No end in sight for Ponor's addiction

A winner of three gold medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics, Ponor quit the sport in December 2007 and again following the 2012 London Games.While her first hiatus lasted almost 3-1/2 years, her second retirement was shorter and she was back in the gym training for the Rio Olympics following a 2-1/2 year break.

At a training session in the Rio Olympic Arena on Thursday, Ponor showed off her gravity-defying skills and showed she was not in Rio to simply make up the numbers.   -  Reuters

Catalina Ponor has made several attempts to give up her addiction but, no matter how hard the Romanian tries, she cannot cope with the withdrawal symptoms of life without gymnastics.

A winner of three gold medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics, Ponor quit the sport in December 2007 and again following the 2012 London Games.

While her first hiatus lasted almost 3-1/2 years, her second retirement was shorter and she was back in the gym training for the Rio Olympics following a 2-1/2 year break.

“Gymnastics for me is like a drug, when you go to rehab and you finish and after that you want it again,” said Ponor, who will celebrate her 29th birthday during the Olympics.

“It (gymnastics) is my family, I grew up with this. I've been at training camps all my life... and it's pretty hard after you leave gymnastics to just stay home and to not see your team mates or coaches.

“I missed gymnastics too, to be in a competition, to feel the emotions.”

For a woman who thrives when surrounded by her team mates, Ponor has to get used to going it alone in Rio because for the first time since 1968 Romania failed to make the team final.

DOOMED OUTING

A doomed outing at last year's world championships, when Romania placed 13th, and a poor showing in April's Rio test event have left Ponor as the country’s only representative.

It is a setback for a country which won a team medal at every Olympics since 1976, including gold in 1984, 2000 and 2004.

“I have been in two Olympics (in 2004 and 2012) with a team and I miss my team mates being here to enjoy the Olympic experience,” said Ponor, who was sidelined for last year's world championships after surgery on an injured Achilles.

“But at the same time it took a little pressure off my shoulders because I don't have to carry a team.

“If I make mistakes by myself then it's on my hands. If I don't do anything it's my fault.”

Having lost count of how many injuries she has suffered in her career, she was simply delighted to make it to Rio.

“After the surgery I had to try to get back into shape in five months,” said Ponor, who has never left an Olympics without a medal.

“It was a difficult time because I was thinking: 'I'm 29 years old and this is the end of the line for me'. I couldn't walk very well or go up on my toes, so it was pretty hard.”

However, at a training session in the Rio Olympic Arena on Thursday, Ponor showed off her gravity-defying skills and showed she was not in Rio to simply make up the numbers.