|Catalina Ponor, three-time gold medalist at the 2004 Olympics, will begin training again with Romania's senior national team beginning Friday.
Three-time Olympic champion Catalina Ponor will begin training again with the Romanian national team starting Friday, a sports newspaper reported Monday.
Ponor, 23, spoke with team coaches Octavian Bellu and Mariana Bitang in December about coming back after a three-year retirement, "Gazeta Sporturilor" reported.
"I gave her a period of four months to get back to physical shape," Bitang told the newspaper. "Catalina has complied and is now one of the contenders for a spot on the national team."
Ponor made her major international debut at the 2003 Worlds in Anaheim, winning silver medals with the team, on the balance beam and floor exercise. At the Olympic Games the following summer in Athens, she upgraded each to gold.
Bellu and Bitang retired from the national team before the 2005 Worlds, but Ponor continued competing under new head coach Nicolae Forminte. She won the bronze on balance beam at the 2005 Worlds and the gold medal on beam at the 2006 Europeans. She retired briefly, skipping the 2006 Worlds, but returned to help Romania place third at the 2007 Worlds.
Ponor retired again in December 2007 because of ongoing injuries, including problems with her knee.
In June, Bellu and Bitang returned to the helm of the Romanian squad. The team — based for years at Deva — now trains at the Izvorani Olympic Center, 15 minutes outside Bucharest.
Ponor, who turns 24 in August, will be forced to give up her monthly pension by returning to active competition. Each month she receives 6,000 lei, or approximately $2,000, because of her Olympic success. Instead, as a member of the national team, she will receive a monthly stipend of 1,000 lei, or approximately $350.
"It's unreasonable for the compensation to be less than a pension. Athletes are not encouraged to do sports, but to leave sports," Bitang said.
External Link: Video clip with Ponor, Bellu interviews