Sandra Izbasa, the only European Olympic Champion at the last edition of the Games, comes from a sport where 18-19 year olds are considered “old” and life in a training camp and the actual trainings that used to measure days between competitions are just a memory.
In exactly 1 year, Sandra wants to defend the Olympic title on floor she won in Beijing. She will be 22 years old - she was born on the 18th of June, 1990 - and will set a new record for Romanian gymnastics: she will be the oldest Romanian to compete at the Olympics and the 6th in the select club of gymnasts who’ve made two Olympic Games after Nadia Comăneci, Cristina Grigoraș, Lavinia Miloșovici, Gina Gogean and Simona Amânar.
ProSport visited Sandra at Izvorani, on a normal summer day. This year’s European Champion talked about how it feels to be “old” at 21, what motivates her to compete in London and the surprise she is preparing for this fall’s Tokyo Worlds.How is Sandra at 21?
Coming of age in the US (laughs). There’s no difference, it’s the same at 20, 19, maybe a bit more mature. I don’t think I’m old for gymnastics, on the contrary. This is when a gymnast becomes mature in the way she thinks, in the skills she does. You get to do more routines, you surpass the learning stage and you perfect the skills.How do you balance your training schedule with the temptations typical for this age?
I’ve gotten used to this life, it’s not a problem for me. After 8 years in a training camp, do you think one year or two more make a big difference? Besides, it’s not as strict as it seems.You will be 22 in London...
I probably won’t even be thinking about it. It doesn’t matter how old you are, but rather how well you hold up, if you can handle the coaches’ requirements, if you are well prepared physically. You can do gymnastics at 30, it’s in your hands, it all depends on your fighting spirit and ambition.You already won gold at the Olympics, are you motivated enough to win a second one?
Yes, the more gold, the better (laughs). Of course this is what I want, this is why I’m in the gym, I dream about this. I’m training thinking about London, I want to be there and defend my Beijing title. When you want to be the best, you can always find motivation.After 3 years and an important injury, what did it mean for you to be on the podium this year?
Work, desire, satisfaction after a lot of work and some joy.Why some? You won two gold medals after all...
I’m not saying the European medals are not important, I worked for them and I won them fairly, but I’m hoping for more, World and Olympic gold.Will you keep the “Tango Amore” song with which you won gold?
Yes, this will actually be the only thing that stays.What do you mean? What will be new at Worlds?
Everything. From beam, floor, vault and...Will you be doing parallel bars?
We’ll see. What I can now say is that you’ll see a totally new Sandra Izbasa. I haven’t showed everything I can in competition and I want to bring a surprise in Tokyo.Is there anything your coaches keep telling you?
(laughs) “Calm down, Sandra!”, because I have a lot of energy in competition.Do you have a favorite medal?
The Olympic one in Beijing because of its value and the two medals at this year’s Euros because I never thought I would come back and they gave me the impulse to dream of more.What was the worst moment you’ve gone through?
Not winning a medal at the 2010 WC, when I stepped out on floor. This was when I told myself there was no point in continuing with gymnastics.Do you remember the last compliment someone made you?
At Europeans, after winning gold on vault many people said: “Wow, we didn’t think you’d come back like this and that you’d go so far on vault!”How did you achieve this?
Thanks to Mr. Bellu and Mrs. Mariana, who believed I could do this. Honestly, I can still hardly believe it because I know that when I say I won’t vault, then I won’t. They told me: “Let’s try, let’s see what comes out of this!” And now I’m working on improving my second vault!!What do you expect from the Tokyo Worlds?
To have a strong team in the first place that can take us on the podium, although I would dare to say I want to be first, to win gold with the team. I hope I’m not asking too much….And for the apparatus finals, be as it may! Those who will control their nerves will win, those who won’t will have to try again!
Source: Prosport, Translated by Romanian Gymnastics Fans>