Name: Mariana BITANG
Date of Birth: 03 AUG 1962
Mariana Bitang about herself (from an inteview for the IG magazine):
# good and bad things about her:
"I consider myself very ambitious and perseverant. But I prefer that other people would say what they think about me.
# about rumors that she is an extremely tough coach:
"It's best to ask the girls. It would be too easy for me to say simply 'yes, I am' or 'no, I'm not.' When we go to the gym our responsibility as coaches is huge. We don't go into the gym to play darts. We go in to do a serious thing. When we talk about work we're not fooling around. To do your work doesn't mean that you have to be catalogued as a tough, severe person. And we never forget that any time, knock on wood, just a little bit of not paying attention can bring a tragedy."
# the most beautiful moment of her career: "All the success that we've obtained to this point in time. I am happy for every single victory like they were all my little kids."
Mariana Bitang Interview
The interview was published in Evenimentul Zilei after the Sydney Olympics.
If you watched the Romanian team's performance at the Sydney Olympics, you were bound to notice an attractive coach, some might even describe her as sexy. She's Mariana Bitang, assistant coach of the national team, who's been acting a surrogate mother, but also older sister for her gymnasts, some of whom left home when they were only 10 years old.
Evenimentul Zilei: Ms. Bitang, as coach of the national gymnastics team you're practically dealing with children.
Mariana Bitang: More than that, most of the year, the girls are far from home and, consequently, I act as their mother, but also their sister, or friend. Somewhat jokingly, bit also seriously, they have to make do with me for everything.
EZ: How do you handle this position?
MB: It's not at all simple because during their stay on the national team, our gymnasts pass through all stages of development, from childhood to adulthood. They go through physical, emotional and hormonal changes. Their center of gravity changes. All of them impact their athletic performance. Therefore, there are times of crisis, when the girls don't know what's going on with them. They are depressed, moody, and then you have to motivate them to keep going.
EZ: Did you ever have to deal with extreme cases, when one of the gymnasts wanted to retire?
MB: We deal with these situations frequently. Most recently, less than a moth before the Olympics Maria Olaru told us she can't take it anymore. That she's be better off quitting than making a fool of herself in Sydney. It took a lot of work and reasoning with her to make her give up on this idea [retirement].
EZ: Speaking of these changes, including physical transformations, a gynecologist told me that due to the physical effort, a gymnast will not get her period until she quits the sports. Can you confirm that?
MB: It's an exaggeration. Sometimes they might get their period later than usual, but most of the time, everything falls within normal limits. As proof, once the gymnasts end their career, the ones who started a family were able to have children without any problem. For example, Aurelia Dobre has four children, all of them boys, including twins.
EZ: Are you involved in their romantic life?
MB: Romantic life is a big word. It's true they sometimes fall in love, but I explained this whole love thing to them. They have to be careful and know that, usually, true love doesn't happen over night. It's fairly difficult to know what's going on inside their heart. They sometimes tell me about their problems, but they're still holding back. You have to pay close attention to get something about of them. I know that they talk on the phone or write to a guy, but telling me they're hurt because they saw him holding hands with another girl -that, I don't know about. EZ: Did any of them fall in love? MB: They fall inlove from time to time. One of the love stories was between Gina Gogean (right before she retired) and Rares Orzată from the men's team. We looked at this as a normal occurrence. He even came to Deva with her and we found him a room in our dorms. Actually, quite a few gymnasts developed a crush for Rares. He's smart, talkative, cute and won them over. Especially because they don't get a chance to meet other boys outside the training center.
EZ: The overall perception is that gymnasts don't go out very often, that Deva is almost like a boot-camp.
MB: I heard that before and it's completely false. They have a strict practice schedule they have to follow, but they also have free time when they can do whatever they want within certain limits. Sometimes we even encourage them to go out. We sent them to a club once, but they didn't want to go second time around; they didn't like it. They are free to go out on the town Sunday and meet up with friends or relatives.
EZ: another urban legend is that of a whole lunch consisting of Cesar salad.
MB: How can anyone imagine that you can starve a child who's still growing , but still ask her to produce results? For all the effort they put in, they would faint during practice if they didn't get the right nutrition. Besides, if we really were to starve them, they'd end up buying 10 chocolate bars every time they'd go out by themselves and they'd eat them all at the same time. They obviously have to watch their weight, because otherwise you can't be competitive. They obviously can't eat 5 candy bars at one time, otherwise they'd get sick. But that's something every parent worries about when it comes to their child, isn't it?
EZ: Do they consider you their friend, or ask for advice?
MB: I wouldn't know about friendship because being their teacher they are more restrained around me. But they always ask for my advice. I don't want to go into any details, but they've had family problems, parents getting divorced and things of that sort. They come to me right away and ask what they should do. Or, now that they received their prize money they asked me how to invest their money. At school, I am their teacher and coach, but outside the classroom I offer advice, help them tell them how to act, what clothes to wear for different occasions. Actually, I buy their clothes because they got used to it. "You choose for us because you know what do get us", they always tell me. Just a few days ago,. I talked to Simona. I told her "You have to learn to take of yourself because you will retire and be out on your own. I won't be next to you telling you what to do." EZ: Even though all the other coaches agreed with you, you were the only one who had the courage to say you think it's unfair coaches don't receive the same prize money as their students did after the Olympics.
MB: I don't want anyone to think I am some sort of reactionary. I am thrilled to see these kids are finally rewarded for their work. But I do believe that without us, they wouldn't get these results. It's just like cooking: you can have the best ingredients, but if you don't know how to put them together, you'll never get anything out of them. On the other hand, if you are a good cook, you make an exceptional dish, even when the you don't have the best ingredients. I support the club coaches first. While we, the national team coaches, still received some prizes, they didn't get anything. And it's not fair. Just like there is a real danger that being unmotivated, they'll stop working with their athletes. And one day we'll wake u to find there are no gymnasts to be called up from their home clubs to train at Deva. I talked to Romanian coaches who are now working abroad and over there they have a fair process in place. So what I just said can't be an aberration.
Romanian Gymnastics News Archive.