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  • Ilinca Stroe

Romania’s Treasures: the Athletes

How long have Romanians done sports? That can be answered highly accurately: not as long as the Greeks. For we didn’t invent the Olympic Games. We do, however, have a traditional national sport more often than not known as oină: it’s similar to baseball and it was first historically recorded in 1364 as being popular in old Wallachia; for a while, it became national policy enforced by the 1898 Education Reform, when the Ministry of Education made oină compulsory for physical education classes in all Romanian schools. [1]

Apart from the century-old national game, Romania made its debut in international sports at the 1900 Summer Olympics, participated three more times in the Greek-origin Games between the two world wars, and then has competed in every single edition of the Olympics since 1952. The overall Olympic performance of the medium-sized European country includes 307 medals, of which 89 gold. Out of the 89, 25 (as well as a quarter of the total 307) were won in gymnastics. [2]

Taking into account the Olympic Games but also World and European Championships, gymnastics has been, therefore, a very productive sport for Romania, along with athletics, rowing, handball, wrestling and fencing. Perhaps less productive, but hugely popular with Romanians, football and tennis feature high, with best performances like reaching the quarterfinals of the 1994 World Cup and being ranked third in the world by FIFA in 1997, in football, and reaching the David Cup finals three times, respectively, in tennis.

To start with the “king sport”, Romania’s golden team of the ‘90s gravitated around the most prominent figure of Gheorghe (Gică) Hagi, number 10 in the squad (see some of his cleverest dribbling tricks and spectacular shots as attacking midfielder in the video below). Hagi was born in Săcele, Constanţa County, and started his professional career at the local football club, Viitorul Constanţa. He then worked his way up, via Bucharest-based clubs Sportul Studenţesc and famous Steaua Bucharest, to both Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, and ended his career as a player in Turkey, with Galatasaray. Many were the accolades granted him, such as the nickname of “the Maradona of the Carpathians”, but his most important achievement was probably his inclusion on grand Pelé’s list of the greatest 125 footballers of all times, on the occasion of FIFA’s 100th anniversary. [3] A socially responsible sportsman, today Hagi is the owner and manager of his debut club, Viitorul Constanţa, and he also runs a very successful Football Academy.

Hagi’s co-players on the golden team included: Miodrag Belodedici, a Serbian ethnic “nicknamed the deer due to his elegant tackles” [4], who played as a sweeper in Romania, Serbia, Mexico and Spain, and won the European Cup twice, with Steaua Bucharest (1986) and Red Star Belgrade (1991); Ionuţ Lupescu, a midfielder who won the DFB-Pokal (German Cup) in 1993, reached the UEFA Cup semi-finals (1994-95) with Bayern Leverkusen, and then worked on FIFA’s Technical and Development Committee; Ilie Dumitrescu, a forward who played in Romania, Britain, Mexico and Spain, and reached the quarterfinals of the Cup Winners’ Cup with Steaua Bucharest (1993); Dan Petrescu, a full-back/winger who reached the 1989 European Cup final with Steaua Bucharest and won the Cup Winners’ Cup with Chelsea (1998), before getting into coaching in Romania, Poland, Russia and China; and Florin Răducioiu, a striker who played in all of the top five European leagues (Britain, Italy, Germany, Spain and France), reached the quarterfinals and semi-finals of the Cup Winners’ Cup with Dinamo Bucharest, won the UEFA Champions League with A.C. Milan (1993-94), in 2008 was awarded the Order for Athletic Merit Rank III by the Romanian Presidency, and since 2017 has been a coach with the elite Atlético Madrid Academy in Bucharest.

Pre-Hagi et co, Romanian football featured both great players in the 1960s-70s, whom the communist regime of the time prevented from being launched on an international career, and great coaches since the ‘70s. The former include attacking midfielder Nicolae Dobrin and Ilie Balaci. Dobrin, a fantastic dribbler who won the Romanian Footballer of the Year Award thrice (1966, 1967, 1971), was unable to move to Real Madrid despite tremendous support from Santiago Bernabéu himself, because dictator Ceauşescu strongly opposed the transfer; he was, however, posthumously awarded the “Loyal Service” National Order by the Romanian Presidency in 2007. lie Balaci was a midfielder who won the Romanian Cup four times, reached the 1982-83 UEFA Cup semi-finals with his team Universitatea Craiova, and could have transferred to AC Milan if the communist regime hadn’t opposed it; in recognition of his lifelong performance, Balaci too was awarded the Order of Athletic Merit Rank III by the Romanian Presidency in 2008.

