Sandra Raluca Izbaşa (born June 18, 1990 in Bucharest, Romania) is a retired Romanian artistic gymnast. Her best event is the floor exercise in which she is an Olympic champion and a three-time European Champion. She is also Olympic Champion and a multi-European Champion on vault. She also won medals on balance beam, vault, all around, and with the team. Among her many medals, 27 were at Olympic Games, World Championships or European Championships.
Early Gymnastics Career
Izbasa began gymnastics in 1994 at the CSS Steaua Bucharest club, after trying out tennis and fencing. In 2002 she joined the Romanian national gymnastics team. At the 2004 Junior European Championships, Izbaşa placed sixth in the all-around event. She also won a silver medal on the floor final event; her compatriot Steliana Nistor won the gold. One year later, at the 2005 Japan Junior International meet, she won the gold medals on the floor and vault.
In 2006, her first year competing as a senior, Izbaşa won the all-around, floor and vault titles at the Romanian International Championships. She followed up her domestic success with her senior international debut at the World Cup final in Lyon, France, where she won the bronze medal on the balance beam and the silver on the floor. At the 2006 European Championships in Volos, Greece, Izbaşa was a member of the silver-medal-winning Romanian team, as well as winning the gold medal on the floor exercise and the bronze medal on the balance beam.
These successes secured her a place in the national team competing for the 2006 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Aarhus, Denmark. According to the team's coach Nicolae Forminte, the 2006 team was Romania's most unexperienced generation since the time of Nadia Comăneci. From all the team members only Floarea Leonida had the experience of a world championship. In Aarhus, the Romanian team placed 4th in the team competition, the first time since 1981 that the Romanian team failed to medal at a world championship. Izbaşa was the only gymnast of the Romanian team to medal at this competition, she won the bronze medal in the all-around event and the silver medal on the beam. She also placed 8th in the vault final, and fifth on the floor. During the floor exercise final, she stepped out of bounds on her first tumbling pass.
In 2007, she competed at several world cup competitions. At the 2007 European Championships, Amsterdam, The Netherlands she qualified in the all around, vault, beam, and floor finals. She won the silver medal in the all-around event, behind Vanessa Ferrari and placed eight in the vault final. She injured her ankle on the dismount of her event final beam routine, but she managed to win the silver medal. Due to the injury she did not compete in the floor event final. She had only four months to recover from this injury before the 2007 World Championships. At this competition she won the bronze medal with the team and she placed 9th in the all-around and 8th on the floor event final.
2008 and the Olympics
2008 was a very successful year for Izbaşa. Having recovered from her injury, she competed at the 2008 European Championships in Clermond-Ferrand, France. At that competition she won the team gold medal, the gold on the floor, and the silver medal on the beam. In the same year she was together with Steliana Nistor, Anamaria Tămârjan, Gabriela Drăgoi, Andreea Grigore, and Andreea Acatrinei, a member of the Romanian team at the 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing, China. Here she helped the team to win the bronze medal by competing in three events: vault (15.100), balance beam (15.600) and floor (15.550). Individually she won the gold medal on floor (15.650) ahead of Shawn Johnson (15.500) and Nastia Liukin (15.425) and placed eight in the all around final. Following her Olympic success she competed in various competitions and exhibitions. She won the Arthur Gander Memorial, she paired with Flavius Koczi for the second place at Swiss Cup, and she won gold on floor and silver on beam at Toyota Cup and at the Italian Grand Prix. Her last 2008 competition was the World Cup in Madrid where she won the bronze medal on floor and placed fourth on balance beam.
She was on the cover of the April 2009 number of International Gymnast Magazine that celebrated her Olympic achievements. In February, Izbaşa headlined the 1st Nadia Comăneci International Invitational (Oklahoma, USA). Here she won the all around senior title with the competition’s highest marks on vault, floor and beam and the team gold medal (with Daniela Druncea). Struggling with injuries to both legs Izbaşa was below her usual standard at both the Jesolo Trophy and the 2009 European Championships. At the Europeans she qualified second on floor but failed to qualify on beam. In the floor finals she placed a disappointing seventh after an incomplete landing on her triple twist dismount, which the judges credited as a 21⁄2 twist. Since she already had performed a 21⁄2 twist in her third pass, the final pass was given no credit. In the summer of 2009 she focused on the National exams which she successfully passed with an average of 9.71 (out of maximum 10). After the exams she enrolled herself as a student at the Faculty of Sports and Physical Education of the Babeş-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca. Izbaşa planned to compete at the 2009 World Championships but, unfortunately in September just before the Romanian Nationals she suffered a torn Achilles' tendon and a hand injury. She was replaced in London by the alternate Gabriela Drăgoi.
