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Top Romanian Gymnastics Coach Quits
By ALEXANDRU ALEXE, Associated Press Writer
Jan 31, 2005 - 4:32:00 PM

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BUCHAREST, Romania - Gymnastics coach Octavian Belu resigned Monday amid criticism of his training methods and a lawsuit by a former gymnast after leading Romanian women to more than 250 medals in major championships.

Belu, who coached the women's team to gold medals at the last two Olympics, blamed attacks on his professional and private life and said he wanted to clear his name.

"It's a responsible gesture so that my problems do not affect the sport," he said.

Belu has coached the team since 1981, taking over after famed coach Bela Karolyi defected to the United States. He coached Romania to 272 medals including 104 golds in Olympic, world, European and other top competitions.

Last week, Belu defend himself in a suit filed by former Romanian gymnast Oana Petrovschi. She is seeking $51,900 in damages from Belu, assistant coach Mariana Bitang and the Romanian federation. Petrovschi contends she has serious back injuries because she was forced to train while injured.

Bitang also resigned Monday, citing media attacks.

"We are people, not monsters, as the press portrays us," she said.

Petrovschi, 18, won a silver medal on the uneven parallel bars at the 2002 world championships and a vault bronze medal at the European championships that year.

Petrovschi also accused Belu of forcing her to pay him 30 percent of her winnings from exhibitions. Belu said he did receive money from her from exhibitions, but added that she had agreed to pay him a share of the winnings.

Belu said he had asked the federation to make the payments part of the gymnasts' contracts, but his suggestions were ignored.

In another development, Catalina Ponor, a triple gold medalist in Athens, stopped training last week and is considering quitting the sport, Bitang said. Ponor won the balance beam and floor exercise and a third gold with the team.


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