Sabina Cojocar: “I needed years to find myself again, to cope with the thought that I would not be doing gymnastics again” @ The Medal Factory – Ep. 12

[The Medal Factory – episode 12 (c) Digisport]


A new Romanian gymnastics star was born on October 23, 1985. Sabina Cojocar was born in Sibiu, the town where she had her first encounter with the sport. She was barely 4 years old when her parents decided to take her to the gym.

“I didn’t choose gymnastics, my parents did, especially my mum. There’s a special story related to this: I was 3 years and 8 months old, still at kindergarten, when my teacher said – please do something with this kid, she has too much energy and we can’t just chase her around. Send her to do gymnastics. – My mum thought I was too little, she didn’t know if they would have me, she thought about handball but I was too little for that too. She finally decided to bring me here, to do gymnastics. On the way, she asked me what I would do if they wouldn’t have me. I didn’t answer but, on the way to the gym, I kept thinking about it. When we got here – it was this same gym – the coach, Nicoleta Zaharia, asked me about my age. Then I remembered what my mum said and I replied – 5 years and that’s it. – I was 3 years and 8 months old and I said I was 5 for them to let me in.”

And they did let her into the gym, which became her second home. Sabina was fascinated with the world she discovered there. She was ambitious from an early age and never liked to leave anything unfinished. She won many medals based on work and talent.

“I won the first medals that really meant something to me at the Little Gymnast, a school competition. But before this one, I went to my first competition in Buz?u, where I fell twice on beam. This impacted me a lot, I didn’t know it then – but I do now – that I am a perfectionist and don’t like leaving things as they are. This motivated me a lot to win a number of medals at my next competition, which was an official one – Little Gymnast, where I won both first and second place. It is then when I started to like competing.”

Sabina didn’t fall in love with a certain apparatus, she first got attached to beam which became her biggest challenge but, having a strong personality, she wanted to express it through the floor choreography. For a gymnast to be considered complete, she must have good routines on all apparatus and this was also Sabina’s goal.

“I had times when I liked an apparatus better than another one. Then I changed my preference. I remember that when I started to compete, I really liked beam. I can’t explain exactly why, maybe because it was a challenge for me. Everyone wonders how you can stay on those 10 cm but for me finishing my routines on those 10 cm was a challenge, I liked it. When I became a senior, I started liking floor because besides the acrobatic elements, we had dance and artistic elements where I could express my character and personality better. I can’t say I ever liked bars, I did it because I had to. To be a real gymnast, you need to train four apparatus, not only three, two or one of them. Vault I liked, but not especially.

I generally was happy to go to the gym, but there were times when I lacked motivation, I wasn’t into it. I got over them, either my parents motivated me or my coaches did and the good times came back again. I think every athlete gets bored sometimes and they need to reinvent themselves, to find their motivation again and this is a time that makes a difference: some retire and others go on.”

Reporter: “The viewers have sent us a lot of mails because they have been watching “The Medal Factory” and because you have many fans which have a lot of questions. They don’t know you as you are, they have seen you in competitions but they don’t know what is happening in the background. You seemed a withdrawn girl, the poetic, classical kind, but gymnastics requires an active and dynamic personality. Were you a little bit of both?

Sabina Cojocar: Hm….I don’t know if I can portray myself very well, you should ask the ones around me….I am both, depending on the people around me. In competition, I was withdrawn, yes. I was scared of the nerves I had and I became superstitious. I know now it was not good, but there were things that made me so and this also made me nervous. After a while I learned to use these nerves as an impulse, as something that gave me the strength to execute my routines. I don’t know then if I am a bit of both, I think I need to find balance in everything I do.

Reporter: An athlete must learn to lose as well. You didn’t lose to lack of qualities or to your competitors, but you lost the fight with your health. Injuries are dangerous and can send to waste years of work and an entire career. How much did this affect you?

Sabina Cojocar: A lot. It took years to accept it, I saw it as a defeat. I needed years to find myself again, to cope with the thought that I would not be doing gymnastics again.

It was very difficult and hard to accept that she needed to rethink her life, she had numerous questions. And this still hurts Sabina today….

Sabina Cojocar: I had a very hard time accepting it and I could not find anything to cling to and move on. I needed 4 or 5 years just to accept the idea, I didn’t say it started to become logic or not hurt….I started accepting and living with it.

Reporter: You’re not completely at peace with it, not even today….

Sabina Cojocar: There is something deep inside that will always love gymnastics, will cry for it. But it’s no longer something that stops everything else, I have to get over it and find other things I can be passionate about. We can’t look back, we must look forward and take things as they are. If we can change them, then great, we have to work on that but if we can’t, we have to leave them behind.

