Interview with the romanian gymnastics fans

Every story has a beginning to it and this story is no exception. It is the 1976 Montreal Olympics and a young 13 year old gymnast by the name of Nadia is set to compete on Uneven Bars in the team competition. The stadium has paused – perhaps sensing in the air that something remarkable is about to happen. They watch with mouths open wide as Nadia manages to look powerful, yet graceful on Uneven Bars with a release skill never attempted before and a unique dismount.

This tiny gymnast makes it look effortless and the applause of the spectators fills the arena as her score is flashed on the scoreboard as a 1.00. The definition of the score becomes known as the “first perfect ten” in Olympic history and the gymnast behind this remarkable feat once deemed “impossible” is Nadia Comaneci of Romania, the new Olympic, Beam and Uneven Bars champion at these games.

Overnight the name “Nadia” would result in thousands of young girls in Romania and around the world signing up for gymnastics school to become the NEXT Nadia. Following the success of Nadia Comaneci, the country of Romania would continue to churn out champions with names like Teodora Ungureanu, Emilia Eberle, Dumitrita Turner, Ecaterina Szabo, Lavinia Agache, Mihaela Stanulet, Simona Pauca, Daniela Silivas, Aurelia Dobre, Gabriela Potorac, Christina Bontas, Lavinia Milosivici, Gina Gogean, Simona Amanar, Maria Olaru, Andreea Cacovean, Nadia Hategan, Alexandra Marinescu, Andreea Raducan, Catalina Ponor, StelianaNistor, Sandra Izbasa and Ana Porgras.

Although the first gymnastics champions from Romania were woman, the men would soon follow with Dan Grecu, Kur tSzilier, Emilian Nicula, Octavian Ionasiu, Ion Checiches, Marian Rizan, Cristian Brezeanu, Levente Molnar, Marian Teodorescu, Adrian Capatina, Romulus Bucuroiu, Marius Gherman, Dan Burinca, Nicolae Bajenaru, Adrian Sandu, Adrian Gal, Dan Potra, Dorin Petcu,Vasile Cioana, Robert Stanescu, Razvan Selariu, Alin Jivan, Daniel Popescu, Marius Urzica, Ioan Suciu, Flavius Koczi and Marian Dragulescu

As much as Romania has produced gymnastics champions, every champion has a faithful flock of fans that follow their every move and Romania is NO exception. So where does it all begin for Romanian fans? What drives a fan crazy about Romanian gymnastics that they will disappear for hours on end due to a competition? What are their feelings when they hear the Romanian anthem playing and their gymnast is standing on the top spot of the podium? Do they refer to Romania as MY TEAM, MY GIRLS even if they aren’t Romanian? Do they lurk on Gymnastics forums and Gymnastics Facebook pages such as: International Gymnast, Fangymnastics, Romanian Gymnastics Fans or Gymnastics United dying to have an inside look at gymnastics news of their favorite gymnast? We take it back to the beginning in this article where we talk to fans of Romanian Gymnastics from all around the world to find out where it began for them…..

As for myself, my story as a Romanian gymnastics fan begins with none other than “Nadia”…

Reporter: “Who was the first Romanian gymnast you saw in a competition either in person or on TV?”

Mary Galliver, USA
The first Romanian gymnast I saw compete in a competition was Nadia Comaneci, who I had fallen in love with after reading the Sports Illustrated article about her recent success at the 1976 Olympics. It must have been sometime in 1977. I don’ t remember if she won as I was too excited just to see her perform her routines to care about the outcome.

Donna Moatassem, USA
I only follow Romanian gymnasts since the first time I saw Nadia Comaneci in the 1976 Olympics when I was 15 years old.

Pieric Tchikalov, France
I follow Romanian gymnastics since Nadia Comaneci. I saw her on TV at the 1980 Olympic games of Moscow. She was a “revelation” for me.

Magda Petrescu, Romania
The first gymnast I saw was Nadia Comaneci at the 1976 Olympics. I have been following gymnastics since then because I was an athlete myself and Nadia and TeodoraUngreaunu were my idols.