As for great coaches, Anghel Iordănescu comes to mind first as the manager of the aforementioned “golden team”, whom he coached through two World Cups (1994 and 1998), as well as a European Eup (1996). Iordănescu was also attached to football club Steaua Bucureşti, which he assistant-coached into winning the European Cup in 1986 – a performance for which he was awarded the Order of Athletic Merit Rank II by the Romanian Presidency in 2008. Similarly, Mircea Lucescu, an excellent scout with a fantastic eye for talent (he discovered gifted Răducioiu and supervised his development), has coached in Romania, Italy, Ukraine and Russia, won the 2008-2009 UEFA Cup with FC Shakhtar Donetsk, was named Coach of the Year four times in Romania and eight times in Ukraine, and is currently managing Turkey’s national team.

Post-Hagi talented Romanian footballers include attacking midfielder/forward Adrian Mutu, who played in Italy for Internazionale, Parma and Fiorentina, was transferred to Chelsea for €22.5 million, and won the Romanian Footballer of the Year Award four times, but unfortunately declined, career-wise, by failing several drug tests. A year younger than Mutu, left back/central defender Cristian Chivu was captain at Ajax Amsterdam, in 2003 got transferred for €18 million to Roma, with which he won the Coppa Italia, and retired from Internazionale (with which he won the 2010 UEFA Champions League) in 2014. “New generation” striker Florin Andone played for teams in the Spanish third and second divisions, as well as La Liga teams Córdoba (2014-16) and Deportivo A Coruña (2016-18), until his transfer to English club Brighton & Hove Albion this year; while in Spain, he was named La Liga Player of the Month/December 2016 and then again Deportivo Player of the Month/February 2018. Last but not least, new generation coach Cosmin Contra made his debut as a manager in 2010 at FC Politehnica Timişoara, then coached Petrolul Ploieşti (with which he won the Romanian Cup in 2013), the Spanish first division team Getafe, Guangzhou R&F, Dinamo Bucharest (with which he won the Romanian League Cup in 2017), and is currently the coach of Romania’s national team.

Changing sports, in Romanian gymnastics the undisputed queen has been world-famous Nadia Comăneci, ever since her perfect performance at the 1976 Montréal Summer Olympics. Back then, Nadia was the first athlete ever to get the maximum score 10 in the history of Olympics gymnastics, with outstanding performances especially on the uneven bars and the beam, winning overall three gold medals. Subsequently, Nadia won as many as 15 gold medals at the 1980 Olympics, the World and European Championships, as well as the World Cup in the late 1970s. In recognition of her impressive achievements, in 1976 she was named the BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year, and Associated Press’s Female Athlete of the Year. After the peak of her career, her coaches Béla and Márta Károlyi defected to the US and for a few years Comăneci was subjected to close surveillance by Ceauşescu’s regime. She retired in 1984 and, just weeks before the Romanian Revolution which overthrew Ceauşescu, she too defected to the USA. Today a dual citizen married to Canadian ex-gymnast Bart Conner, Nadia is the honorary president of the Romanian Gymnastics Federation and the Romanian Olympic Committee, and co-owns the Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy. Taking on leadership responsibilities, she also accepted the post of honorary consul general of Romania to the United States in 2003, and has supported charities like the Nadia Comăneci Children's Clinic in Bucharest.

After Nadia, Romanian gymnastics kept scoring high: Hungarian ethnic Ecaterina Szabo and Daniela Silivaş,

also coached by the Károlyis at the beginning of their career, got excellent results in the early 1980s and late ‘80s, respectively. The former won four gold medals at the 1984 Olympic Games and four gold medals at the World and European Championships, while the latter won three gold medals at the 1988 Olympics and 12 gold medals at the Worlds and Europeans. In addition, both athletes were inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2000 and 2002, respectively. Today, they both work as coaches, Szabo in France, and Silivaş in the USA.