Reporter: You like listening to people, interacting with them, you are very open. Have you thought about doing something with this, being the best in psychology? If it wasn’t to be in gymnastics, what other area would interest you?

Sabina Cojocar: I haven’t set a goal for being the best at something, but I like psychology. I like listening to people, understand them, see beyond what they say, understand the motivation of their actions. I haven’t studied it but I went to some Christian counseling classes which is a first step. I’ll think about studying psychology in the future but this would be my third major and I’ m not sure what direction my life is heading in.

Reporter: Are you connected with what is going on at Izvorani or is it still a delicate topic?

Sabina Cojocar: Because of the health issues that led to my retirement and because I was not able to accept this for a long time, I lost all connection with gymnastics. I couldn’t watch my colleagues compete on TV, I couldn’t go to competitions, I basically didn’t want to hear about it…It was that hurtful. But once years went by, I started accepting it and I got close to gymnastics again. In October last year I started coaching 2 groups of kids here at the club.

Reporter: How old are they? Could you tell us more about them?

Sabina Cojocar: I’m coaching a group of beginners between 3 and a half and 6 and another one of advanced gymnasts between the ages of 6 and 9.

Reporter: What is the difference between gymnastics nowadays and when you were doing it? Are you a tough coach?

Sabina Cojocar: I don’t know if I can call myself tough…Again, it’s better to let those who work with me talk about this. I can say I am strict, I take things seriously as I have a big responsibility. Kids who really want to do this must understand that you can get to a high level only if you are focused and serious about it.

Sabina has always admired the gymnasts who’ve fought for Romania’s success but she hasn’t chosen any role model. She always wanted to create a strong character for herself.

Sabina Cojocar: When I was little, I got a Nadia Com?neci book. I was as enthusiastic about the phenomenon Nadia was as everyone else. My coach reminded me that I used to bring that book to the gym. Years passed, people wondered who my role model was, I didn’t really understand why they had to ask me this but I answered I liked Nadia, Simona Amanar because they had made it. But I wasn’t motivated by them, I wanted to discover myself, to be my own role model. I didn’t believe I needed a model, I looked to finding my own personality.

Reporter: They say that the Moldavian region is the capital of Romanian gymnastics. How would you promote gymnastics in Sibiu, are you doing something to raise the level here, to battle it out with the Moldavian clubs?

Sabina Cojocar: I haven’t thought about how I would promote this. I think I’m already doing it by coaching here, I love the kids and I want to transmit them my way of feeling about gymnastics, regardless of their own motivation. Maybe one of the girls doesn’t want to be a World Champion, maybe she only wants to learn new elements, to get over her fear. This is ok with me, I’m only interested in sharing what I know.

Sabina has different hobbies: she has learned to play guitar, she is a jewelry designer and she loves animals.

Sabina Cojocar: While I was doing gymnastics, I didn’t have much time for hobbies. I liked to sew and draw but I’m not very good at it. After I retired, I took up guitar lessons, I started singing and designing jewelry.

Reporter: And a big animal lover.

Sabina Cojocar: And a big animal lover….I never imagined I’d love playing volleyball as I’m afraid of any sport which involves a ball. A friend of mine is teaching me to play basketball. I also go rollerskating and I love going out with friends.

Reporter: Now that you’ve started designing jewelry, are there any gymnast figures in there? Maybe the viewers would like to buy some….

Sabina Cojocar: It’s very difficult for me to create that because I work with very small balls and I need to saw them together. I’m not at that level yet, but who knows, maybe in the future I will be able to create a gymnast out of small balls.

Reporter: How much time do you dedicate to music?

Sabina Cojocar: I sing or try to learn something on guitar every day.

Reporter: Have you thought about going to festivals or having your own concert?

Sabina Cojocar: No, I’m not thinking about it. People ask me about an album, but I’m currently only “training”. When I will be ready to “compete”, I’ll probably do it.

Reporter: Bucharest football teams like Rapid or Dinamo have an anthem, gymnastics doesn’t. Have you thought about making one for the girls? Maybe they’d be amused or inspired by it in competition.

Sabina Cojocar: It’s a good idea, sounds really interesting. I’ll give it a thought.

Reporter: Only a couple of months left before Worlds, maybe this would bring the girls good luck in competition…

Sabina Cojocar: I will think about it and if I do it, I’ll definitely make it public for our girls.

Reporter: A message for “The Medal Factory” viewers who’ve admired you?

Sabina Cojocar: I thank them for supporting me when I was a gymnast, I thank those that still support me in what I am doing now and inspire me to go on, to discover myself. Thank you!



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