Reporter: It has been 35 years since Nadia Comaneci scored the first perfect ten at an Olympics and she is still remembered to fans around the world as the gymnast they first discovered and fell in love with. Moving on from Nadia we discover more precious moments from our Romanian fans to ask “Who was the first Romanian gymnast they discovered?”

Shagya Feistauer, Germany
I saw my first world championships on TV in 1999. I was very impressed with AndreeaRaducan and I love Romanian gymnasts since this day.

Daniel Facundo, Brazil
Catalina Ponor was the first Romanian gymnast that I saw compete at the 2005 World Championships. I watched her on my TV.

Michael Van Tendeloo, Nijlen, Belgium
The first gymnast I remember seeing on TV was Aurelia Dobre’s perfect 10 on floor and Daniela Silivas at the 1987 World Championships. In 1996 I saw Simona Amanar and Lavinia Milosivici at the Olympic Gala in Belgium.

Reporter: “What makes Romanian gymnasts stand out from other gymnastics countries that you follow in this sport?”

Fangymnastics – “Mihai, Ioana and Cristina” – Romania
Mihai – Romanian gymnastics know every time to raise the level when it is necessary and thus to surprise everyone. Our mindset was and is always upbeat. Another thing that makes them stand out is Romania has real fans. I have witnessed several situations in which I was glad to see that Romanian fans have “worked together” in the interest of gymnastics in Romania.

Ioana – The unconditional support of each other is what makes them stand out.

Cristina – I think the ambition and desire to be the best are the greatest attributes of Romanian gymnastics. Given a selection basis that is ridiculously low – Romanian gymnasts always find the way to the podium in major international competitions.

Susan Biegelesen, Germany
I think it’s the camaraderie of the girls and how they really work together as a team. Through the years they have always been very supportive of each other. There never seems to be big drama with the Romanians because they seem to genuinely like each other. A great example is Sandra Izbasa and Diana Chelaru after the Europeans. In their photos with each other, they seemed so happy for themselves and each other. I remember Diana saying that she was happy that her teammate won the gold on floor at the Europeans.

Shelley Lopez, Spain
The style and history of Deva’s philosophy that is still present today

VenelinaVasileva, Bulgaria
Their training, talent, style and power make them stand out. I like their fight in competitions.

Toni Ashcroft, UK
Romanian gymnasts stand out because of the quality of the work they do. You can actually see how hard they must have worked on the routines.

Mihaela Iordache, Romania
Although they haven’t had optimal conditions for training, they don’t give up and win medals. I’m proud when the Romanian flag is up and I hear the Romanian anthem

Reporter: “What is the most special thing you have done for Romanian gymnastics as a fan?”

Claudiu Mic, NZ
I once wrote an article for a magazine which was about the age of gymnasts and I was quite proud because it was something for everyone who is a fan of gymnastics to read and enjoy. I also translate many articles from Romanian to many languages (notably English and French) so that the world can follow what is happening in Romanian gymnastics more easily.

Aldo Fernando – Mexico
In 2005 I travelled to Belgium (Ghent) to attend a World Cup event to support the Romanian gymnastics. I managed to get picture of myself with several gymnasts, Catalina Ponor, Daniela Sofronie and Marian Dragulescu. I also got to meet head coach Octavian Bellu and had my picture taken with him.

DondyPrezrominjp, Romania – Japan
I keep in touch with Ana Porgras which is a great honor for me. I would like to offer one small significant gift from Japan to the whole team and hopefully I will make it this year to Worlds in Tokyo.

Norma Koning, The Netherlands
I sent a letter to the Romanian Gymnastics Federation for Nadia in 1976 but never heard back from them. I sent a gift to Nadia for Dylan when he was born together with two great pictures of Nadia and she signed both of them for me.

Constasia Zhu, UK
I made pictures for Andreea Raducan, Maria Olaru, Simona Amanar and Diana Rusuand ask them for their autograph! I went to the 2010 Europeans and rooted for Romania. I met Sandra, Ana and Diana and got autographs. I attended Glasgow World Cup this year and met Pitic and Amelia and also gave them gifts and got photos with them.

