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The Nice Romanian Gymnasts Who Got here Earlier than Nadia (Half II) – An Outdated Faculty Gymnastics Weblog


In Half I of this sequence I coated the careers of three Romanian gymnasts in girls’s creative gymnastics (WAG) who have been trailblazers of the Romanian program within the pre-Nadia period. To finish the sequence, I’m going to profile 4 extra Romanian gymnasts.

Elena Ceampelea (1964-1974)

When Elena Ceampelea first appeared on the 1964 Olympics, she was solely 17 years previous. In a technique, Elena Ceampelea was the proper illustration of the brand new course the game was taking with the wave of younger gymnasts that have been about to overhaul the game. However Ceampelea would evolve to later signify the final of the “previous guard” classical Nineteen Sixties period gymnasts who have been doing every part they might to keep up their existence in a sport that was now being over taken by younger child-gymnasts of the Nadia Comaneci profile.

There may be not a lot to say concerning the early years of Elena Ceampelea, solely that she was loads like Sonia Iovan, a gymnast who would begin off sluggish and wasn’t anticipated to hit her stride till years later. The 1964 Olympics was her Olympic debut, however the 1968 Olympics could be her time to shine. Solely, it wasn’t to be.

What makes Elena Ceampelea probably the most fascinating gymnasts on this sequence was the storm she weathered. Romania had completed sixth on the 1964 Olympics and officers have been “dissatisfied” with the end result and pulled help from this system. Romania wouldn’t be sending a full group to the 1966 World Championships, solely a small variety of people. As for the 1968 Olympics, Romanian WAG withdrew from that competitors completely.

If officers had determined Romanian WAG was a misplaced trigger, in some ways they have been proper. Within the Nineteen Sixties they’d precisely predicted the rise of superpowers equivalent to East Germany, China, and america and different challengers equivalent to North Korea and Bulgaria that might ultimately begin taking medals for themselves. It was additionally obvious that the present era, Elena Ceampelea included, didn’t have the aptitude to win medals. However what Romanian officers didn’t know was that there was just a little woman in Onesti who in just some years time, was about to vary all of that. They most likely couldn’t fathom that Romanian WAG was about to change into essentially the most sacred and historic WAG program for the subsequent fifty years.

However that was what was to return. For now, Romania needed to get by way of its darkest hour, and that’s the place Elena Ceampelea is available in. When her program appeared to give up on itself, Elena Ceampelea didn’t give up on Romanian WAG. Her 1968 Olympics might have been stolen from her, however Ceampelea would come again for the 1972 Olympics. Turning into a 2x Olympian who competed in three totally different Olympic quads.

Elena Ceampelea by no means received a medal in her profession, a 4th place end on vault on the European Championships was the closest she ever got here to profitable a medal. However Ceampelea’s legacy could be the best way she impressed by way of sheer stubbornness. The identical gymnast who stored religion along with her program even whereas it had opted to forego the Olympics would as soon as once more refuse to budge when the game began pivoting in direction of little one athletes.

Within the Nineteen Seventies no program had a higher emphasis on little one Olympic gymnasts than Romanian WAG. However in an ironic accident, on the identical time Romania additionally had one of many oldest WAGs within the sport. When Elena Ceampelea competed on the 1974 World Championships, she was the oldest gymnast from any of the key gymnastics powers.

Elena Ceampelea as soon as had the excellence of being the final gymnast who was 27 years previous or older to be a member of a beginning lineup in a WAG group that was top-4 within the standings. It wasn’t till the 2021 Olympics that Vanessa Ferrari grew to become the primary gymnast to match or exceed Ceampelea’s benchmark.

If Elena Leusteanu and Sonia Iovan have been Romania’s nice gymnasts who got here earlier than Nadia, Ceampelea was one of many gymnasts who was round throughout Nadia’s time. In 1973 on the age of 26, Ceampelea competed straight towards an 11-year previous Nadia in varied Romanian competitions.

Nadia received.

What makes Elena Ceampelea such an interesting gymnast is how unusual this expertise will need to have been for her. The gymnast who as soon as competed alongside Larissa Latynina and Vera Caslavska the place the top-gymnasts have been sometimes of their late 20s and early 30s was a part of a nationwide program full of little one prodigies, lots of which have been below the age of 12.

Elena Ceampelea needs to be remembered for 2 issues. First, she was one among WAG’s Most worthy position fashions contemplating her relationship with so many Romanian kids equivalent to Nadia Comaneci who would take this system to new heights beginning within the mid-Nineteen Seventies. Secondly, Elena Ceampelea by no means received a medal in her profession and helped Romania rise from the ashes to a 4th place end in 1974.

