Monday, May 11, 2009

Once Again, I Take it Back.....

No, Not Scary at All!

(Liliana Cosma, Romanian Beam Coach)

Remember when I uploaded my Euros photos and i had that picture of the Romanians training beam?  I said that the lady coach looked a bit scary, but then thought that maybe she is just a serious looking person?  

(At 2009 Euros, and at Romanian Nationals)                                                                              

After writing that, and of course, being an ever-curious-about-all-things gymnasticky type of blogger, I decided to find out what I could about said Romanian beam coach.  
So, it turns out the lady in question, whose name I did not know (i am sure many of you far more knowledgeable gym-fiends did, though) is Liliana Cosma 

Liliana, known as "Lili," is thirty-seven, was born in Hunedoara, was educated at the Timosoara University and now, of course, lives in Deva (Thanks Rusty!).  
Lili has been working in Deva right through all the drama which has occured in the very rocky world of Romanian gymnastics this past decade, and has been fortunate enough to hold onto a job with the National team in some capacity all through this period despite the various ups-and-downs.

Lili trained as a gymnast herself, starting at the age of three when her parents decided she should enter the sport.  She competed for Romania until the age of sixteen when repeated injuries forced her to stop training and competing.  She said in an interview once- though it wasn't clear if she was talking about competing or coaching- that her parents at times had suggested leaving the sport because of its great difficulties, but that she could never even consider it! 

Throughout the last five years Liliana has been considered one of the top ten or so coaching (all sports) technicians in the Hunedoara County.  In 2006 this was publicly acknowledged when she was given formal recognition for producing the great performances of junior athletes; Aluissa Lacusteanu, Cerasela Patrascu, Loredana Sucar and Alexandra Ghita by being awarded the title of best gymnastics coach in Hunedoara County for 2006.  She won it again in 2007 too for her successful work with Andreea Acatrinei.  

(Lili winning an award)

After receiving her award, Liliana described the year 2006 to reporters as a difficult period.  It was a time of crisis in Romanian gymnastics.  She hoped, however, that things were beginning to improve again.  She also talked of (a subject we hear of in many interviews with Forminte too) the immense pressure on the program to return to the Romania public the gymnastics successes of the program's bygone days.

After winning her award Forminte told reporters that Liliana is a coach he has complete confidence in when it comes to training, dealing with children, coming up with training strategies and techniques and imparting her knowledge of the sport.

 (With the 2009 Romanian Euros Team)

Liliana worked with junior gymnasts for many years, helping to mold them into gymnasts worthy of the senior national team.  2001 was a sad year when a tragedy occurred while working with the junior gymnasts. Liliana was one of the coaches of Alexandra Huci, the little girl who died from a brain heamorrhage at age twelve while training at Deva (the condition was said to be unrelated to her gymnastics, with doctors and those performing the autopsy claiming it occured due to an existant congenital defect that could have erupted at any time).

 (Twelve-year-old Alexandra Huci)

For the few who may not have heard the little girl's story before, Alexandra's became a gymnast after seeing her sister, already at Deva, competing in a competition there.  She begged to come to Deva, even asking one of the Directors that day where her bed would be. Her parents, who were very poor, sent their second daughter to Deva too. 

Though initially terribly skinny and quite ungainly (the Romanian choreographer said he could barely look at her, she was so awkward at first), Alexandra started to demonstrate extraordinary talent after a short period.  At the time of her death she was the Romanian National Champion for Category III gymnasts and was considered as much a certainty as you could be in those days for the National team. Liliana said that Alexandra practiced cheerfully and determinedly and that always, by the end of the day, managed to achieve whatever it was she wished to achieve.

(Alexandra Huci training)

On the day the her condition became known, Alexandra, who had injured her hand was training alone, was practicing only basic moves in order to give her hand time to heal.  Alexandra, feeling unwell, asked Liliana if she could go to the bathroom, and by the time the little girl returned, she said she was feeling sicker, as though she might throw up.  

She began to fall into a drowsy state, and when woken by the team doctor, became delirious.  As the ambulance came she was lapsing into a coma.  She was taken by helicopter to the only hospital with decent enough medical factilities to deal with this kind of serious trauma nearby.

Lili accompanied Alexandra to the hospital and remained with her the whole time.  A reporter, talking to Lili and other trainers at the hospital as they sat vigil, waiting for Alexandra's parents to arrive, noted the redness in Liliana's eyes from lack of sleep and the way her phone kept ringing with team mates, coaches and federation people asking  how the child was doing.  Liliana told reporters,
 "I can't explain what I am going through.  This girl was also my child.  We, the trainers have the responsibility toward the parents for what happens here.  At Easter Alexandra came to my house.  She was a quiet girl who was no trouble and she always told me when she needed anything.  You could see on her face she wanted to become a great gymnast.  We are preparing for the competition of Olympic Hopefuls in Constanta in September.  What for!?" 

She then pleaded sadly and futilely for the little girl to open her eyes.  Alexandra did not. 

Though she underwent an operation to relieve the pressure on her brain, and given as best a 
medical care as was available, Alexandra was discovered to be brain dead, and died some days later.