The 1990s saw three female gymnasts live up to the high expectations: teammates Lavinia Miloşovici, Gina Gogean and Simona Amânar. Miloşovici took six years to win a total 11 gold medals at the 1992 Olympics and the World and European Championships held between 1991 and 1996. Gogean won 14 gold medals at the Worlds and Europeans; while criticised as an individual gymnast for her apparent lack of artistry, she was also considered “the backbone of the Romanian team”, whom she helped win three consecutive world titles. [5] Simona Amânar helped Romania win the Olympic team title in 2000, and individually won three gold medals at the 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, as well as six gold medals at the World Championship (1994-1999), two gold medals at the 1998 World Cup Final, and six gold medals at the Europeans between 1994 and 2000. Also, the three teammates were all inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2011, 2013 and 2007, respectively.

Closer to our days (and crossing over into gentleman territory a bit), Marius Urzică was a three-time world champion and a three-time European champion, having done particularly well on pommel horse, and won a gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Marian Drăgulescu won as many as eight world titles between 2001 and 2009, having excelled in vault and floor, and 10 gold medals at the Europeans between 2000 and 2017; with an impressively long active career, Drăgulescu got the Gymnast of the Year Award from the International Press Association in 2002, and was named Romanian Sportsman of the Year in 2009. Back to female gymnasts, Cătălina Ponor showed similar career longevity, with three Olympic gold medals won in 2004, eight gold medals at the European Championship (2004-2017), and seven gold medals at the FIG World Cup (2012-2017).

In athletics, Romania had two prominent sportswomen in the 1960s: high jumper Iolanda Balaş was the first Romanian female athlete to win an Olympic gold medal at Rome in 1960. Subsequently she won another gold medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and two European titles. In her career she set new world records 14 times and she was the first woman to jump over 1.80m. After her retirement, she was the president of the Romanian Athletics Federation, a role for which she was awarded the “Nihil Sine Deo” Order by late King Michael I of Romania. Belonging to the same generation as Balaş, discus thrower Lia Manoliu won a bronze medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics, and another Olympic bronze at Tokyo in 1964. Before the following edition of the Olympic Games the communist-era Romanian Athletics Federation advised her bluntly not to participate in the Olympics anymore because she was “too old”. However, she trained individually, did participate and won the gold medal (1968, Mexico City). In 1974 Manoliu was awarded the UNESCO Fair Play Prize, “for her support to the ideals of fair and loyal competition” [6], and between 1990 and 1998 she served as president of the Romanian Olympic Committee.

The 1980s and ‘90s Romanian athletics were also quite successful, with three sportswomen standing out for their achievements. Middle-distance runner Doina Melinte won both gold and bronze at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, in the 800m and the 1500m, respectively, and held two World indoor titles in 1500m (1987, 1989), as well as three European indoor ones (1985, 1988, 1990). Maricica Puică, also a middle-distance runner, won gold in the 3000m and bronze in the 1500m at the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984, and finished second in the 3000m at the European Championships in both 1982 and 1986; she also won the World Cross Country Championship twice (1982 and 1984), breaking the world record for the mile in ’82. Finally, Gabriela Szabo was a three-time world champion (1997, 1999, 2001), won an Olympic gold medal in the 3000m (Sydney 2000), holds three world indoor titles in the 3000m and the 1500m (1997 and 1999), two European indoor titles in the 3000m (1998 and 2000), and is still the European record holder in the 3000m. In 2000 Szabo received the Laureus World Sports Award for World Athlete of the Year 2000.

