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By Barney Spender

Written by: Staff

ATHENS, Apr 26 (Reuters) - Triple Olympic gold medallist Catalina Ponor will have one last chance to shine on the international stage when she takes part in the European championships, which start in Volos tomorrow.

The 18-year-old Romanian, who dominated the 2004 Athens Olympics with victories in the team competition, the beam and the floor exercise, plans to quit the sport after the event.

''Catalina has stated that she has decided to retire after the European Championships'', her coach Matei Stanei told the official competition website.

''Our goal at Volos will be to win at least a medal in the apparatus finals, in order to finish her career in glory.'' Ponor will need to lift her performance if she is to match her Olympic achievements.

She took only one gold on the beam at the 2005 European championships and then, following controversy over a trip to a nightclub, Ponor collected just a bronze on the beam at the Worlds in Melbourne last November.

Ponor and two of her Romanian team mates, Florica Leonida and Alexandra Eremia left their training camp last August to go clubbing in Bucharest.

As a result, the Romanian Gymnastics Federation disbanded the women's team, undoing much of the work that had made them such a force over the previous years.

Also under scrutiny at the European championships will be the new Code of Points (CoP) judging system, which was devised after scoring controversies at the Athens Olympics.

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) admitted that American Paul Hamm had been awarded the men's all-round gold in error after South Korea's Yang Tae-young had been incorrectly docked a 10th of a point from his parallel bars routine.

The system came under further attack when the men's horizontal bar final was held up for almost 10 minutes as fans forced the judges to change the score of four-times Olympic champion Alexei Nemov of Russia.

CoP removes the ideal of the 'perfect 10' which had been in place since the Antwerp Games of 1920.

A gymnast's score could now go above 10 because each exercise will be given two marks -- for difficulty of content and execution.

''Now the final score could be beyond 10. It could be 12, it could be 17 or whatever,'' former Olympic champion and president of the FIG women's technical committee Nellie Kim told Reuters in an interview last year.

''The execution score is always out of 10 points so you can say in that we've maintained the old system but the final score will be different.'' Reuters PM VV 1319

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