Thursday, 20 June 2013

Then and Now: Sandra Izbasa (ROM)

Sandra Izbasa is a Romanian gymnast who celebrated her 23rd birthday earlier this week. She is a double Olympic Champion (floor in 2008 and vault in 2012), and has been one of Romania's great leaders and stars through a difficult period in Romanian gymnastics. She made her senior debut in 2006, where she placed third in the all-around and second in the beam final at the World Championships
A very young Sandra in 2006 (credit: Tom Theobald)

In 2007, Izbasa and team mate Steliana Nistor lead the Romanian team to third place in the team competition at the World Championships, helping them to gain momentum heading into the Olympic year. She qualified to the floor final at this competition, but finished in 8th position.

Nistor and Izbasa were close team mates (credit: Tom Theobald)

At the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Romania relied heavily upon Sandra's performances on beam, floor and vault, where she scored over 15 on all of those events. In a tight finish, the consistent Romanians beat Russia out for 3rd place. Sandra went on to win the floor final with a fantastic performance to a great piece of music. The tumbling is absolutely excellent, and is definitely one of the best routines of the decade.

Sandra's gold medal routine in Beijing

Izbasa's beam routine from the team finals

Sandra returned to gymnastics in 2009 only to tear her achilles tendon, whilst tumbling in the second half of the year. She returned to competition a year later, and came back strong, winning floor at a World Cup Event in Ghent.

A very blonde Izbasa in 2010 (Brigid McCarthy TGC)

Izbasa became the European floor and vault champion in 2011, extremely impressive results for someone making a comeback after tearing an achilles tendon. However, an injured foot meant that she was not able to compete at the 2011 World Championships, which damaged the team's chances of earning a medal.

At the London Olympics in 2012, a healthy Izbasa suprised everyone by her amazing performance in the all-around competition. Great performances everywhere from the veteran (even on bars, by far her weakest event) meant that she finished in 5th place- an amazing achievement for a gymnast at her second Olympic Games! She and her coaches must have worked extremely hard to produce this result and should be commended. Team Romania finished in 3rd position, edging out China for a medal. Sandra qualified to both the floor and vault finals, and managed to win the vault after McKayla Maroney fell on her second vault. A mistake in the floor final meant that Izbasa could not defend her Olympic title on floor. It's a huge shame that she wasn't able to pull the same one out that she did in team finals!

Sandra in the all-around final in London

Sandra with her gold medal in London

Sandra has had a long and successful gymnastics career. She has been a great leader and anchor for the Romanian team for six years. After the Olympics she took some time off an enjoyed the benefits of being an Olympic champion and a national hero. Much to the joy of her fans around the world, she has committed to training for the 2013 World Championships in Antwerp. Her maturity and experience will greatly help the younger up-and-coming gymnasts such as Ocolisan, Jurca, Munteanu and Tudorache. I'm sure that Bulimar and Iordache will benefit from her leadership as well! We wish Sandra the best of luck with her gymnastics this year, and hope that she decides to continue on in 2014!

 Sandra and Catalina lead younger gymnasts Larisa Iordache, Raluca Haidu and Diana Bulimar to victory at the 2012 European Championships

Article by Imogen Browne (Follow this blog on Twitter at @Iflip4gymblog)

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