In tennis, Romania saw basically two decades of glory: the 1970s and the current 2010s. The absolute star of the former period is famous (and controversial) Ilie Năstase, ATP number 1 in 1973-74, winner of seven Grand Slam titles in both singles (the 1973 French Open, the 1972 US Open) and men’s and mixed doubles, as well as and three-time Davis Cup finalist (1969, 1971, 1972). Nicknamed “Nasty” because of his tantrums, Năstase has recently got into trouble with the International Tennis Federation as captain of Romania’s Fed Cup team, because of his racist and sexist comments about various female tennis players. Despite his problematic temper, Năstase was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, ranked 28 in Tennis Magazine’s list of 40 Greatest Players ever, and received the French Legion d'Honneur for his "impressive sporting career" and "the sense of spectacle" he created as a tennis player. [7]

Also in the 1970s, Năstase’s partner Ion Ţiriac won the French Open men’s doubles in 1970 and reached the

Davis Cup final three times with “Nasty”. Ţiriac, however, excelled not so much in being a tennis player himself, as in managing other players: his portfolio as advisor/coach includes names as famous as Manuel Orantes, Guillermo Vilas, Henri Leconte, Marie Joe Fernández, Boris Becker and Goran Ivanišević. As for the ladies’ ‘70s, Virginia Ruzici stands out as Romania’s most successful female player: in her 12-year career, she won 12 singles titles, the most important of which was the 1978 French Open, and between 1977 and 1983 she was in the world’s top twenty. Incidentally, Ruzici was apparently the reason why Serena and Venus Williams’s father, impressed with the Romanian’s victory at the 1980 Salt Lake City tournament, decided to have his daughters take up tennis. [8]

At present, Simona Halep is obviously the darling of Romanian tennis: in 2013 Halep was named WTA’s most improved player and since then she has reached two Grand Slam singles semi-finals (Wimbledon 2014, US Open 2015), three Grand Slam finals (French Open 2014 and 2017, Australian Open 2018), and won the French Open this year. Currently world’s number 1, Halep holds a total 17 WTA titles and 6 ITF titles. Fellow Romanians Sorana Cîrstea and Irina Begu have also done fairly well, with the former ranking 21 and the latter 22 in the world at the moment. Cîrstea has won one WTA title, while Begu – four. As for Romanian male players, Horia Tecău and Florin Mergea won Romania’s first Olympic silver medal in tennis (2016), with Tecău an excellent doubles player who won two Grand Slam men’s doubles (Wimbledon 2015, US Open 2017), and one Grand Slam mixed doubles (Australian Open 2012).

In male handball, just as in football, Romania had a “golden team” in the 1960s-70s and, we might also add, a “bronze” team in the 1980s – both male. The golden team won Romania four world titles (1961, 1964, 1970 and 1974), as well as an Olympic bronze (1972) and silver (1976). The team included Cristian Gaţu, Marin Dan, Cezar Drăgăniţă, Mircea Grabovschi, Roland Gunesch, Ghiţă Licu, Cornel Penu – with the latter named Best Goalkeeper at the 1974 World Championship. For a glimpse of how different life after handball can be, let’s mention that Gaţu later served as vice president of the Romanian Olympic Committee (1996-2002) and president of the Romanian Handball Federation (1997-2014), while Dan worked as a counterintelligence officer in Ceauşescu’s feared Securitate. The bronze team, with Dumitru Berbece, Vasile Stîngă and Maricel Voinea (among others) on board, brought home two Olympic bronze medals in 1980 and 1984. Stîngă was also the top scorer at the World Championship in 1982 and was selected on the World Handball Team in 1985.

In female handball, even though national team performance has been less remarkable, with only a silver medal (2005) and a bronze one (2015) at the World Championship, a few individual achievements are fully worth mentioning. Aurelia Brădeanu, for example, is in the top 5 all-time goal scorers of Hungarian team Győri Audi ETO KC, a four-time winner of the Champions League. Goalkeeper Luminiţa Dinu was selected on the All-Star team following the 2005 Worlds and voted the best female goalkeeper ever in 2011, as part of a poll conducted by the International Handball Federation (IHF). Finally, Cristina Neagu, whose skill and determination you can enjoy watching in the video above, is arguably the best player in the world: the only one to have won three IHF Player of the Year Awards, Neagu was also the top scorer at the 2010 European Championship, named best left back at the 2014 edition of the same, and selected on the European Championship All-Star Team three times (2010, 2014, 2016).