Ana Menghel, Italy
Last year I went to Rotterdam also as a volunteer and my goal was to meet Sandra Izbasa. I stopped her while she was training her floor exercise and asked for a photo with her. I was so happy that my dream became true. This year in Berlin at the European Championships I’d wanter her to know how important she is to me so I wrote her a letter in English and I gave it to her after the floor medal ceremony. Now I can say, maybe she knows who I am.

Maria Daniela, Sibiu, Romania
I wrote the book “Performance and Prestige – A history of Romanian Gymnastics” for them with feelings of admiration and appreciation for everything they did for the sport of Romanian gymnasts to be more beautiful, to become an art of grace and perfection.

Daniel Facundo, Brazil
In two years I have done a lot for Romanian gymnastics. I encourage and support the gymnastics that I love and I also make picture collages and video montages for them. To the fans I post new information and videos to keep them updated! I have a YouTube Channel that shows my work at:

Reporter:In 1990 a new head coordinator for the Romanian WAG would be appointed in the leadership of Octavian Bellu. Bellu had been serving as an assistant coach under Adrian Goreac since 1981 and with the resignation of Goreac the task to take over the gymnastics program was left in Bellu’s care.

In 1992 Mariana Bitang would join the coaching staff and coach alongside Bellu. Under Bellu and Bitang’s guidance, Romania has enjoyed great success winning 5 consecutive World Team Championship titles, 2 consecutive Olympic Team championships, a World Champion title with Maria Olaru, an Olympic Champion title with Andreea Raducan and numerous gold, silver and bronze medals at Worlds, Olympics and European Championships.

In 2005 Bellu and Bitang resigned from their coaching positions and the team was taken over by new head coach NicolaeForminte. In 2009 Bellu would be inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame. Although Romania had moderate success under Forminite’s leadership with a bronze medal team win at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and a Gold medal win on floor by Sandra Izbasa, the Romanian Gymnastics Federation invited Bellu and Bitang back to Deva in 2010 to work alongside Forminte in the hopes of getting Romania back on top of the podium.

However, within a matter of days of this move, Forminte resigned from the head coaching position and the team was back in the hands of Bellu and Bitang. In their first big International competition back as head coach, Romania would win a World Championship after a 9 year drought period on balance beam with Ana Porgras. Will the return of Bellu and Bitang bring Romania WAG to the top of the podium? Let’s see what our fans think……

Reporter: “As a fan, what would you like to see from head coaches Octavian Bellu and Mariana Bitang?”

Isabel Iz – Mexico
I would like a real effort to improve Romania’s difficulty on bars. They have lead Romania for countless years and there hasn’t been much improvement in that area.

John Schneider – USA
I would like to see successful gymnasts with NO injuries.

Martina Eggling, Germany
I hope they will be the ones bringing the confidence back and the ability to handle the pressure at big meets. I would like to see a good relationship between the coaches and gymnasts and I would love to see some creativity in the routines of the girls to make them individual and stand out

Magda Petrescu, Romania
If it was technically possible, I would love to see another 2000 Sydney moment with Romanian gymnasts placing on the AA podium and Gold in team final.

Reporter: “Do you think Romania can be on top of the podium again?”

Mani Givron, Belgium
Yes, with Octavian Bellu and Mariana Bitang they can be on top of the podium

John Schneider – USA
YES. Even more so because I keep hearing people say they don’t stand a chance.

Shagya – Germany
Yes they can with Bellu and Bitang’s return. Romania has very good and talented gymnasts but also a very small selection of gymnasts. They have my full confidence and when I look at small tiny junior, MadalinaBlendea on Uneven bars, I can say they will improve A LOT on bars.

Mary Galliver – USA
I do feel Romania can be on top of the podium again but I think it’s going to take a lot of hard work and effort to get there. They are so far behind on uneven bars work and they only have a small number of top level gymnasts so there is a lot to be done with very little resources. With the right dedication and the right combination of coach-gymnast personalities though, it can be done.

