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Romania Claims Women's Gymnastics Team Title at Athens Olympics
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Gymnastics powerhouse Romania took the women's team gold at the Athens Olympics here on Tuesday with 114.283 points.

Catalina Ponor, 17, the European champions on floor and beam, became the last gymnast to perform on floor at the moment when shemust get more than 9.6 points for her routine to overtake the thenfront runners the United States.

Ponor, the silver medalists of beam and floor in 2003 Anaheim worlds, made it and her stuck landing won huge applauses. She got9.750 points.

"I did my best for my team to win the gold medal. I paused for a second to see my score on the floor and then I burst to tears." Ponor said after the competition.

Romanian team leader Bellu Octavian told a press conference, "Iasked my gymnasts to stay cool in the competition. I asked them not to watch TV in the Hall."

"Catalina often watched TV when she finished her routines, and that was no good. But she did a good job. So I think maybe she just wanted to be fully involved in the Olympic Games." he added.

Daniela Sofronie, 16, who took no medals in world-level competitions before, said,"We came here and hoped to win. The highest score we were awarded was on the beam and that is what granted us the medal."

Ponor scored the game high of 9.762 points tonight on the beam,9.750 on the floor and 9.412 on the vault.

Sofronie collected 9.400 on the vault, 9.562 on the uneven barsand 9.562 on the floor.

Oana Ban, 18, the Romanian silver medalist on beam in 2002 Debrecen world championships, said, "I was certain that this competition was going to be very tough, but we didn't let the chance pass by. I am very emotional right now about the gold medal."

"This was our team goal from the very beginning. We know our skill on the floor and that is why we were very confident in the end." she added.

Monica Rosu, who scored 9.625 points on the vault which is relatively a weak apparatus for Romania, said, "It's a amazing feeling. We haven't stopped crying. I was not afraid of losing the medal in the end, because I knew the Americans were not as skilled as we on the floor exercises."

The American gymnasts were also in great form tonight but Courtney Kupets' errors on the floor gifted the team only 9.187 points, which widened the gap with Romania.

The United States won the silver with 113.584 points.

Carly Patterson, 16, the runner-up of individual all-around in Anaheim, said, "I've trained for gymnastics for 10 years, and we were well prepared for the team final. But it was unlucky we met an even better team."

"It was really a tough game and only the best team could win. It was not easy even to get a medal here," she added.

As Svelana Khorkina, the Atlanta and Sydney Olympic champions on uneven bars, could not show her best-ever performances in the final, Russia placed third tonight with 113.235 points.

China, who got the fourth place in the qualification, suffered a string of fatal errors tonight to rank only seventh with 110.008points in the final.

Chinese team coach Lu Shanzhen said, "the result is the worst since I coached the team."

"We expected some difficulties in the final, but did not expectthem that big," Lu added.

"Our gymnasts are young and unexperienced. They could not adjust themselves in the tough duel." he added.

"But I think the results will be better in 2008, and we must make some changes by then," he said.

(Xinhua News  Agency  August 18, 2004)

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