Elena Ceampelea by no means bought to expertise the joys of profitable a medal, she by no means even received a medal within the group competitors. However after Elena Ceampelea, Romania would win a medal on practically each event from 1976-2012.

Alina Goreac

Alina Goreac (1970-1974)

The explanation for Romania’s sudden rise within the early Nineteen Seventies was the younger supporting solid accompanying the remainder of the nationwide group, the primary of which was Alina Goreac. On the 1968 and 1972 Olympics East Germany was on the top of its energy. On the time it appeared East Germany could be the second strongest WAG program after the USSR and dangle on to that position for the foreseeable future.

Whereas East German gymnasts Erika Zuchold and Karin Janz have been having huge quantities of success on the senior degree, on the junior degree a unique sample was rising. At 1968 Druzhba, the Chilly Struggle period equal of a Junior World Championships, it was the Romanian juniors who had outperformed the East German juniors. Main the best way was the 15-year previous Alina Goreac who completed third within the AA.

The one two gymnasts who had overwhelmed Goreac have been Ludmilla Turischeva, the longer term 1972 Olympic AA Champion, and Tamara Lazakovich, the gymnast who would have received the Olympic AA below carry-over scoring. Romania’s determination to not attend the 1968 Olympics most probably costed the 15-year previous Alina Goreac an Olympic look that 12 months. Like so most of the Romanian legends who got here earlier than her, Alina Goreac wanted time to develop.

Ludmilla Turischeva congratulates the victorious Nadia Comaneci on the 1975 European Championships in what’s seen as probably the most historic/symbolic moments in WAG historical past. Alina Goreac is on the far proper subsequent to Nellie Kim (2nd from proper). Richarda Schmeisser is on the far left.

She attended the 1972 Olympics as a 19-year previous and didn’t have a lot of an affect. However within the following 12 months on the 1973 European Championships, breakout success would lastly come. Goreac began the competitors off by ending 4th within the All-Round and 4th on vault. However on her three remaining occasions she received a bronze on bars, a silver on beam, and one other bronze on ground. All through all the competitors Alina Goreac by no means fell under 4th place.

On the 1973 European Championships Romania would win medals for the primary time for the reason that Nineteen Fifties. Then on the 1974 World Championships Alina Goreac recorded an eighth place end within the All-Round and narrowly missed out on two medals in Occasion Finals. Goreac completed 4th on vault and fifth on beam.

Her fifth place end on stability beam was particularly merciless because the 4 gymnasts forward of her have been all Soviet. The 1974 World Championships was the final time a serious WAG competitors was held with out nation limits. Had that rule change been launched only one season earlier, Goreac would have completed sixth within the AA and received a bronze medal on beam.

Alina Goreac competes on vault on the 1976 Twin Meet between Romania and america. This competitors was an necessary Olympic qualifier for america, whereas Romania featured an iconic lineup of Anca Grigoras, Alina Goreac, Teodora Ungureanu, and Nadia Comaneci

Sadly for Alina Goreac, the medals she “nearly” received on the 1974 World Championships would show to be pricey. On the 1976 Olympics Romania received a silver medal within the group competitors. Had Goreac been on the group, she would have received the primary and solely medal of her profession. However that didn’t occur and her omission was one among Romania’s extra controversial group picks of the Nineteen Seventies.

It’s broadly speculated that at 23 years previous, she was left off the group due to her age and Bela Karolyi’s philosophy of investing completely in younger, little one gymnasts. Goreac was 5 years older than the oldest member of the 1976 group, and eight years older than its median age. There have been additionally geographical issues as on the time, Bucharest and Onesti had rival golf equipment/packages.

Alina Goreac’s 1976 omission is startling contemplating her sturdy efficiency in 1975.

Alina Goreac (left) and Nadia Comaneci (proper) assembly with Romanian authorities officers following their success on the 1975 European Championships

On the 1975 European Championships Romania may ship just one different gymnast to enhance Nadia, and the gymnast they chose was Alina Goreac. Regardless of competing towards Nadia, Nellie Kim, and Ludmilla Turischeva, three Corridor of Fame gymnasts, Goreac nonetheless managed to win two bronze medals on bars and beam. She additionally recorded a 4th place end on ground and a sixth place end within the All-Round (AA).

The 1975 European Championships is one among WAG’s most legendary moments. It was the competitors that made everybody take Nadia severely as a baby prodigy who may beat all the prime gymnasts on the earth. It was additionally the competitors that marked the arrival of the Romanian program as an entire. From that time ahead, Romania could be seen as a first-rate WAG energy and preserve that place for 40 years.