In Romanian rowing and canoeing, the central (and inspirational) figure that comes to mind first is Ivan Patzaichin. A sprint canoeist with a long and successful career between 1968 and 1984, Patzaichin is “the most decorated Romanian canoeist of all times” and was included among the top 100 Greatest Romanians of all times in a 2006 poll [9]. He participated in five consecutive Olympics, where he won four gold and three silver medals. He also got one gold at the 1969 European Championships and as many as 22 medals (nine gold, four silver, nine bronze) at 11 editions of the World Championship, mainly in the 1000m and 10000m. Following his retirement, Patzaichin coached the Romanian Olympic canoeing team, founded the Ivan Patzaichin – Mila 23 association and started the Rowmania project to foster the public’s interest in rowing, the Danube Delta and responsible tourism. For his sports and social commitment he was awarded the Olympic Order by the International Olympic Committee (1990), the Order of Faithful Service by the Romanian Presidency (2000), and the Nihil Sine Deo Order by the Romanian Royal House (2010).

Apart from Patzaichin’s impressive record, quite a few Romanian rowers scored great Olympic results: overall, 35 Olympic medals (18 gold) in rowing alone. Let’s just shortlist some of these performers. First, Elisabeta Lipă: she was the first female rower who participated in six consecutive Olympics and holds the record for the longest span (20 years) between her first and her last Olympic gold medal (1984 and 2004, respectively); Lipă won a total 21 medals, of which six gold in the Olympics and the World Rowing Championships, mainly in the single sculls, double sculls and eight-oared boat, and was awarded the Thomas Keller medal by the International Rowing Federation in 2008. Veronica Cochelea won two Olympic gold medals (1996 and 2000), four more at the World Rowing Championships (1990, 1993, 1997 and 1998) – all in the eighths, and subsequently became a coach of Romania’s national rowing team. Georgeta Damian won two European titles (2007 and 2008) in the eights and coxless pair, as well as five gold medals in the Olympics (2000, 2004, 2008), and Ioana Olteanu - two Olympic gold medals (1996, 2000) and four world titles (1993, 1997, 1998, 1999) in the eights. Back to the gentleman’s side, Nicolae Ţaga won a total seven medals, of which two gold in the coxed four (1992 Olympic Games and 1993 Worlds), while Viorel Talapan got nine medals, of which one Olympic gold (1992) and three world titles (1993, 1994, 1996), also in the coxed four.

Moving on to more musketeer-inspired sports, i.e. fencing, Romania has done well in institutionalising it and maintaining performance up to high standards. The first national fencing competition took place as early as 1921, after French masters had introduced the sports to the country the previous century, and the Romanian Fencing Federation was founded in 1931. Overall, successive national fencing teams brought Romania eight Olympic medals, while individual athletes secured seven more medals in the Olympics and 26 gold medals in the World and European Championships put together. Also, six Romanian fencing champions were inducted into the International Fencing Federation Hall of Fame, while three others are rated top-ranked fencers.

Some of those athletes include Ion Drîmbă (foil), who won the first Olympic gold medal for Romania in 1968 and a team world title in 1967, and was named World’s Best Foilist by the International Sports Press Association. Also a foiler, Olga Szabó-Orbán was world champion in 1962, helped bring Romania the team World title in 1969, and won three medals in the Olympics - none of gold, but her 1956 silver was the first fencing Olympic medal for the country. Laura Badea-Cârlescu won the individual gold at the 1996 Olympics, two world titles (team and individual foil) in 1994 and 1995, and subsequently became vice-president of the Romanian Fencing Federation. Mihai Covaliu (sabre) won gold in the 2000 Olympics, was a World as well as European champion (2005, 2006), and subsequently coached the national team. Tiberiu Dolniceanu (sabre) won Romania the team gold and silver medals at the 2009 Worlds and the 2012 Olympics, respectively, as well as the individual European title in 2013; in the 2013-2014 season, having won the bronze medal at the World Cup, he became number 1 in world rankings. Finally, Ana-Maria Brânză (épée) won six individual medals, of which a European gold (2013), and with her team made Romania an Olympic champion (gold, 2016), a twice world champion (2010, 2011) and six-time European champion.