Reporter:” Who is your favorite WAG (Woman Artistic Gymnast) gymnast?

Donna Moatassem, Ohio, USA
My favorite all time Romanian champion is Nadia Comaneci. No one else compares to her elegance, gracefulness and perfection of every move.

Simona Colesan, Romania
My favorite gymnast is Nadia Comaneci of course, but I loved also Andreea Raducan and now Sandra Izbasa.

Pieric Tchikalov, France
Nadia Comaneci is my favorite past champion. For today women’s gymnastics today is too acrobatic and less artistry so none are my favorite. If I have to choose a name, I would say Ana Porgras for her elegance.

Mani Givron – Belgium
Raluca Haidu is my favorite. I love her gymnastics and she is so cute.

Ana Menghel – Italy
I love Sandra Izbasa since the first time I saw her in 2006 at Aahrus. I like her grace, her elegance and her floor exercise. I am so happy she is back and returned – the Olympic Champion. I also like Diana Chelaru and her energy

Reporter: “If you could meet any of the girls and/or coaches now WHO would you like to meet?”

Magda Petrescu – Romania
Having the chance to meet the team several times before I think meeting them again is just a matter of time. I’d like to meet and see how Ana Porgras is like in her private life. I would also like to have a long chat with Mrs Bitang or better, to spend a day with Mr Bellu and Mrs Bitang.

Maria Daniela – Romania
From the past I would like to meet Kati Szabo, Daniela Silivas and Aurelia Dobre along with their coaches, Adrian and Maria Cosma Goreac. For the newer girls I would like to meet Larisa Iordache and the club coaches from Club Dinamo who have found the world, a “new Nadia”

Venelina Vasileva, Bulgaria
I would like to meet Amelia Racea who is my favorite gymnast. She is very talented and consistent and I would like to meet her.

Mary Galliver – USA
I would like to meet Raluca Haidu (Pitic). She is so lovely. I would want to give her a big hug and tell her to keep fighting to be the gymnast and champion she can be.

Norma Koning, The Netherlands
I would love to meet Sandra Izbasa, Catalina Ponor and of course, Nadia Comaneci

Reporter: Now it’s time to turn our attention over to the MAG of Romania. The first Olympic Champion from Romania might have been Nadia Comaneci BUT the first World Champion of Romania was Dan Grecu who won a Gold medal on rings for Romania at the 1974 World Championships in Varna, Bulgaria. Following the Worlds victory, Grecu continued success on rings leading up to the 1976 Olympics in Montreal where he was favored to win the Gold medal on rings. Grecu qualified to 3 individual events, vault, parallel bars and rings but during one of the finals ruptured his biceps. In order to compete in the rings final Grecu was given an anesthetics injection and managed to compete in the Rings final and win a bronze medal for Romania.

After the Olympics, Grecu continued more success on rings with wins at the 1977 World University Championships. Working towards the 1980 Moscow Olympics with Gold on his mind, Grecu re-injured himself in his bicep AND shoulder during competition forcing him to make a decision to retire. Grecu retired from competitive gymnastics after the Olympics and decided to try his hand at coaching. As the coach of the MAG team from 1984 to 2008, Dan Grecu had a successful career in producing some noteworthy champions in Dan Burinca – Olympic Silver Rings Champion, Marius Gherman, Marius Urzica – Olympic and World medals on High Bar, IoanSuciu – European Champion Pommel Horse and Vault, Dan Potra – First Romanian AA European Champion, Flavius Koczi – Silver Medal World Champion and one of the most successful male gymnasts, Marian Dragulescu who has won 4 World Championships on vault and 4 World Championship titles on floor.

Dragulescu has also won Olympic and European Championship medals on vault, floor, AA and team. One of the most remarkable medals won by Romania was the bronze medal in the team competition during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. This was the first Olympic team medal ever won by the Romanian MAG team. In 2005 Grecu was nominated into the Guiness World Records book because he won 5 European Championship team titles out of the 8 titles. Grecu announced he was resigning as head co-ordinator of the MAG after the 2008 Olympics. The team is currently coached by former gymnasts Ioan Suciu and Marius Urzica, both gymnasts who were champions under Grecu’s leadership.