Alina Goreac was the opposite Romanian gymnast who was in a position to be a part of that second and compete by Nadia’s facet. Alina Goreac competed all through three Olympic quads, solely to overlook the Olympics on two separate events, each occurring below questionable circumstances. However in heartbreaking style, she by no means received a medal on the Group-1 degree. It may very well be argued that Alina Goreac is Romania’s biggest, most deserving, and most historic gymnast to have by no means received a medal.

Media protection of Alina Goreac’s efficiency on the 1977 College Video games

Goreac would show to be a fighter. She continued to compete after the 1976 Olympics. In 1977 she earned a spot in Romania’s lineup on the 1977 College Video games, marking her final look in a high-profile worldwide competitors. In 1978 she received a pair of bronze medals on bars and beam at Romania’s Nationwide Championships.

However essentially the most compelling stat line is that Alina Goreac competed into 1979 and managed to straight compete towards Natalia Ilienko. At this competitors the 27 12 months previous Goreac misplaced to the 12 12 months previous Ilienko, a Soviet gymnast greater than half her age. It additionally meant a Soviet gymnast who ought to have been a 1984 Olympian competed straight towards a Romanian gymnast who ought to have been a 1968 Olympian.

Not solely was this encounter an uncommon assembly of two gymnasts of various generations who have been separated by 3-5 Olympic quads, however including to the symbolism was this assembly occurred in 1979. This was the exact same 12 months Natalia Ilienko had received Druzhba. This created an absurd dynamic the place Alina Goreac has the excellence of competing towards a gymnast who ranked as a #1 junior within the present 12 months, on two separate events, 11 years aside.

Alina Goreac

Alina Goreac has the excellence of being entrance and heart throughout two of essentially the most historic moments in WAG historical past. Alina was in Olga Korbut’s equipment rotation through the 1972 All-Round Finals the place Olga Korbut had her famed ill-fated efficiency on the uneven bars and broke down into tears. Korbut’s heartbreaking response received her sympathy amongst Olympic viewers and was a defining second of each Olga’s profession and a set off within the speedy explosion of recognition WAG achieved on the 1972 Olympics.

It was Alina Goreac who was subsequent on the beginning record in what is likely one of the most well-known and traditionally important routines in WAG historical past. Goreac was additionally one of many athletes who tried to consolation a crying and distressed Olga Korbut. Then there was the 1975 European Championships the place Nadia Comaneci trounced Ludmilla Turischeva in an occasion that was seen as the beginning of Romanian WAG’s four-decade run of success and is broadly seen because the delivery of a brand new period in gymnastics the place “little woman” gymnastics grew to become the dominant ideology.

Goreac was bodily standing not more than two or three ft away when Ludmilla Turischeva gave Nadia Comaneci a congratulatory kiss in what is likely one of the most symbolic moments in WAG historical past and essentially the most defining “passing of the torch” instance within the historical past of the game.

(From L to R): Liu Yajun, Nadia, Ning Xiaolin, and Anca Grigoras. Photograph taken in Shanghai, 1978.

Anca Grigoras (1972-1978)

What has change into a theme all through this sequence, when one legendary Romanian WAG is profiled, there may be one other gymnast who competed proper alongside her value mentioning. Nadia raised the profile of Romanian WAG, however Nadia didn’t do it alone. The 1973 European Championships established that even earlier than Nadia’s arrival, Romanian WAG was surging.

In 1973 there was the beforehand talked about stat line from Alina Goreac the place she received three medals and completed in 4th place on her two remaining occasions. However the different Romanian entrant at this competitors was Anca Grigoras who received a bronze medal on beam. After having gone medal-less on the European Championships for over a decade, two totally different Romanian gymnastics had received medals in the identical competitors. The 1973 European Championships proved simply how sturdy and well-rounded the Romanian WAG program was changing into.

Anca Grigoras was Romania’s “Nadia earlier than Nadia.” Like Nadia, Anca had been a baby prodigy who went to the Olympics at 14 years previous again in 1972. If Elena Ceampelea was Nadia’s position mannequin through the junior portion of her profession, Anca Grigoras was Nadia’s position mannequin for the majority of her senior profession. Anca Grigoras and Nadia Comaneci have been teammates at each the 1976 Olympics and the 1978 World Championships. When Nadia was a 14/15 12 months previous, she had an 18/19 12 months Anca by her facet to assist information her.

Anca Grigoras and Nadia Comaneci on the 1976 Olympics

Be aware: The identical pattern occurred in 1975 when Anca aso performed the position of an elder gymnast guiding alongside a 14 12 months previous Teodora Ungureanu on the World Cup.

How a lot of an affect did Anca have on Nadia? On her official Fb web page Nadia has paid tribute to Anca on a number of events. Most notably reposting a collage created by Magda of I Love Romanian Gymnastics. At one level, Nadia seems to have acquired a framed set of the 2 pictures in query.