In (ladies) swimming, Romania’s performance has tended to occur in competitions other than the Olympic

Games. Legendary 1.91m-tall Carmen Bunaciu (photo), for instance, was the first to bring home world medals in swimming for Romania. She won four bronze medals at the World and European Championships, but as many as ten, of which five gold, at the Summer Universiade (a competition organised by the International University Sports Federation every two years), between 1979 and 1985, in the 100m and 200m backstroke. Camelia Potec did win an Olympic medal, the gold in the women’s 200m freestyle at the 2004 Olympics, and she also won silver in 2000 and gold in 2004 at the Mare Nostrum meets. And Diana Mocanu won a total 9 medals, of which one world title (2001) in 200m backstroke and two Olympic gold medals (2000) in 100m and 200m backstroke.

Last and highest, mountain climbing. Athletes in this category do not abound, however their achievements are all the more striking. Let’s look at three such examples. First, geologist and climber Constantin Lăcătuşu set out to carry out what climbers call the “Seven Summits” project. That implies climbing the highest mountains on each continent, even though the exact peak-per-continent division varies between the Messner and the Bass lists. Lăcătuşu chose the former and managed to complete the whole project in 8 years and 166 days: he summited Elbrus in Eurasia (5642m) in June 1990, Kilimanjaro in Africa (5895m) in February 1995, Everest in Asia (8848m) in May 1995, Aconcagua in South America (6961m) in February 1996, Denali in North America (6194m) in June 1997, Puncak Jaya in Indonesia (4884m) in April 2000, Vinson in Antarctica (4892m) in December 2001. Thus, he became the first Romanian to ever climb the Everest.

Undertaking an even more ambitious project, photographer and climber Alex Găvan has been focusing on 8000m+ summits since 2006. There are 14 such peaks on the planet, and up to now Găvan has made it to the top of Cho Oyu in Tibet (8201m), Gasherbrum I on the Pakistani-Chinese border (8080m) – first Romanian ascent, Makalu on the border between Nepal and Tibet (8485m) – first Romanian ascent, Manaslu in Nepal (8156m), Shishapangma in Tibet (8027m) – first Romanian ascent, and Broad Peak on the border of Pakistan and China (8047m). In recognition of his extraordinary endeavour, Alex was named Romanian Sportsman of the Year in High Altitude Mountaineering/2007 by the Romanian Federation of Alpinism and Sport Climbing.

The latter award was shared by Găvan with dentist and climber Horia Colibăşanu, also involved in a 8000m+

project of his own. Of the globe’s 14 eight-thousanders, Colibăşanu himself has already summited eight, since 2004: the K2 (8611m), nicknamed “the savage mountain” because of its high fatality rate; Manaslu (8163m) – “mountain of the spirit”; Dhaulagiri (8167m); Shishapangma Central Summit (8.013 m); Annapurna (8091m) – “Goddess of the Harvests”; Makalu (8485m); Lhotse (8516m); and the Everest (8848m). Thanks to his role in the rescue operation of Spanish co-climber Iñaki Ochoa, Colibăşanu received the “Spirit of Mountaineering” award from the British Alpine Club in 2009, and the “Athletic Merit” gold medal from the Government of Navarra in Spain.

Now, having run through such track record of performance, let’s zoom in on a fine, fine trio.

Gogea Mitu – boxer and the tallest Romanian in history, nicknamed “Goliath of Romania”

Born: 14 July 1914 in Mârşani, Dolj County, southern Romania

Died: 22 June 1936 in Bucharest

Career highlights

* aged 3, he reportedly learned to read by himself

* before turning 17, he was offered a job by a circus owner from Prague

* performed at Globus Circus in Monaco as "the man who straightens iron”

* was discovered and trained to become a boxer by Romanian-Italian talent scout Umberto Lancia, who became his manager

* fought his first boxing match at the Venus Stadium in Bucharest and won by knockout in the first round

* fought against 1.91m-tall American champion George Godfrey and was defeated

* went on a boxing tour to Italy and France

* became rich and sent money home to his humble family (he had 10 siblings)

* caught a cold during a train trip back home and was hospitalised

* he died in hospital, officially of tuberculosis, a cause of death contested by his family, who suspected medical error or poisoning


* Mitu is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the tallest professional boxer ever (2.36m)

He was...

really intelligent; of a meek nature; very emotional and shy with women; a great eater: they say one of his meals consisted of a loaf of bread, a whole chicken, two litres of milk, 25 eggs, a kilo of cookies, two litres of plum brandy and half a litre of wine [10] – if true, that would’ve probably gone into the Guinness Book, too; that, or his shoe size, which was 56.