(Dressed up for a federation 'do')

In her early career, like Forminte, Liliana went relatively unnoticed as a gymnastics coach in the public eye during the Belu/Bitang era, even though she was working with the senior National team for a period. 

As the Romanian Documentary made about Deva a couple of months before Beijing pointed out, the new coaching staff were virtually invisible in the media even as they took charge after the Belu/Bitang departure, so much so that when the girls performed so well at Euros in 2008 year, reporters were still trying to contact Belu instead of Forminte! 

(At the airport coming home from Euros)

I read too, in an article about the group of statues of famous gymnasts and coaches that were being erected outside Deva, a comment by a person complaining that so many coaches like Liliana and Nicolae and many others had been excluded despite the immense amount of work they had done, unsung, in producing champions while the famous/infamous Belu and Bitang were being immortalised.

Liliana was also a victim of the major rehauling Belu and Bitang did after the Anaheim Worlds when they stripped down the National team training for Athens back to only 10 gymnasts. Deva had just been renovated and apparently brought up to "Western Standards". Accordingly, they needed less coaches to train such a small number of gymnasts. Liliana and another coach were sent back to Onesti to work with the juniors, while Forminte and Sandu remained coaching with the two B's. 

Octavian Belu, in his usual offhand, way, tried to tell the media there had been no dissension amongst the coaches, even though there was much rumour to the contrary during this time of job instability, telling reporters that the the other two coaches "will return to the national juniors of Onesti. But they are free to do what they want, to go abroad." Liliana clearly went back to the juniors. I am not sure, though, exactly when she returned to train the seniors.

(With Dana Druncea at Romanian Nationals)

Of course now that they have had a modicum of success in this new coaching era, it is very much The Forminte Show in the media, as his funny, charismatic swaggering around at Euros was testament to!  Liliana on the other hand, has had less focus on her work.  In fact, during that Romanian documentary, while we see much of Forminte and that funny choreographer guy whose name I can never remember horsing around and working with the gymnasts, Cosma is just a silent figure in the background. But perhaps she would prefer it that way.  

 (With Forminte and Izbasa, treating her injury)

Liliana told reporters that her strongest principals in coaching are to always have complete and correct knowledge of coaching and gymnastics requirements and for her to ensure that her gymnasts understand them too.  She believes it is important to make sure that they can understand why training must be rigorous in order to produce results.

Liliana clearly loves her job, because she told the Hunedoreanul News that if she could start life over, she wouldn't change a thing. This is probably lucky, because when asked about her hobbies once, she told a journalist that she really has no leisure time, and is very happy when she gets to squeeze in a quick visit with her parents for half an hour.  She loves nature, particularly walking in the mountains or at the beach when she can. 

Unfortunately, last year, poor Liliana had her luggage stolen as the Romanian team prepared to go on a holiday to the sea.  The teams bags were left unattended for a short while and hers was the one taken. Her phone, documents, jewellery, money and credit cards were all taken.  The police could not find the perpetrators and the director of Deva said he hoped it was not someone associated with the school.  Not a good way to start a holiday! 

(With some spot-the-Romanian Gymnastics Royalty!)

 It seems to me that being a coach in Romania is a whole lot like being one of the gymnasts.  It takes up your whole life, requires complete passion and focus and dedication to the task and leaves you little times for anything else at all.  Liliana Cosma must certainly love the sport and her job to have dedicated herself to it through the various upheavals and shifts in Romanian gymnastics over the past decade or so.

As for being scary.... she doesn't really seem that scary at all.  She told reporters that though she is not a calm person, she recognised very quickly the futility of losing her temper or showing her impatience in the gym.  Children, she believes, need to see patience more than any show of temper.  "It does not lead to anything good" she told reporters.

(Congratulating Anamarie Tamirjan)

 She also told them that she can be superstitious during competitions, and that she always tries to "mentally chill" before contests.  Maybe that's why she looks so serious!

....Besides, I'd probably be serious too if I had to share in carrying the weight of the Romanian gymnastics legacy on my coaching shoulders too.....

(Thanks to Rusty for permission to use some of these pics of Liliana from the wonderful website


  1. Yes, i knew who she was, i have seen her many times around the gymnasts. She never seemed scary to me :P Of course she looks so serious, but i think she is a really nice person, both a mother figure and a girlfriend for the girls in Deva. She is in charge with beam especially, i clearly remember Lili with Catalina Ponor and Stela Nistor in the Worlds 2007 beam final.

  2. Hey, I think this article was great. You always know how to wrote them sooo well!! Your blog is amazing, especially because it's different, and full of personal thoughts !! great work!

  3. Great article! I'm Romanian and I've always liked Liliana but I didn't know very much about her. Thanks for your hard word to write such a complete article!

  4. Thanks for the compliments guys, because this article was actually really difficult to research (particularly because i really only know how to order a coffee and buy a train ticket in Romanian!) but i was determined to find as much as I could. It is lovely that the work was appreciated. It's funny, I can't believe i thought she was scary. I was watching the 2007 euros beam finals the other night and Lilia was so lovely with Izbasa when she was crying over her hurt foot and she and Steliana were giggling over her beam routine. I'm sure it is good for the girld to have someone with them who can be a coach and a bit of a mother at the same time.

  5. i feel very bad and very fornlorn about alexandra huci and her and peace.........<3