Three-time Olympic champion Cătălina Ponor will carry the flag for the Romanian delegation at the Opening Ceremonies at the 2016 Olympic Games, it was announced Wednesday.
Cătălina Ponor (Romania) at the 2016 European Championships
The Romanian Olympic Committee's Executive Committee voted for Ponor over fellow gymnast Marian Drăgulescu, tennis player Simona Halep, handballer Cristina Neagu and sport shooter Alin Moldoveanu.
"Given that Cătălina Ponor was the proposal of the Romanian Gymnastics Federation, she has been voted as the flagbearer for Romania," said Alin Petrache, president of the Romanian Olympic Committee. "Cătălina Ponor is a great gymnast and the athlete with the most Olympic medals of this delegation."
At last weekend's Romanian championships in Cluj, Ponor won balance beam and floor exercise. Two-time world all-around medalist Larisa Iordache won the all-around title, but is not yet 100 percent after undergoing two hand surgeries this spring. She withdrew from the floor exercise finals in Cluj because of back pain.
The Romanian Gymnastics Federation has yet to formally announce whether it will be Ponor or Iordache who will compete in Rio as the sole representative for the Romanian women, but previously stated the selection will come after two more competitions in the coming weeks.
Ponor won three gold medals at the 2004 Olympic Games (team, balance beam and floor exercise), and two medals in 2012 (bronze with the team and silver on floor exercise). She was the only medalist for the Romanian women at the recent senior European championships, winning bronze medals on balance beam and floor exercise.
Ponor, who turns 29 on August 20, will be the first gymnast to carry the flag for Romania at the Olympic Opening Ceremonies.
Decimated by injuries and retirements, the Romanian women failed to qualify a full team to the 2016 Olympic Games for the first time since 1968. The team won a medal in every Olympic Games from 1976 to 2012, a streak unmatched by any other team in gymnastics.
Update: Following the announcement by the Romanian Olympic Committee, the Romanian Gymnastics Federation confirmed that Ponor has been chosen to compete at the 2016 Olympic Games. However, the Romanian Olympic Committee agreed to also send Iordache to Rio with her coach, in an alternate capacity. The federation released the following statement:
"After recent training and developments at the national championships, it was observed that the gymnast Cătălina Ponor is more advanced than Larisa Iordache as far as preparation, which is why the Romanian Gymnastics Federation agreed with the decision (by the Romanian Olympic Committee in favor of Ponor), and the ruling was discussed and accepted by the two gymnasts. However, to avoid any unforeseen situation, it was decided that Larisa Iordache should also make the trip to Rio, along with a coach, and the Olympic committee supported this idea."
External Link: Romanian Gymnastics Federation