A journey through the capital of gymnastics` history and emotions @ RepublicaHD article

From Republicahd.ro

At the foot of Deva City´s Hill you can find the gym that would send so many generation of champions to world podiums. In the last decades, the greatest gymnasts in the world only left this gym to conquer gold, silver or bronze. To honor them, an ensemble of gymnastics dedicated sculptures was built, close to the Olympic Center, in the city square.

For centuries, the city built on top of the hill defended the town, but the Olympic Center was meant to transform Deva into the international capital of gymnastics. Building the Olympic gym at the foot of the hill took only 6 months, a record for the late ´70s, the center was ready in 1978. Since then, far away from the stir of the town and the simple life, this was the place where the greatest Romanian gymnasts fought to keep elite gymnastics´ tradition. After her last summer visit at Deva, Maria-Daniela Panazan, author of “Performance and Prestige. A history of Romanian Women Gymnastics” wrote: “Seeing Deva – with the most famous gymnastics school in the world, a unique place for what it has achieved in only 32 years – is one of the most pleasant experiences, one that keeps you in tension every minute. Unforgettable moments you can never forget (…). This trip gave me the chance to dream. I involuntarily remembered how much I wanted to discover as a child the school where my favorite champions, legendary names in gymnastics and golden generations of my childhood studied and trained: Nadia, Ecaterina Szabo, Lavinia Agache, Laura Cutina, Mihaela Stanulet, Cristina Grigoras, Daniela Silivas, Aurelia Dobre, Camelia Voinea, Celestina Popa, Eugenia Golea, Gabriela Potorac. With love, for Deva, the city of international gymnastics!” The statues of World famous gymnasts and coaches demand the tourists´ attention when they find they are in the place where Romanian sport put on gold thanks to the diamonds polished in thousands of hours, under the supervision of some of the best coaches in the world. The building of the Olympic center is the same as when Martha and Bela Karolyi, the initiators of the project immediately after Nadia scored a 10 in Montreal, trained here.

Home, in Deva
The training center was the home of dozens of girls selected for the National team. Andreea Raducan, the wronged Sydney champion, wrote in her book: “Home – a pretty strange word – what does home really mean to me? The place I loved so much, with the most beloved people on earth, where I spent 4-5 days a year? Or the Olympic center in Deva, where I spent the other 360 days a year?” A modern gym, a new dorm, the dining hall and the school – the former Nr. 7 School – represented the universe of the World Champions most of the time of the year. All of them have fond memories of the town and the gym, even if it was not easy for them all those years. Maria Olaru frequently returns to the town she still feels a bond for: “We really were a family here, a true team, we supported, we helped, we encouraged each other. Finding something like this is difficult. We have so many beautiful moments it´s difficult picking one. We also have sad or tough memories, but they have faded with time and now we only remember the good times.” In her book “The other side of the medal”, Andreea Raducan writes down what the separation from the magical place of Romanian gymnastics meant for her: “After the last competition, where I had not won anything, I did not return to school at Deva. I went back to the place I so often wanted to go to after a Championship – home. (…) I never said goodbye physically to Deva – as if I was not supposed to do that, but rather carry it with me in my soul as I knew it – because I never picked up my belongings, they were sent to me.”

