Never, Ever Count Romania Out in an Olympic Year

Romanian coach Octavian Bellu hugs Larisa Iordache and Diana Bulimar. Credit: Grace Chiu/ for

In the 2000 Olympics, Russia came in with a dominant team. They were expected to take home the  gold. In 2004 Olympics the USA came into the Olympics as the gold medal favorites. In both Olympics, Romania took home the gold. As the more dominant teams around them faltered here and there, Romania “killed it with consistency,” taking home the Olympic team gold over teams with more difficulty and loftier expectations.

After 2004, both the Romanian and Russian gymnastics programs declined, due to the loss of their longtime coaches. Instead of battling for gold, in 2008 they were battling for the bronze. Once again, Russia was expected to take it. Once again, Romania went home with the bronze.

In 2010 Romania brought back former coaches from their glory days. Many people began to say, “Watch out for Romania in 2012. Give them time and they will be right back in the mix.” But in 2011, Romania left the World Championships without a single medal. It began to look doubtful that they could really make up enough ground for 2012.

If we have learned anything from the past however, we know that is never wise to doubt Romania in an Olympic year. Their stellar performance and win at the European Championships show them to be back in the mix. They competed in the way that only Romanians seem to have mastered: consistent, beautiful and out to win. They still have a ways to go to challenge for the gold. But they are now on everyone’s radar to challenge for the silver. Sure, Russia has a lot more to give than they did at the European Championships. If Russia competes like we know they can, Romania has a lot of work to do to be in a position to beat them again. Sure, America is way ahead of them on difficulty and has hopefully learned to compete with a fierceness and consistency of their own. But as Russia learned in 2000 and 2008 and the USA learned in 2004, “Octavian Belu can never be ruled out in an Olympic year, never. There is only one certainty in gymnastics: he is cannier than you.” (Stoi!).

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