“The performance of the girl from Onesti entered the history of Olympic Games and left an impressive legacy to Romanian gymnastics.”
I recollect the extraordinary international impact achieved by Romanian gymnastics in the summer of 1976. I was the correspondent of the Romanian news agency Agerpres in Rome and I was receiving each day the main European and American newspapers. I was extremely pleased to notice that Nadia Comaneci had conquered the world with her extraordinary performance, which revolutionised the world of gymnastics. It is true that, the previous year, Nadia was the first gymnast in the world to obtain a score of 10 (out of 10) in the vault event of the European Championships of Skien, Norway. But what happened in Montreal was a unique event, unmatched before, and ever since.
The performance of the girl from Onesti entered the history of Olympic Games and left an impressive legacy to Romanian gymnastics. I liked it very much when Nadia hailed on Twitter the performance of Sandra Izbasa, who won gold in the floor and vault events of the Berlin European Championship, and the gold won by Flavius Koczi in the floor event. Looking back to the 31 years that passed from the last gold medal of the “Carpathian Deer,” it seems incredible how, through the years, Cristina Grigoras, Lavinia Milosovici, Simona Amanar, Andreea Raducan, Catalina Ponor, Monica Rosu or Sandra Izbasa were able to move forward the story of the Onesti girl who redefined the idea of perfection.
Naturally, I cannot forget how, during the years when I was in the peninsula, and not only then, Romanian sports acted as a real ambassador of Romania. Each year, I used to attend the ‘Martini Challenge’ of Turin, equivalent to a European Championship, and watch the performance of Romanian fencers, or the ‘Fioreta d’Argento’ contest of Como. I also went to the Biathlon World Championships of Anterselva, where Romanian skiers achieved very good results.
It is true that, at the end of 1976, after the Agerpres correspondent in Paris chose freedom and went to Stockholm with his daughter, who had fallen in love with a Swede, while the film director dispatched to Canada by the Romanian Television for a film about Nadia’s success in Montreal refused to return to Bucharest, the mission of the 31 Agerpres correspondents abroad was abruptly terminated. Following the advice of General Pacepa – who actually chose freedom himself less than two years afterwards – Ceausescu decided to dismantle the network of correspondents.
Of course, there is no secret that Nadia, too, chose freedom and fled to America, via Hungary, before the fall of the dictatorship.
Looking back at the more than 20 years that passed since the fall of the dictatorship, unfortunately we cannot say that sports, which brought glory to Romania for so many years, are still in the top, as it happened in the past with so many disciplines. Gymnastics could be the exception, although – if I remember well – the vault event, for instance, where Amanar gave her name to a particular twist, had not brought us a medal for seven years. Anyway, at each European and world championship of gymnastics, at each edition of the Olympic Games, gymnastics and Nadia Comaneci continued to represent a psychological complex for any country, be it the USA, Russia or China. As a matter of fact, apart from gymnastics (one of our few ambassadors, as I called it in the title), we still have top performers in sports disciplines like fencing, with the national women’s team, handball, with an Oltchim that unfortunately fades away little by little, rowing, with its kayaking and canoeing, weightlifting and boxing, with Lucian Bute.
Sandra Izbasa and Flavius Koczi made Nadia happy, and they made us, Romanians, feel champions one more time. It remains to be seen what will happen at the next Olympic Games, in London. Unfortunately, as things are now, nothing can encourage us to be optimistic.