Anca Grigoras by no means achieved a lot success in WAG following her 1973 efficiency on the European Championships. Her bronze medal on the uneven bars on the 1973 European Championships was the lone medal of her profession in a person occasion. Nor was Anca significantly effectively fitted to the introduction of nation limits within the mid-Nineteen Seventies. Anca completed fifteenth in All-Round qualifying on the 1976 Olympics. Mariana Constantin completed 14th in All-Round qualifying and eradicated Grigoras on nation limits by the narrowest of margins.

The collage of Anca Grigoras and Nadia Comaneci made by Magda

On the 1976 Olympics each Romanian gymnast in each the All-Round and Occasion Finals was below the age of 16. Making the 18 12 months previous Anca Grigoras the outlier veteran who tried her finest to compete in a program that was dominated by younger little one prodigies. Like Elena Ceampelea and Alina Goreac, Anca Grigoras is one among WAG’s nice tales of an growing older veteran gymnast who refused to go down and not using a struggle. Anca Grigoras’ means to keep up a excessive place within the sport and make the Romanian group in each 1976 and 1978 was significantly spectacular contemplating her top.

Anca was a reasonably tall gymnast in an period the place coaches have been quickly emphasizing brief gymnasts. She did it whereas competing for Romania, a program that was extra aggressive in prioritizing small/younger gymnasts than another WAG energy. And but Anca Grigoras continued and even received herself a spot on two totally different groups.

Anca’s profession following her 1973 efficiency on the European Championships could be three consecutive years of regression. Sadly for Anca, that trajectory had run its course when she was Romania’s lowest scoring gymnast on the 1978 World Championships. The end result successfully ended her time as a member of the Romanian A-Crew. Like so many Romanian icons of the period, Anca Grigoras took a “curtain name” on the College Video games. This specific competitors would steadily function a symbolic send-off for growing older veterans of the Romanian program. Giving them one closing look in a prestigious competitors and the chance to depart the game on a excessive notice.

Alina Goreac (L), Ludmilla Turischeva (C) and Anca Grigoras (R) through the beam finals podium ceremony on the 1973 European Championships

For Anca it got here in 1979 the place she completed 4th within the All-Round, received a bronze on the uneven bars and a silver medal on the stability beam. Two years later, Nadia would take a curtain name of her personal when the 1981 College Video games could be the ultimate competitors of her storied profession.

Emilia Lita

To conclude this sequence, I need to pivot again to the Nineteen Fifties/Nineteen Sixties and profile a Romanian gymnast by the identify of Emilia Lita. As a gymnast, Emilia Lita was by no means aggressive sufficient to contend for medals. In most competitions she was solely Romania’s 4th or fifth finest gymnast and her median All-Round rank was thirty sixth. Probably the most noteworthy facet of her profession was Lita’s longevity the place she by no means missed a serious competitors from 1954-1964 and have become a 3x Olympian.

She was a staple of the Romanian program the place Lita was a core member of the nationwide program who all the time discovered herself within the beginning lineup. However what makes Lita necessary (apart from a ten 12 months gymnastics profession) was her post-athletic contributions to the Romanian program.

Emilia Lita has the excellence of teaching two of the gymnasts beforehand profiled on this sequence (Elena Ceampelea and Alina Goreac). This specific element offers a small pattern of simply how important the veterans of the pre-Nadia period have been in advancing Romanian WAG in later years. Not solely does Lita have a training affiliation with Elena Ceampelea and Alina Goreac, however based on Magda Petrescu, she additionally labored with Aurelia Dobre, Laura Cutina, and Simona Pauca who have been all legends of the Eighties.

Alina Goreac (R) as a coach

Elena Ceampelea herself additionally handed on her gymnastics data to future generations. Sandra Izbasa, Loredana Boboc, Alexandra Eremia, Carmen Ionescu, and Florica Leonida are amongst the examples of gymnasts who’ve had direct teaching interactions with Ceampelea.

Anca Grigoras went on to change into each a Romanian coach and a world choose. She rose to change into a member of the UEG Girls’s Technical Committee. Emilia Lita additionally served as a choose and was on the judging panel on the 1977 European Championships, probably the most defining competitions in Romania’s program historical past.

The explanation I cite all these post-Olympic accomplishments is to spotlight their involvement in administrative roles. These gymnasts not solely hail from an period that predates Nadia Comaneci, however an period the place it was the expectation that former Olympic gymnasts instantly fill vital wants on the executive facet in WAG upon their retirement. The Romanian gymnasts of the pre-Nadia period not solely proved that success on this particular nationwide program was doable and kickstarted an ordinary of greatness, however have been quiet contributors to the expansion of Romanian WAG even after Nadia grew to become a family identify.

Hyperlink to Half I of this sequence

Anca Grigoras

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