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Two Romanian Gymnasts Found

April 2, 1999

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ Two of three Romanian gymnasts who disappeared from a Virginia hotel last weekend have surfaced in Orlando.

Viorel Popescu and Marian Malita told WESH-TV in Orlando on Thursday that they traveled by bus to Orlando after deserting their team in Virginia because they wanted to see the United States despite their coaches’ objections.

Their teammate, Vasile Cioana, is in New York, the television station reported.

The teammates were last seen on Saturday, the day after their team participated in a meet with American and Chinese gymnasts in Richmond, Va. The Romanian team left for home Tuesday without them.

The three gymnasts had temporary visas that allow them to remain in the United States for 90 days.

Popescu and Malita told WESH that they don’t know if they will try to stay in the United States or return to Romania, where they describe life as ``heavy.″ They currently are staying in Orlando in a two-bedroom apartment with three other people.

If the gymnasts do not return home, it could damage Romania’s chances of qualifying for the 2000 Olympics. The world championships are in October, and the top 12 teams qualify for the 2000 Games.

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