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Simona Amanar

Over the eight years Simona Amanar represented Romania on the international stage, she crafted a reputation for herself and for her country that won her many fans. Present at Romania's first four consecutive world titles and an all around medalist at the Atlanta and Sydney Olympics, she proved to be one of Romania's most talented and consistent competitors during the 1990's and left a lasting legacy with fans all over the world.
Simona Amanar was born on October 7, 1979 in Constata. She was the first child of Vasile and Sofia Amanar, and Adrian, her little brother, followed two years later. As a child she often watched gymnastics competitions in her hometown, and was six years old when her parents first took her to a local club. The club was called Farel, and her first coach was Mircea Brum. When Simona was older, she was trained by Farel's head coach, Nicolae Forminte as part of the club's junior team. The coaches at Farel knew Simona was a powerful gymnast and encouraged her to keep training. She impressed the national team coaches as well, and moved to Deva in 1992. Forminte also moved to Deva, and became the vault coach for the national team.
Simona began competing internationally as a junior in 1992 and got valuable experience. Simona's results as a junior paid off and proved to head coach Octavian Belu that she had the experience needed to be on a worlds team. In 1994, she was selected to represent Romania at the World Championships in Dortmund, Germany. Romania came home with the gold that year, the first of five consecutive titles, and the world had seen their first glimpse of a gymnast who would become very familiar over the next six years. The next year Simona made a huge statement at the Worlds. She helped her team defend their title, placed first on the vault, and fourth in the all around.
As the 1996 Olympics came closer, Romania was a favorite for the team title. Injuries left their team with only six members, and the Romanians came up short with the bronze medal. While the Americans were being praised for their victory, the world had not yet seen the last of Simona and her team. The Romanians redeemed themselves in the all around and event finals. Although she had the highest all around total in the optional part of the team competition, a fall in her compulsory beam exercise prevented her from being in the top three from her country. Milosovici, Gogean, and Marinescu were going to the all around, but Simona was not. However at the last minute, Octavian Belu made the decision to pull Marinescu out of the all around, and put Amanar in. Marinescu had only been training with the team since February, and he believed that Amanar was a much harder worker. While the Ukrainian won the all around, all three of the Romanians placed. Gogean got the silver, and Simona tied with her teammate Milosovici for the bronze. Simona continued into the event finals where her gold on the vault was the only of its color won by a Romanian gymnast. Simona also won the silver on the floor. Her four Olympic medals tied with teammate Gogean's for the most won by a gymnast in Atlanta.
While the rest of the world struggled with the new code, Romania's consistency helped them defend their title at the 1997 World Championships. Simona again failed to qualify for the all around, but Alexandra Marinescu voluntarily stepped aside for Simona, who thanked Alexandra for giving her the chance to compete. Simona made the most of her opportunity and won the silver all around medal. In event finals, Simona reassured everyone that she still would be a factor in this quad by winning the vault final.
In 1998, Gina Gogean retired, and Simona found herself to be the team leader. Often absentminded, Simona was nicknamed "Zadicala" by her teammates. (It has a meaning to the extent of "airhead") Octavian Belu often received offers to work abroad, which offered him much more money than the equivelant of $120 a month he was paid by the Federation. Fortunately for the team, Belu turned down every offer. It was also rumored that Simona's boundless talent was all keeping Belu in his native country.
With rumors of her approaching retirement, Simona kept on training and led her team to victory at the 1999 World Championships. Though she was on track to medal in the all around, a fall on the uneven bars kept that from happening. However, fellow Romanian Maria Olaru became the first Romanian to win the all around at a worlds since Aurelia Dobre. Simona redeemed herself in the event finals with silver on both floor and vault.
As the 2000 Olympics approached, critic were split with the Russians and Romanians as to who would win the team gold. When Russia self-destructed, Romania's consistency allowed them to capture their first-ever team gold medal at a fully-attended Olympics. Simona competed her best during the all around and rejoiced with a silver medal finish. As the only returning medalist from Atlanta, Simona not only maintained, but improved her place from four years before. What was even more pleasing to Simona was that with Andreea Raducan's first-place finish and Maria Olaru's third-place, the Romanians had swept the medals. Simona would also go on to place third on the floor exercise. That left her final Olympic tally at 7 medals, and one of only four Romanian gymnasts to compete in 2 Olympic Games.
Unfortunately for the Romanians, the Olympics weren't over yet. Andreea Raducan tested positive for a banned substance, and was disqualified from the all around. Though the substance came from cold medicine given to Raducan by the team doctor, her medal was still stripped. The IOC told Raducan that although she did nothing wrong, she would have to be disqualified under their zero-tolerance doping policy. Although this gave Simona the all around gold she had been searching for her entire career, she did not feel like it belonged to her. At a ceremony back in Romania, Simona returned the gold medal to its rightful owner.
At the end of 2000, Simona retired from gymnastics. She began attending the University of Timisoara to be a coach. Simona married in March 2002 on August 20 of that year gave birth to a baby boy, named Alexandru-Iosif. Simona now coaches and still keeps in touch with her teammates in Deva.

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