Cătălina Ponor

Speaker@The Woman Leadership Conference

Cătălina Ponor is a well-known Romanian gymnast nick-named “The Black Tulip” for her unique grace and the beauty of her artistic moves, but also because she prefers this mysterious color that symbolizes absolute elegance.

She started practicing gymnastics, by chance, at the age of four:

I often walked with my grandmother near the sports hall and something was attracting me there. I used to say “I want to go to that school” every time I walked by, without knowing what it was all about. One day, my grandmother took me to that sports hall. I fell in love with gymnastics from the first moment I walked in and saw the girls training there.

In 2002, Mariana Bitang and Octavian Bellu, the coaches of the national gymnastics team, noticed her talent and invited her to train in Bucharest. This step was the beginning of her career in professional gymnastics.

Ponor started her international career participating in the 37th edition of the World Gymnastics Championships, in 2003. At this first major competition, the gymnast conquered the silver medal for the ground and the balance beam, individually, and another one in the team competition.

Being ambitious, but also fascinated by gymnastics, she managed to turn her childhood game and her teenage passion into a lifestyle – that of the gymnast who met her destiny.

Since then, Cătălina participated in all major international competitions, being the second Romanian gymnast to win three Olympic gold medals in a single edition of the Olympic Games, after Daniela Silivaş. Ponor was the only Romanian gymnast at the Rio Olympic Games, and she was nominated to participate after the Romanian team missed the qualifications.

As for every performance athlete, there were a lot of sacrifices and difficult moments for Cătălina too. The training discipline, the injuries followed by surgeries, the minor or major failures in competitions, the perspective of health problems after retirement – nothing stood in the way of her ambition, perseverance and desire to climb the podium, and listen to the Romanian anthem from the highest rung.

Her track record includes five Olympic medals (three gold medals, one silver medal and one bronze medal), five medals at the World Championships (three silver medals and two bronze medals), multiple medals at World Cup editions and at European Championships for Gymnastics. 

Cătălina retired from competitions in 2017, but she is still planning a lot of surprises related to sports, together with her partners from Sports HUB – the first business and personal development community that brings together former and current Romanian athletes.

“Gymnastics is my life without words” –  Cătălina Ponor

Photo source – The Gymternet