national level, and has attended most of the gymnastics world’s major
events. Anton is intent on maintaining bonds and creating new ones;
his next project is an encyclopedia of autographs, photos and career
highlights of the sport’s greatest champions.
“It’s a big honor that I hold, and I have lots of good memories,”
Anton says, closing the last of the photo albums.
New memories are surely his for the collecting.
ALTHOUGH the southern Austrian city of Graz is a two-hour train ride from sprawling, glitzy Vienna, the journey
takes you through another world. Villages with
enchantingly cumbersome names—
Payerbach-Reichenau, Klamm-Schottwien, Wolfsberg-kögel, Spital am Semmering, Mürzzuschlag—
nestle in verdant valleys. Sentries of perfectly proportioned pine trees stand guard down the mountainsides that protect the towns below.
My visit in Graz with former Austrian champion
Carina Hasenöhrl proves to be just as enlightening, for a different reason. Carina spent three years
training in Romania and three more in the Netherlands in pursuit of her goal to qualify for the 2008
Olympics. A pair of serious injuries (neck, then knee)
forced her to retire, but she’s chosen progress over
bitterness. Carina is a third-year university student in
Graz, where she is studying chemistry. She has found
a new aesthetic outlet in Dance Connection, a group
with which she performs.
“I’ve always been optimistic, and this is what saved
[me],” Carina says over cappuccino. “I always told
“I’ve always been
optimistic, and this is
what saved [me],”
Carina says over cappuccino. “I always
told myself it didn’t
make sense to live in
the past, but to focus
on what is now and the
future, because the
future is what
myself if didn’t make sense to live in
the past, but to focus on what is
now and the future, because the
future is what matters. From the
past you learn and take everything
with you, but you need to look for-
ward and build a future.”
After graduating, Carina wants to
earn a Ph.D. and embark on a
career in medicine, researching ill-
ness or medications. “I’d love to be
able to work with human bodies
and humans, and I want to do
something that means something to
the world and might actually
improve something,” she says.
Carina says she prefers not to
dwell on the frustrations that typi-
fied her gymnastics career, but she is ready to talk about her life as an
outsider at the Romanian national training center in Deva. “I’ve
answered this question so many times, and I always had the same
answer—that everything was fine and I felt like part of the system,”
she says. “Now, my view has changed a lot. I’m going to answer this
question for the first time again: I was very, very, very shocked when I
went back last May. I felt so sorry for the 13-year-old Carina from
then that I had to live through all that. I don’t want to talk negatively
about the Romanian system, because it’s their system, it works for
them and it worked for me. It’s just that I was so shocked when I saw
what I put myself through.”
Carina’s reflections are also cheerful, though. She speaks fondly of
Frank Louter, who coached her in the Netherlands following her
time in Deva, and of the girls she shared rooms with at Deva.
Carina says she stays in touch with many of her Romanian training
partners, including Alina Oancea, whose career was also cut short by
injury. Later this year, Carina will be a bridesmaid in Alina’s wedding in
Timosoara. As our visit comes to a close, Carina sees me off at the
train platform, and I wave goodbye to one very worldly 21-year-old.
“Golden Sun,” one of two gyms
devoted to small children at the
eight-gym Siska club in Ljubljana.