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Iordache: 'I Didn't Choose Gymnastics - It Chose Me'
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Romanian star Larisa Iordache, who won two silver medals at the recent world championships in Nanning, is looking ahead to next year's world championships in Glasgow and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Iordache hopes mental toughness will help her in her quest for gold in the next two years.

"In order to be the best, you have to be fearless because of course fear creeps in – everybody has them – but you have to love what you do very much in order to overcome those fears," she said.


Iorache during podium training in Nanning

Iordache began gymnastics at age 5, as many Romanian gymnasts do. She was spotted by the woman who eventually became her first coach, Mariana Campeanu-Silisteanu, while chasing after her brother.

"I think she noticed the speed and the energy and that impressed her," she told CNN's "Human to Hero" series. "I didn't choose gymnastics – it chose me. It just happened. I am very glad to have got so far."

Iordache joined the prestigious CSS Dinamo Club in Bucharest at age 5 and eventually became a member of the junior national team at age 10. It was about this time Iordache realized how important gymnastics was to her.

"It was a new path I had to try out and try to go all the way to the end, trusting myself as much as I could," she said. "I loved being watched by people. It's so important, when you've been working hard, to be able to show what you've worked for daily."

Iordache became a competitor at the senior level in 2012. After participating in a few World Cup Series events, Iordache competed at the 2012 European Championships in Brussels, Belgium. She won gold medals in the team competition and on the floor exercise and also finished with the silver medal on balance beam.

However, an untimely foot injury inhibited her performance at the 2012 London Olympic Games. Although she helped her team win the bronze medal, individually, Larisa finished ninth in the all-around and sixth in the balance beam final.

In 2013, she won five medals at the European Championships in Moscow, including the balance beam gold. A nagging back injury kept her out of training prior to that year's world championships in Antwerp, where she won only a bronze medal in the floor exercise final. At this year's Europeans in Sofia, she won gold medals in the team and floor exercise events, a silver on balance beam, and a bronze on vault.

The 2014 World Championships in Nanning were bittersweet for Iordache and the entire Romanian team. In the qualification rounds, Romania placed a dismal seventh place in the team standings. However, Iordache qualified third to the all-around final behind defending champion Simone Biles and world and Olympic champion Aliya Mustafina. She also qualified second in the individual event finals of both the balance beam and floor exercise, but was the only Romanian in the apparatus finals. Benefiting from the three-up, three-count format, Romania rallied in the team final but placed fourth, just tenths behind the bronze medal-winning team from Russia.

Individually, Iordache won silver medals in both the all-around and on floor behind Biles. Though Biles annihilated the competition in the qualifying rounds, Iordache closed the gap in the all-around final finishing by less than .5 out of first place. This was the first time a Romanian woman had finished in the medals in an all-around at the world championships since Steliana Nistor won the silver medal in 2007.

Iordache defines gymnastics as a "beautiful story that encompasses in all domains an elegance and attention that you have to display when working on the apparatuses, the determination you need to show on each, the pleasure as well."

Romania has had many gymnastics icons and role models over the years for its younger gymnasts to try and emulate, but it is no secret as to whom Iordache admires the most.

"My favorite gymnast was and still is Nadia Comaneci – the world's best gymnast," Iordache said. "Of course I appreciate and respect the others because they've contributed something to gymnastics, and they make me determined to become like them – and I am now trying to do better than them."

Read more about Iordache's performance at the 2014 World Championships in the November 2014 (world championships special issue) of International Gymnast magazine. To take advantage of the limited-time special discounted subscription rate for digital and/or print editions of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

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