New interview with Nicolae Forminte: Nistor was more talented than Liukin
In the interview, Forminte talks about the Romanians’ performance in Beijing and their hopes for 2009, and also has some very kind words for Steliana Nistor.
Of the Romanians’ performance in Beijing, Forminte says that Nistor and Ana Maria Tamirjan didn’t really finalize their routines until Beijing, where they did a lot of last-minute training. Moreover, Gabriela Dragoi was suffering from leg pain. This left Forminte with only one team member fully able to contribute: Sandra Izbasa. No wonder she was the only one to win gold.
On the other hand, Forminte is not disappointed in his team’s performance:
I believed in myself and in my colleagues, and I managed to fulfill our objectives. I was tremendously happy that the team remained on the Olympic podium.
Forminte also says that he didn’t really publicize news of Nistor’s back problems before the 2008 Olympics (among other things) because he didn’t want to use it as an excuse for the Romanians’ performance.
You’ll recall that when she first retired, Forminte tried to convince Nistor not to, but he now says that he wasn’t sure she could continue, concluding that, “For me, the gymnastics chapter of Steliana’s life has ended, but we remain in contact.”
Because of her injury, Nistor was not able to train at the level of intensity that was necessary to achieve Forminte’s biggest goal for her: to win gold in the all-around. This is disappointing to Forminte especially because, he says, “She was more talented than the American [Nastia] Liukin.”
(That’s a difficult argument to make! But I’ll let people fight it out amongst themselves. Suffice it to say, Liukin does seem to have a lot more medals. … Then again, natural talent and hard work are too different things. Then again, Liukin’s entire DNA is a veritable vault of talent. Aaanyway.)
With Nistor gone, there is certainly an aura of stress surrounding Forminte. He talks about the difficulties the Romanians faced in the last quadrennium, saying that it did not go unnoticed by foreign coaches and others that he kept showing up to competitions with new gymnasts. He says that he has been anxious and unable to rest.
As for the looking to the past and hoping for the future, Forminte attributes the Romanian decline to two things: the Code of Points and the current Romanian system for training children and junior athletes. You’ll recall that Forminte said after the Olympics that under the old CoP, the Romanians would have won: they had the cleanest exercises. But, he acknowledges, it’s important to change with the times and address these issues, even citing a desire to improve on bars. (Thank god.)
For 2009, Forminte is looking at Izbasa, Tamirjan, Dargoi. He hopes to see Dragoi and Andreea Acatrinei back, but both are currently injured. He also mentions Diana Chelaru. Otherwise, he says, he has not yet found a junior with the talent to replace Nistor. (I assume Larisa Iordache doesn’t count because of her age.)
It’s going to be tough for the Romanians. Lots of problems on bars among juniors; I hope Forminte’s serious when he says he wants to work on that.
I respect Forminte. As Al Trautwig always used to say about Octavian Belu, the man lives in a one-room house adjacent to the gym compound. It’s a tough life. Also, if Izbasa is any reflection on him, he’s a good coach, I think. She’s been dealing with this ridiculous schedule really well, and dealt with her World Cup Final disappointment exceedingly gracefully. Anyway, as you can tell, I’m glad she’s still around. I really liked Nistor, but Izbasa’s my favorite current Romanian senior. (We’ll have to wait until 2012 (!) to see if Iordache can grab that spot.)