Reporter: “Who is your favorite MAG (Men Artistic Gymnast) Champion?”

Toni Ashcroft, UK
My favorite Romanian male gymnast is Marian Dragalescu. He makes you believe in super heroes. He completely upped the game on vault, with him on the scene you had to go big or go home! His power and grace were unbelievable and on floor he did things that no one else could do.

Susan Biegeleisen, Germany
I always liked Marius Urzica. I’m not a big fan of pommel horse, but he always made it exciting because he was so stylish on that apparatus. Marius also had a long career. I was happy to see him win Olympic gold in 2000 on pommel horse. I know that Marian Dragulescu is the big name in Romanian MAG, but Urzica won 11 World Championship, Olympic, and European medals on pommel horse between 1994 and 2004

Dondy Prezrominjp, Japan
My favorite MAG is Dan Burinca. He worked hard for good results and gave us many happy moments. I hope maybe in the future he will be the Olympic Coach.

Mihaela Iordache, Romania
My favorite MAG is Marius Urzica. He was talented and a great champion.

Reporter: “What is your favorite MAG moment in the history of Romanian Gymnastics?”

Klauditza Ana-Maria Oprea, Romania
My favorite moment was at the 2009 World Championships when Marian Dragulescu came back to gymnastics after a year of absence. During the vault finals he won the gold medal and Romania Flavius Kozic won silver. The picture of both Marian and Flavius on the top spots of the medal made me very proud to be Romanian.

Claudiu Mic, New Zealand
My favorite moment in the history of MAG was at the 2004 Athens Olympics when Romania won its only team medal in Olympic history. It was quite a fun thing to watch because it was full of excitement and emotion at the same time

Aldo Fernando, Mexico
My favorite moment was when Marian Dragulescu stuck his first vault at the 2004 Athens Olympics in the vault finals. That vault was perfect in every way. The gold medal would have been his had he not stumbled on his second vault.

Reporter: “If you could meet any of the Romanian men’s gymnasts who would it be?”

Martina Eggling, Germany
I would like to meet Marius Urzica.

Isabel Is, Mexico
I would love to meet Marian Dragulescu as he has been in the game for so long and has won countless medals. I would like to ask him about his vault that is named after him and how it feels to be performing one of the hardest vaults in the world so easily.

Toni Ashcroft, UK
I have already met Marian Dragulescu and the girls but if I could meet someone else I would like to meet Razvan Selariu. He seems like a hard working gymnast and I respect that.

Reporter: “What emotions do you feel when you hear the Romanian National Anthem playing and Romania is on top of the podium?”

Fangymnastics – Mihai, Ioana and Cristina
Mihai: Sa asculti imnul Romaniei pentru reusita unui reprezentant al gimnasticii este ceva cu adevarat extraordinar. Cel mai mult ma bucur pentru gimnast/a deoarece in spatele acelui titlu se afla foarte multi ani de munca si de sacrificii, iar ei merita cu varf si indesat sa se simta impliniti si multumiti de ceea ce au reusit. Respectivul titlu este al lor si a nimanui altcuiva. Mandrie, bucurie si multumire… asta simt in momentele in care Romania e pe prima treapta a podiumului si se canta imnul. Nu o sa ma satur niciodata sa ascult imnul pentru gimnastica! Ce poate fi mai frumos decat sa auzi indemnul crainicului salii: “please rise for the National anthem of Romania!”
Ioana: Este indescriptibil acel sentiment … extraordinar!
Cristina: Sentimentele predominante in momentul ascultarii imnului sunt mereu emotia, bucuria si mandria de a fi roman.

