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Maria Olaru

She Rules the World

Maria Olaru was born on the 4th of June in 1982 in Falticeni. Her father died when she was four years old, and she lived at home with her mom, Verona, and two sisters, 3 and 8 years older for only three more years before she went to train at Deva. Maria began gymnastics at the national training center and trained alongside gymnasts such as Lavinia Milosovici and Gina Gogean. She's truly a homegrown girl of Deva.

Because of her age, Maria was too young to compete in the 1997 World Championships, although she probably would have made the team had she been eligible. But, she gained much valuable experience as a junior which helped her compete well as a senior. Maria turned sixteen in 1998, but she was out for some of that year and early 1999 because of a knee surgery.

The coaches at Cetate Deva didn't believe that Maria would every recover from her surgery, but she proved them very wrong by making the 1999 Worlds team and winning the All Around. By doing that she became only the 2nd Romanian woman ever to win a World Championships. Aurelia Dobre was the first. Her results surprised coach Octavian Belu very much, because he did not think that she was the most talented gymnast on his team. Maria's height also sets her apart from many of her teammates and gives her quite a graceful look on an event like the balance beam. For her win, Maria was presented with an apartment in Deva.

Maria's success carried over into 2000 with a win at the Romanian International, but she did not get a chance to compete at the Europeans because of a bad back and ankle injury. She was required to stay in the hospital for eight days connected to an IV, but was visited by her teammates and coaches. They even brought her some gifts.

Maria healed up in time for the Romanian Nationals, but was not in her top shape. She finished fourth. Coming into the 2000 Olympic Games, many people did not think that Maria looked as sharp as she had in Tianjin, China, but nonetheless she was a great asset to Romania's winning team and qualified to the All Around and the beam final. Maria performed very well in the all around and found herself in third place at the end of the night. It was a Romanian sweep of the all around! She also went on to place 5th on the beam, but the Olympics was not over yet.

When it was revealed that the all around winner, Maria's teammate and best friend, Andreea Raducan had been given a cold pill containing a banned substance before the all around, Andreea was stripped of her medal. Therefore, Simona Amanar was upgraded to gold and Maria to silver. Both gymnasts felt that they were not the winners, but accepted their medals on behalf of their country. Once back home in Romania, on national television, Simona Amanar returned Andreea's gold medal to her, and Maria returned the silver to Simona. This left Maria with no all around medal, because Liu Xuan of China had was the next finisher after Maria.

Like the other members of the Olympic team, Maria received much prize money and a new car. Maria retired at the end of 2000, and is currently studying at the University of Timisoara to become a coach. Maria spent St. Nikolaus Day (December 6th) of this year taking gifts to Romanian orphanages along with Claudia Presacan. Then the two of them spent a week in Sibiu and went to see the Stalinskaya Cup, a soccer tournament.