After four decades of Olympic glory, the Romanian women’s gymnastic team has failed to even qualify for the Summer Games in Rio.
The team — which has medaled in every Olympics since 1976 — missed the top four in a test event on Sunday. The fifth-place finish at the final Olympics qualifying event rules the team out of a spot in the 2016 games.
The four qualifying teams from last week’s competition are Brazil, Germany, Belgium and France, adding to the field of eight teams that had already secured their Olympic future at last year’s world championships: United States, Russia, Britain, China, Italy, Japan, Canada, Netherlands.
The trouble really started for the Romanian team at the 2015 World Gymnastics Championships in October, when they finished a dismal 13th place. But even after that competition, in which four of five gymnasts fell during their uneven-bar routines, the thought that the Romanians might miss out on the Rio Olympics altogether was hard to fathom.
USA Today‘s Nancy Armour, wrote at the time:
“While there’s little chance of Romania missing out on Rio, having to go to the test event would be a stunning embarrassment for a team that has been a gymnastics powerhouse for 40 years. Imagine Tiger Woods having to go to Q school, and you get the picture of how big a trainwreck this is.”
Train wreck indeed. The Romanian women’s team has not only medaled in every Olympics since ’76; it won gold in 1984, 2000 and 2004. Three-time Olympic gold medalist Catalina Ponor came out of retirement to try to help Romania qualify, but the team came up short. On Sunday, she expressed her disappointment on Instagram:
“Today it was a sad day for us , Romania unfortunately didn’t qualify for Olympics , so sad for me cause actually I come back from retirement just for this …. Well didn’t happened ! I don’t know what it will happened from now on but I wanna say Thank u for everyone for your support and wanna thank u first to all brasilians that they were calling out loud my name !That was the best moment , a feeling that I haven’t feel from long time ago ! I fight for this team till the end I wanted to show that whatever wanna do , u can ! And yes I can still do gymnastics beside my age and not only to do , I still can do at high level ! Anyways thank u again for all your support it was an amazing feeling to compete here in Rio ! Love u all.”