Elisabeta Polihroniade – chess player and holder of the title of Woman Grandmaster

Born: 24 April 1935 in Bucharest, Romania

Died: 23 January 2016 in Bucharest

Career highlights

* 1960: graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy in Bucharest and became international woman Master

* 1960-1997: made TV-radio shows about chess

* 1966: won the Romanian Women’s Championship, and played for Romania in the Women’s Chess Olympiads for the first time

* 1967: received the Order for Athletic Merit

* 1970-1972: won the Romanian Women’s Championship

* 1975-1977: won the Romanian Women’s Championship

* 1976: ranked 4th at the World Championship by correspondence and published Olympiads in Black and White

* 1982: became international woman Grandmaster and published The First Steps in Chess

* 1984: published Chess for Everyone

* 1986: became an international arbiter

* 1987: ranked 1st and 2nd at the Australian Chess Open

* 1988: played for Romania in the Women’s Chess Olympiads for the last time and reached her peak rating of 2310

* 1990: published 64 Beauty Prizes in Chess

* 1993: became editor of the Gambit chess magazine

* 1995: became co-president of the “Karpov-Polihroniade” International Chess School

* 1995-2001: was vice-president of the Romanian Chess Federation

* 2000: was awarded the Order of Loyal Service

* overall, won six Olympic medals (four silver, two bronze)

She was...

relentlessly passionate about promoting chess as part of the standard school education; very respected and popular; of noble character; very generous about sharing her skill and knowledge. [11]

Tiberiu Uşeriu – endurance runner and ultra-marathoner

Born: 1974, Bustriţa-Năsăud County, northern Romania

Career highlights

* 2016: completed 12 hours before the deadline his first 6633 Ultra Marathon in the Arctic, the “toughest, coldest and windiest” [12] Ultra, which he described as “the race for life” (566 kilometres to be crossed in the Polar Circle area within 180 hours at around -50 degrees)

* 2017: finished first the 6633 Ultra again

* 2017: published 27 Steps, an autobiography in which he tells the story of how he turned from “Mister 2800”, an inmate in a German prison for 10 years, into a free man who reinvented himself as an ultra-marathoner

* 2018: won the 6633 Ultra yet again, in seven days and five hours

He has been...

dedicated to the social cause for which he signed up for the Ultra, i.e. the “Children’s Woods” reforestation project run by the Tăşuleasa Social Association; very determined to train the tough way (running bare-chested in cold temperatures, bathing in freezing lakes) in order to get ready for the harsh Arctic conditions; appreciative of his rival ultra-marathoners; happy to see the aurora borealis for the first time during the races; realistic about the thorough preparation needed to fulfil one’s dreams. [13]

Now, are you ready for some giant vintage footage?

Photo credits

Notes & sources

[1] “Oină”. Wikipedia. Accessed 8 Jul 2018. <>

[2] “Sport in Romania”. Wikipedia. Accessed 8 Jul 2018. <>

[4] “Miodrag Belodedici.” Wikipedia. Accessed 10 Jul 2018. <>

[5] “Gina Gogean”. Wikipedia. Accessed 10 Jul 2018. <>

[6] “Lia Manoliu”. Wikipedia. Accessed 10 Jul 2018. <>

[7] “Ilie Năstase”. Wikipedia. Accessed 10 Jul 2018. <>

[8] “Virginia Ruzici”. Wikipedia. Accessed 10 Jul 2018. <>

[9] “Ivan Patzaichin”. Wikipedia. Accessed 11 Jul 2018. <>

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