The golden city
Deva´s golden history is due to the Deva City Sports Club, established in 1978, which pushed onto the podium some of the biggest women gymnastics names: Nadia Comaneci, Ecaterina Szabo, Lavinia Agache, Daniela Silivas, Lavinia Milosovici, Gina Gogean, Maria Olaru, Simona Amanar or Andreea Raducan. Deva locals remember that the Romanian National Women´s team, which had just returned from Montreal, was present at the opening of the Deva Sports Arena in 1977. That was the moment when the team´s coaches – Marta and Bela Karolyi – decided to set up in Deva an Olympic training center. The project was finished and officially inaugurated in 1979 as an Olympic gym for the Women´s National team. Few people know, though, that setting Deva up as a gymnastics capital is due to a personal drama. This was unveiled by the former Romanian Gymnastics Federation president, Nicolae Vieru, in an important Romanian newspaper: “Martha was a gymnastics coach at the Sports School in Petrosani. Her team was third at the National Championships. They wanted to leave Petrosani, to leave behind the death of their daughter. They asked the federation to provide them with a spot in another town and the circumstances worked in their favor as the Federation´s vice secretary was Lovy Francisc, who favored Bela. He offered him a place at the Onesti center. Initially, Bela was working for the handball division at the Sports School while Martha worked with Maria Simionescu, at the Olympic gymnastics center. (…) This center was created at my proposal in 1969.” 7 years later, Bela Karolyi would move the center of Romanian gymnastics to Deva. Initially, Nadia refused to follow her coaches to Deva and stopped training for a few months in 1977 but she eventually moved to Deva in 1978 and lived at 2A, Barbu Stefanescu Delavrancea Street. The Karolyis lived in a house close to the school until 1980, when they stayed in the USA. Nadia also left for the US in 1989, after illegally crossing the border and causing a stir among Communist Party leaders.

Deva will always be Deva
“The Deva center was created in 1977 but Bela Karolyi worked with the gymnasts at the Chemistry Highschool until the gym officially opened the following year. Karolyi remained in America on the 1st of April of 1981 and Octavian Bellu joined the Deva team in May.” says Nicolae Vieru. Bellu has been working as coach in Deva since then, becoming the team´s coordinator in 1990. He trained the Olympic teams until 2005, taking part in 6 Olympic Games, 16 World Championships, 13 European Championships, 5 World Cups, 11 Junior European Championships and working together with Mariana Bitang. The two were a couple leading the Olympic team, but also in their private life, which did not come through until they married in Bucharest in 2008. In 2005, after poor results at a couple of competitions and a number of scandals related to training conditions, the two gave up the team, left Deva and became government counselors. Bellu was named the National Agency for Sport´s president in 2006 and his place at Deva was taken over by Nicolae Forminte. At the end of the same year, the authorities inaugurated the new gym at Izvorani, a couple kilometers away from Bucharest. Although this was presented as the most modern gym in Romania and the men´s team was already training there, the Olympic Women´s team and its coaches chose to keep training at Deva. The authorities declared then that the gym was built after the former coordinators of the National team, Bellu and Bitang, complained of the bad conditions at the Deva gym. After they left, Nicolae Formite did not want to move the gymnasts from the Olympic center in Deva. The 2005 gym was worth 70 billion old leis and it took 1 year to build. This building is part of the “Sydney 2000” Olympic Center, exclusively dedicated to the Romanian Olympic teams. It offers sauna, pools, tennis courts and other facilities.

From Deva to Izvorani
In December 2007, after months of reconditioning, the Deva gym was almost ready. It has a new synthetic floor, including a new fir support for the floor area. The workers completely replaced the heating and the interior was painted again. This was a 5.4 million old leis investment, from the National Agency for Sports´ budget. During this process, the Olympic team coordinated by Nicolae Formite trained at the Izvorani gym. But in 2010, the Romanian Gymnastics Federation called upon Octavian Bellu and Mariana Bitang to take over the team due to poor results during the Forminte era. Thus, the two “gymnastics´golden coaches” took over the Deva team after a 5 year break and moved it to Izvorani, the new Olympic complex close to Bucharest. After three months with the team, they declared trainings will take place at the Izorani center: “Deva will always be Deva. Now, the Junior team is training there and we won´t give it up. We will be training both at Izvorani and Deva. But at least after Worlds, the girls will be training here. (…) The gym looks better than the one at Deva because it´s newer. But we will also go there, to avoid monotony.” But the team stayed in Izvorani although Nicolae Vieru, then Federation president, promised the following at the inauguration: “It´s an excellent training gym but we will definitely not give up Deva to come here. Living here is expensive, there is insufficient space and it´s far from educational facilities.” Also known as “the medal factory”, the gymnastics center in Deva seems to have closed its doors after more than 30 years of enriching Romania´s record with more than 300 European, World and Olympic medals.


One Response to A journey through the capital of gymnastics` history and emotions @ RepublicaHD article

  1. daniel says:

    very good
    thank you 🙂

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