Ex-Romanian gymnastics coaches job hunting

Updated: November 21, 2005, 2:55 PM ET
Reuters

BUCHAREST, Romania -- Coaches Octavian Belu and Mariana Bitang, who led Romania's women's Olympic team to gold at the 2004 Athens Games, plan to work for another country after resigning in August.

"Our aim, mine and Belu's, has always been to win so we'll go soon to a country which offers us the best conditions to work," Bitang told Reuters on Monday.

"All our contacts are confidential for the moment, at the request of those who made the offers."

Sources in the Romanian gymnastics federation said the two could choose China.

"Belu and Bitang have to choose between proposals from China, for the Olympic team, and from private clubs from the United States," one federation source told Reuters.

Bitang said after the Olympics that she admired the Chinese gymnasts' talent and it would be a challenge for any coach to make them focus better in competitions.

Romania's team was disbanded in August, and Belu and Bitang resigned after triple Olympic gold medalist Catalina Ponor and teammate Floarea Leonida went to a Bucharest nightclub without their permission.

The two were criticized by some gymnasts for imposing an iron discipline in and out of the training hall, but they have always said athletes must stick to their rules if they want the best results.

Romanian media speculated last week that Belu and Bitang were in close contact with the Chinese gymnastics federation.

"If we leave we don't want our gesture to be taken as a sort of revenge against Romania," Bitang said. "It's a professional challenge but not revenge."

Belu and Bitang resigned for the first time in January after 2002 world silver medalist Oana Petrovschi sought more than $50,000 in damages. She accused them of demanding some of her prize money and forcing her to train despite a back injury.

Petrovschi dropped her claims after being compensated by a sponsor and the two coaches came back in the training hall.

Since resigning for the second time in August, they have been linked to lucrative offers from the United States, South Africa and Qatar.