I was by no means the first or the last gymnastics fan to be somewhat enchanted by Ana Porgras' entrance on the gymnastics scene. A gymnast who was obviously in possession of a lucky mix of a traditionally Romanian skill-set on beam, Khorkina-esque leggy elegance and a bucket-load of poise, she was a welcome delight at the 2009 Worlds competition.
With a beam routine packed with Romanian-level difficulty and just enough choreography to show off her "lord-knows-where-she-gets-it-from-cos-she-didn't-get-it-at-Deva' balletic grace, Ana Porgras was a real treat to watch. Even Romania's choreographers who tend to take the juniors and give them routines that make them look like folk-dancing leprechaun wind-up toys had managed to put together a routine that showed off her ability to pretend she could slip into a pair of ballet slippers.
It didn't matter that she was young and nervous. It didn't matter that she failed to deliver what she had surprised everyone with in qualifications. It didn't even matter that she fell on the apparatus that she could and should have owned. What did matter was that she had only just begun- and that we were going to have her for a long while to come.
What was scary about this new gymnastics star, what gave me the small gut-feeling of imminent disappointment was her obvious flimsiness, her infinite, inbuilt break-ability. Would she be one of those gymnasts who flashes like a diamond and then disappears because she had the kind of body that while gifted, just can't take the pounding of gymnastics? It was the fear that the sylph-like body that gave her her preternatural elegance might also be her undoing, and a lengthy injury after a beam final in Birmingham that could and should have been hers proved this might indeed be the case.
What has been surprisingly wonderful, however, is how she has seemed to come back from this injury, possibly even strengthened by the time devoted to conditioning and strength. She still possesses the delightful grace that makes her so wonderfully watch-able, but in her recent meets since her recovery there is a stronger sense of that Romanian steel, both physical and psychological, that may just see her push through to the beam podium- a result that is definitely on my wish list for Rotterdam.