After being sidelined for almost one year she managed to make a successful comeback under the coaching of Octavian Bellu and Mariana Bitang who returned guiding the Romanian team in June 2010. Her first international competition of that year was in September at the Gent World Cup where she won gold on floor exercise. In October she led her team in the qualifications for the 2010 World Championships. Here, she helped her team qualify in the fourth place by scoring the highest marks among her teammates on vault and floor and the second mark on beam. Individually, she qualified in the third place on the floor final behind Aliya Mustafina and Ksenia Afanasyeva. Although she was a favorite medal contender in the floor finals she placed seventh after receiving a 0.8 points deduction for landing and stepping out of bounds. Her last 2010 competitions were the Gander Memorial (silver all around) and the Swiss Cup pair event (fourth with Flavius Koczi).
At the Paris World Cup in March 2011 she debuted a new floor routine with which she won the gold medal ahead of teammate Diana Chelaru and Anna Dementyeva. In April, she repeated the success on floor at the 2011 European Championships topping Diana Chelaru and Yulia Belokobylskaya for her third European title on this event. Additionally, she won the gold in the vault final and placed eleventh in the qualifications for beam. This competition marked the comeback of Izbasa as a contender in the vault final after a break of four years. Moreover, the European vault medal was her first medal on this event at a major international competition. Besides vault, in 2011 she also managed to make a comeback on uneven bars after a break of more than two years. Unfortunately, two months before the 2011 World Championships she was bothered by foot pain. Thus, she skipped the Romanian National Championships and competed only on vault and uneven bars at a friendly meed in Great Britain. She did not manage to recover in time for the World Championships and her coaches decided to pull her out from the team.
Izbasa was named to the Romanian team for the European Championships in May. She only contributed on vault, but helped win Romania the team gold. She also took gold on vault. In July, Izbasa competed at the Romanian International Friendly. She won a gold medal with the team and placed second in the all-around behind compatriot Larisa Iordache. She was named to the Romanian team for the Olympics.
During qualifications, Izbasa performed very well, qualifying second to both the floor exercise and vault finals. She also qualified tenth to the all-around. During the team final, Izbasa continued to only compete on vault and floor exercise. She posted the second highest score on floor (15.200). Her performances helped Romania win the bronze behind the United States and Russia. In the all-around, Izbasa posted iffy scores on balance beam and uneven bars. However, she posted very good scores on vault and floor exercise to finish fifth in the all-around.
In the vault event final, Izbasa went up eighth. Her first vault scored a 15.383 and her second scored a 15.191. She won the gold ahead of USA's McKayla Maroney and Russia's Maria Paseka.
In the floor exercise event final, Izbasa went up last. She was reigning Olympic Champion on floor, and while she had three superb tumbling passes, sadly she fell on her fourth. She finished eighth.
Her success at the London Olympic Games caused Team Romania to choose her as flagbearer.
Izbasa continued to compete after the Olympics. At the end of March, she was named to the Romanian team for the European Championships, but withdrew from the competition to prepare for her Bachelor's degree. She was also considering taking a break from training, but was aiming to compete at Worlds for Team Romania.
Izbasa made her 2013 competitive debut at the Turnen Dames Interland in August, an international friendly meet in the Netherlands. There she only compete floor exercise, winning silver behind teammate Diana Bulimar. Izbasa went on to compete at the Romanian Nationals, still only competing floor, but this time won the gold medal with an upgraded routine, and a bronze medal with her team.
Izbasa competed in the fifth subdivision of qualifications at the World Championships. She qualified for the floor exercise final in second place. In the final, she competed sixth. She performed well until she fell on her last pass, like she did in the Olympics. She scored 13.733 and finished seventh. She maintained a cheery disposition after her routine, smiling and waving to the crowd and cameras.
After the World Championships, Izbasa performed at the Mexican Gymnastics Gala on October 26th. She retired shortly afterwards.
2013 - "Feeling Good" by Escala