Steliana Nistor at 19

Tomorrow Steliana (or Stela to the loved ones), will be turning 19 years old. We took this opportunity to remember the beautiful (and most painful) moments in the career of this valuable gymnast, who, quite a few times, went the extra mile to help the national team enter the qualification rounds and step on the beloved podium. 

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Steliana Nistor is undoubtedly the most complete Romanian gymnast at present. The world’s all-around silver medalist in 2007, Steliana Nistor is a unique presence in the history pages of Romanian gymnastics, well renowned for her difficult exercise in uneven bars. It is well known that Romania hasn’t excelled at this event in the past 20 years; few gymnasts managed to truly master this event. Steliana, however is one of them. Moreover, she is the gymnast that busted the ‘myth’ around junior champion gymnasts who have not managed to establish themselves as senior ones as well.

Steliana’s first appearance that drew the attention to her potential was at the National Championship in 2002 in Sibiu -the year in which the Olympic champion Andreea Raducan retired. It can be said that in that gymnastics hall in Sibiu, Steliana’s home town, the key of success had been passed from a veteran on to a new hope in Romanian gymnastics.

2003 was Steliana’s debut on the international stage. Only a junior at the time, she impressed the whole world, and her successes followed without delay. One of the most important moments in her career were the 2004 Junior European Championship in Amsterdam when Steliana became the all-around European champion.  The Dutch audience and specialists were impressed by the tiny gymnast’s performance, who managed to get higher points than gymnasts participating in similar finals for seniors, who in their turn were to fight for Olympic medals a few months later. Stela also won the silver medal in the vault competition and the gold medal in the floor one, defeating her team colleague, the future Olympic champion at this event, Sandra Izbasa. Furthermore, that year, she won all the titles at stake during the Nationals. We can therefore conclude that 2004 was very successful year for Steliana.

In the following period, Steliana had however also bad luck. Unfortunately, she suffered an injury that kept her out of the gymnastics arena for almost a year. Nobody believed that she would manage to rebecome the gymnast she was in 2004; however, determination, ambition and hard work helped her return to practice and to, step by step, make up for the lost time, which, it is well- known, counts a lot in gymnastics.

Stela reentered competitions in 2006. The first important one was the 2006 European Championship in Volos, where she only performed for uneven bars. Although it was only one event, it was obvious how much progress she had booked and how much she once again wanted to reach the highest place on the podium. Only half a year later, Steliana was competing on 4 events, her uneven bars exercise was improved and by the end of the World Championship in Aarhus, Denmark, she had ended the competition 4th in individual all-round; an extremely good achievement for a gymnast who had returned to normal practice only a few months before. 

Steliana didn’t stop here however. She wanted to become one of the world’s top 3 gymnasts. Every competition, her uneven bars exercise became more and more difficult; she would show a new element every time or she would make the transition from one bar to the other more and more difficult, therefore turning into an important candidate for the podium during the 2007 European Championship in Amsterdam. She managed to become vice-champion in uneven bars, an event where Romania was considered weak in the past 20 years. She also earned the bronze medal in the beam competition, another strong event for Steliana.

At the 2007 World Championship in September (Stuttgart, Germany), Steliana saw most of her dreams come true. She had managed to step on the most important podium for a gymnast- the individual all-around one. Entering the competition last, Stela managed to focus and perform the cleanest floor routine in her career until that time and thus earn the silver medal. She also received a silver medal in the beam competition, where she defeated the 2004 Olympic champion, Catalina Ponor, who had returned to gymnastics a few months before the competition.

2008 started for Steliana with small health problems. Back and knee pains didn’t allow her to practice how she wanted. However, nothing could keep her away from her dream, joining the Olympic Games in Beijing. Right before the European Championship in France, Steliana was stating in a sports publication “I’d rather get tired practicing than feeling pain”. Despite her problems, she became European champion with her team as well as defended her silver medal in uneven bars, proving once more that she was a talented gymnast as well as a leader of Romania’s current team. Steliana also gained the highest total points for the 4 events and would have made a real chance to the European gold medal; however, individual all-around was not part of this competition.

The Olympic Games in Beijing followed, the most important competition in any gymnast’s life. However, bad luck followed her here as well. The back pains became a real problem, Stela had to take anti-inflammatory injections in her back to allow her to compete further. She managed with the other girls to earn the bronze medal for Romania, a ‘golden’ bronze for true supporters of this sport. Moreover, the 5th place in the individual all-round, after an extremely difficult competition and practically without fault from her opponents, is an extraordinary achievement considering that Steliana was running her third day with injections and great pains. Congratulations, Steliana! You are a true champion!!

Now, before 15 September (her birthday), Stela finds herself at a crossroads… she will have to choose the way ahead- will she continue practicing with the other girls or will she retire? We, the fans, would of course wish she would continue, as she is, as already mentioned before, the most complete gymnast in the Romanian team and without a doubt the most valuable one in uneven bars. However, keeping her health problems in mind, which she has been fighting for years now, we cannot help but thinking that leading a normal teenage student life may be the best thing for her at the moment. Whatever her decision may be, we would like her to know that we support her either way and that we wish her all the best!

Haide Stela!!!…only you know if you can still do this!!! 

Ioanavol and Mikeyy

(many thanks to Stella for the help)

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