LONDON - Looks like Romania can be scratched off the list of U.S. challengers.
The European champions' chances of contending for the gold medal in women's gymnastics were seriously damaged when Larisa Iordache developed plantar fasciitis in her left heel. Iordache only did full routines on uneven bars and balance beam during podium training Thursday, and coach Mariana Bitang said afterward that there was a "50 per cent chance" the 16-year-old would be able to do all four events at the London Olympics.
"It's very, very difficult," Bitang said. "She was the most important piece of the team."
The women's competition begins Sunday with qualifying.
Iordache is the latest Romanian to be dubbed "the new Nadia." In addition to leading Romania to an upset of Russia at Europeans, she won the title on floor exercise and was second to Catalina Ponor on beam. She won six medal's at last year's European Youth Olympic Festival, including the all-around title and golds on floor exercise and balance beam.
Bitang said she didn't know when they would decide how many events Iordache will do.
"She makes the decision," Bitang said. "If she can, she does."
The injury is a blow to Romania, which is finally back on track after several dismal years.
The Romanians won five straight world titles from 1994 to 2001, as well as the team gold medal at the Sydney and Athens Olympics. But they fell into disarray when Bitang and Octavian Belu left the team, finishing a distant third at the Beijing Games; Sandra Izbasa's gold on floor was the only individual medal. They didn't even make the podium at last year's world championships.