These gymnasts were a member of the Romanian gold medal-winning team at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
About the Team
Romanian head coach Octavian Bellu had said he had only two years to build his team for Athens instead of four. There were no veterans from Sydney on the team. The gymnasts with the most experience were Silvia Stroescu, whose international debut was at the 2001 World Championships, and Oana Ban, who won a silver medal on balance beam at the 2002 World Championships. Ban also competed at the 2003 World Championships along with Monica Roşu, Alexandra Eremia, and Cătălina Ponor, where the Romanian team won silver in the team final. Nicoleta Daniela Şofronie was an alternate to that team. At the 2004 European Championships, Şofronie placed second in the all-around, Roşu won the vault, and Ponor won the beam and floor event finals.
Romania performed superbly in the preliminary round. They were in the same subdivision as the United States, their biggest rivals. Ban competed on all four events, and qualified to the all-around and floor exercise finals. Şofronie competed on all four events, and qualified to the all-around and uneven bars finals. Roşu competed on vault, bars, and floor, and qualified to the vault final. Eremia competed on bars, beam, and floor, and qualified to the balance beam final. Ponor competed on vault, beam, and floor, and qualified to the balance beam and floor exercise finals. Stroescu competed on vault, bars, and beam, but did not make any event finals. The Romanians qualified to the team final in first place.
Romania was in the same rotational group as the United States, Russia, and China. They went up on vault second. Şofronie and Ponor's double twisting Yurchenko vaults scored in the 9.400 range, but Roşu's double twisting Tsukahara scored a 9.625. Romania finished the first rotation in first place.
Uneven bars is the Romanian's weak spot. Ban scored a 9.187, Roşu a 9.387, and Şofronie a 9.562. Despite the low scores, the Romanians didn't have any major or minor mistakes, they just didn't have a lot of difficulty in their routines. The Americans were better on the uneven bars and took the lead away from the Romanians, although not by much, as they had a mistake from one gymnast.
Balance beam has always been Romania's best apparatus. Ban went up first and scored a 9.512. Eremia went up next and scored a 9.687. Ponor had a very difficult routine that scored a 9.762 and brought the Romanians back up to first place.
The Romanians went up last on floor exercise with a comfortable lead. Şofronie went up first and performed wonderfully, scoring a 9.562. Ban had a fun, energetic routine that scored a 9.437, after she underrotated her last pass. With the way the Romanians were scoring, Ponor could make a major mistake and the Romanians would still win. Ponor scored a 9.750 and won the Romanians their third Olympic team gold medal.
After the Team Final
Ban had originally qualified to the all-around, but when she underrotated her last pass on floor in the team final, she sustained an ankle injury and could not compete. The Romanians were left with Şofronie, as no other Romanian gymnast competed the all-around in preliminaries. Şofronie had a good competition for the first two rotations, entering the third rotation in second place. However, she faltered on balance beam and floor exercise. She finished fifth. USA's Carly Patterson won the gold, Russia's Svetlana Khorkina won the silver, and China's Zhang Nan won the bronze.In the vault final, Roşu went up fourth. Her double twisting Tsukahara scored a 9.575 and her 2½ twisting Yurchenko scored a 9.737. She averaged out to a 9.656 and won the gold over USA's Annia Hatch and Russia's Anna Pavlova. In the uneven bars final, Şofronie went up second. She had an error on one of her pirouettes on the low bar, which resulted in a score of 9.462. She finished sixth. France's Emilie Le Pennec won the gold and USA's Terin Humphrey and Courtney Kupets won silver and bronze, respectively. In the balance beam final, Eremia performed second. She had a very clean routine and scored a 9.700. Ponor performed fifth. She scored a 9.787, one of the highest recorded scores of the Olympics. She won the gold, while Eremia won the bronze behind USA's Carly Patterson. In the floor exercise final, Ponor performed fourth. She scored a 9.750, the same score she received in the team final. Ban was replaced by Şofronie, who performed last. She, like Ponor, received the same score she did in the team final, 9.562. Ponor won the gold and Sofronie won the silver over Spain's Patricia Moreno.
The Romanians left the Olympics with six medals, four gold, one silver, and one bronze.
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