Olympic champion Catalina Ponor and world champion Marian Dragulescu are set to return to competition this weekend at the Romanian national championships in Onesti.
World balance beam champion Ana Porgras
The competition begins Friday at the Nadia Comaneci Hall in Onesti, with the women's team and individual all-around. Men's team and all-around takes place Saturday, and apparatus finals are Sunday.
The 24-year-old Ponor, who won three gold medals at the 2004 Olympics, began her comeback in late 2010 after a three-year retirement. Dragulescu, 30, has skipped the 2011 season thus far.
Several top names will be on the sidelines to avoid aggravating injuries before October's world championships. Olympic and European champion Sandra Izbasa, nursing a sore Achilles' tendon, will sit out the competition, as will 2010 world floor exercise runner-up Diana Chelaru. Junior standout Larisa Iordache also will skip the meet.
"Despite the absence of a few gymnasts for medical reasons, we expect great presentations and quality," said Anca Grigoras, Brevet judge and federation spokeswoman. "All the gymnasts, coaches and clubs are all very involved, because the responsibilities and demands are high with the upcoming world championships in Tokyo and, of course, the Olympics next year in London."
Reigning world balance beam champion Ana Porgras will try to reassert her gold-medal form after a disappointing European championships in Berlin. Daniela Andrei, Diana Bulimar, Gabriela Dragoi, Raluca Haidu, Amelia Racea and Diana Trenca are expected to contend for spots on Romania's world team.
The Romanian men's squad has been training in Onesti since returning from the University Games in Shenzhen, where European floor exercise champion Flavius Koczi won floor and vault and Marius Berbecar won the silver on parallel bars.
"We will stay [in Onesti] for our upcoming tri-meet with Germany and Switzerland in early September, after which we will return to Bucharest continue preparations for the world championships in Japanese capital," men's head coach Ioan Suciu said. "Obviously the national championships are very important and seen as a test for worlds, where we have a very difficult mission to accomplish and where we'll be in top form."
The Romanian championships also includes female guests competitors from Great Britain — including Olympians Hannah Whelan and Imogen Cairns — as well as male gymnasts from Puerto Rico and Turkey.
External Link: Romanian Gymnastics Federation