competitions.
In August of that year, Ponor and teammates Florica Leonida and Alexandra Eremia left training camp and went to a party at a Bucharest night club. Consequently, the Romanian Gymnastics Federation opted to dissolve the team and sent Ponor and her teammates back to their home clubs to train. Ponor returned to her home club, “Farul” Constanţa, to train again with her first coaches, Matei Stanei and Gabriela Dosoftei.
However, 2005 also brought some triumphs. At the 2005 European Championships, Ponor again won the gold on the balance beam, easily beating the competition. With her new routine including two handstands, a double spin, and a tumbling line including five different skills landed perfectly. But the Olympic champion failed to medal on the floor, as she went out of bounds on one of her tumbling passes and finished in fourth place. Ponor was distraught at this and was seen crying afterwards.
In November 2005 at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Melbourne, Ponor was one of only two Romanian female gymnasts selected by the Romanian Gymnastics Federation to compete (the other being Florica Leonida). After an uncharacteristic wobble on the balance beam, Ponor took home only a bronze medal. She did not qualify to floor finals and did not compete on vault or bars.
The Romanian gymnastics team had a new coach for 2006, Nicolae Forminte. However, Ponor stated that she did not want to train with Forminte. Instead, she continued to train with Matei Stanei and Gabi Paun, only one of her coaches, before joining the Romanian National Team. Ponor competed at the European Championships that year. Additionally, she announced that she would retire after that competition, citing lingering knee problems as the reason that she could no longer continue in the sport. Despite her injury, she had managed some upgrades. In the beam final, she became the first gymnast ever to successfully perform a five-element tumbling series in a major competition, and in doing so retained her title. Ponor was the first athlete ever to win three consecutive European beam titles (the great Věra Čáslavská also won three, though not consecutively). She also showed a new floor routine, with unusual flexibility elements that she had not performed before, and more dance and musical interpretation than other gymnasts have typically shown under the new code—most now need to use four or five passes. The Romanians also took team silver, a remarkable comeback considering the state of the program only six months before, but a disappointment to them since the team would have won were it not for a fall on the last piece of apparatus.
Aborted Comeback (2007)Ponor resumed training with her coach, Matei Stanei, in 2007 after returning from Japan. Stanei has noted that Ponor is completely certain of her decision to return to gymnastics. When asked about Ponor’s decision to return to gymnastics, the Romanian gymnastics team’s coach Forminte commented: “She hasn’t trained with me for Euros and it’s not my problem. If she wants to return, very good. There will always be a place for another gymnast in Romania. Even though all the gymnasts who have recently retired would come back, there still wouldn’t be too many gymnasts in the country. At this moment however, I’m not the selector to say if she’s prepared or not to come back.”Ponor has expressed an interest in trying for the 2008 Olympic team, but after a bout of illness she was not present at the 2007 European Championships. Ponor has made significant advances on her marquee events, beam and floor. She competed in the 2007 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships (her first international competition since 2006 European Gymnastics Championships. In the team preliminaries, she competed on vault, beam and floor. She, along with compatriot Steliana Nistor, qualified for the balance beam event final in second place with a score of 16.250 just behind top qualifier Li Shanshan of China. In the team finals, she competed only on vault and beam. Her 15.000 score on vault was the highest score ever given to a 1.5 twisting Yurchenko in the new code of points. She and her teammates won the bronze, moving ahead of Russia after one of their gymnasts received a zero for running into the vault. She had the third score in the beam final, but the bronze medal was not awarded since two gymnasts (Steliana Nistor and Li Shanshan) tied for the silver medal. As of October 2007, Ponor resumed training in the national team led by Forminte. In December 2007, she announced her retirement from the sport.
Comeback (2011)In April 2011 Ponor resumed training with coaches Octavian Bellu and Mariana Bitang (who returned in 2010 as main coaches of the national Romanian team). Her first competition, after an absence of almost four years, was the Romanian National Championships in August. Here, she tied for gold on beam with Ana Porgras (the 2010 World champion on this event). She also won the gold on vault and the silver on floor.   Ponor made it to the final Romanian team that would go to the World Championships, however, Catalina did not achieve good results neither in the Beam nor on the Floor Exercices. In the qualifications, Catalina scored 15.166 on the Beam moving to the final at the 5th place, however in the final events due to a mistake made, she came in 7th place.