Claudia Ana-Maria Oprea – Romania
Ma simt foarte mandra si foarte bucuroasa de fiecare data cand se canta imul Romaniei pentruca un gimnast sau or gimnasta a urcat pe prima treapta a podiumului. Sunt sentimente amestecate de bucurie, mandrie, fericire. Ma bucur pentru acea gimnasta sau acel gimnast stiind cat de mult isi doresc sa cante imnul pentru ei si sa castige o medalie de aur, ma mandresc ca imnul si steagul este cel al Romaniei pentru ca imi da speranta si imi dau seama ca am avut dreptate: suntem talentati in acest sport, fericire pentru ca ma simt intr-adevar mandra ca gimnastele si gimnastii de pe prima treapta a podiumului sunt din Romania!

Dondy Prezrominjp
Cu mana pe piept si lacrimi in ochi cantand imnul Romaniei,este o senzatie unica ca de fiecare data care imi da puteri si sperante pentru viitor. In acel moment pot simti cum toti romanii santem cu gandul la gimnastii nostri care prin sacrificii si eforturi mari aducand steagul Romaniei pe treapta de sus a podiumului*pe cer*. Sant mandra ca sant roman. In acel moment daca ma veti intreba: poti zbura?.. raspunsulva fi: “da, pot.”

Reporter: “Is there anything you would like to say to the Romanian gymnastics?”

Shelley Lopez – Spain
Have courage, bravery, humility, perseverance and respect. Step by step you can reach the top. Thanks Romania for so many emotions. With Love, Hai Romania.

Michael Van Tendeloo – Belgium
The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible. That is what you do every day in the gym. Keeping working hard to reach your goal and enjoy. You may not realize this but you are making history. My respect goes out for all Romanian gymnasts. I am proud of you.

Maria Daniela, Romania
Yes, I would like to say that we love you and work and talent are rewarded. Have the courage to go further and truly believe in your chances to become the best in the world.

Constasia Zhu, UK
Don’t pray for an easy competition, pray for a strong performance in a hard competition.

Simona Colesan, Romania
No matter what, we respect and love you. You will always be our golden girls.

Martina Eggling, Germany
I`d love to let them know that they have all the support from us fans, that we stand behind them and support them no matter what. To let them know that we appreciate all the great routines they show us and all the hard work they put into their training. Never give up and keep following your dreams

Claudiu Mic, New Zealand
Good luck girls in everything that you do! I am proud of you no matter what happens. You have made your country very happy! Heads up and look forward to the future!

Norma Koning, Netherlands
Good luck Romania. Keep up the hard work and win the Gold medal in London 2012

Shagya Fistauer, Germany
They all have my appreciation for what they do every day. It can´t be easy, every day, including summer, to go to the gym and train. I hope and pray that all your dreams come true in the gymnastics world.

John Schneider, USA
Don’t give up just because someone at the FIG doesn’t know the difference between good gymnastics and the current Code!

Dondy Prezrominjp, Japan
Thank you very much for the beautiful moments and special, every time, I’ll be beside you even from far away

Reporter: What message can I say to Romanian gymnasts? Can words capture the emotions I have for this team? Can words describe how much of a fan I am of Romanian Gymnastics even though I am not Romanian? Should I tell them I am learning to speak Romanian due to them? From Nadia Comaneci – the beginning to the present champions of inspiration such as Sandra Izbasa and Ana Porgras, my heart is with you every step of the way in your journey. The sacrifices you make for your country and for your fans will be rewarded, we love and support you and are here for you. We are cheering every step, every element and with every routine you show us, we are shouting louder and louder as you get closer to the podium. When you reach the top of the podium, we are standing right beside you singing loudly “Desteapta-te, romane!” in Romanian or in my case with “badly pronounced Romanian”. Tinteste aurul, Romania! Toata dragostea din partea fanilor!!!

Thanks to all the Romanian fans who agreed to be interviewed for this article and to those I did not interview, you are all in my heart. To those who run gymnastics forums or blogs that participated in this article – and Martina Eggeling – thanks for providing us with updated information on Gymnastics news – especially Romanian Gymnastics news. Your work is cherished by all of the fans. Thanks to my best friend Jerry Lynch who helped me create this article – without you this article would NOT have a “vision”. Thanks to Claudia Ana-Maria Oprea for translation of the article and last, special thanks to the Tare editors for allowing me the honor to write this article for Tare. It truly is an honor.

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