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Maaranen to Miss Olympic Games
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Annamari Maaranen

Finland's Annamari Maaranen said she is as disappointed for her country as for herself after doctors determined she is not ready to compete in the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing.

Maaranen, a member of the University of Denver gymnastics team, suffered a torn ACL and meniscus while competing in a collegiate meet in January. She was hoping to compete uneven bars in Beijing, but the Finnish Olympic Committee informed her Monday that it would not send her, per doctor recommendation.

Maaranen qualified to compete as an individual in Beijing at the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart. She said she feels some satisfaction that she did earn the right to compete in the Olympic Games, but is mostly disappointed.

"It was a big thing for Finnish gymnastics to finally, after 44 years, get someone to the Olympics," she said. "I feel almost more sad that I cannot represent Finland in the Olympics than feel sad for myself."

After her injury, the 21-year-old Maaranen immediately began the recovery process to return in time for Beijing.

"We started the rehab two days from surgery and I spent almost three hours at the training room every single day during the first couple months," said Maaranen, whose Denver teammate Jessica López will represent Venezuela in Beijing. "When I started to do more stuff like strength and walking exercises, I was allowed to do those at gym while other girls were practicing. When I was allowed to start doing bars we worked very hard in order to get my routine ready."

Despite her disappointment, Maaranen said she feels the doctor for the Finnish Olympic Committee made the correct assessment.

"It is not fair, but I still think they made a right decision," she said. "My knee is not ready and I know it and I am afraid of hurting it again. I did feel prepared to compete on bars, but I haven't done dismounts on hard surfaces yet. It was possible to do it, but it did hurt a lot. And I know that if they let me compete I could have done it."

In line to take Maaranen's place in Beijing is Luiza Galiulina, 16, of Uzbekistan.

Maaranen is one of three 2008 Olympic qualifiers to withdraw from Beijing because their national Olympic committees declined to send them. Israel's Vered Finkel was replaced by Slovaka's Ivana Kovacova, and Sweden's Veronica Wagner was replaced by Slovenia's Adela Sajn.


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