Catalina Ponor Floor 2004 Olympics Team Finals
It was one of the most decisive team victories in recent gymnastics history. Romania, the reigning Olympic champions who had been beaten by the USA at the 2003 world championships and were not necessarily favored for gold in Athens, peaked together beautifully for the Olympic team finals and delivered perhaps the most solid women’s team performance we had yet seen under the 3-up-3-count format. Even as a fan rooting heavily for the USA, I found myself quite moved by the genuine and well-deserved emotional celebration enjoyed by the entire Romanian delegation after this final routine. As they hugged one another and cried like a family, one could really feel what this team had been through together over the previous year to reach that level of perfection and confidence under Olympic pressure. They had just won their second straight Olympic team title, and no one in the world could argue that those gold medals belonged around their necks.
Ponor went on to sizzle in the event finals, winning two more decisive, indisputable gold medals on balance beam and floor exercise – both of which essentially define her career.
Catalina Ponor Beam 2004 Olympics Event Finals
Catalina Ponor Floor 2004 Olympics Event Finals
Remarkably, eight years later, Romania is undoubtedly thrilled to have Ponor back on their somewhat thinned out squad. Her comeback to the world championships in 2011 was one of the most impressive gymnastics comebacks of all-time, and we expect more shining moments from her in London this summer. Coming off a rare medal-less performance in Tokyo, the Romanians will be hungrier than ever to regain a spot on the Olympic podium. The recent retirement of star Ana Porgras will force the few contenders that remain to really pull together, dig deep, and somehow rediscover that magical unity that elevated this team to Olympic gold that night in Athens. They’ll likely have two Olympic veterans – Catalina Ponor and 2008 Olympic floor champion Sandra Izbasa – to help lead the way.