Andreea Madalina Raducan (born 30 September 1983) is one of the best gymnast of all times
Andreea Raducan was one of the “new generation gymnasts” groomed to take over the torch of Romanian gymnastics excellence after the retirements of Olympic medalists Lavinia Milosovici and Gina Gogean. She began gymnastics at the age of four and a halfin her hometown of Bârlad. In 1996, after winning over twenty medals in local and regional competitions, she was invited to train at the Romanian junior team facility in Onesti. Two years later, she was promoted to the national training center in Deva, as Raducan was known for both her difficult repertoire of skills and her dance and presentation.
Raducan’s first major international event was the 1998 Junior European Championships, where she won a silver medal on the balance beam, tied for bronze on the floor exercise and took fourth place in the all-around. The next year, she rose to the senior ranks and made an impact at the World Championships in Tianjin, China, winning the FX final, silver on beam and placing fifth in the all-around.
The pick of her career was the Olympic Games in Sydney, however a doping charge changed her faith. Raducan competed well at the Sydney Olympics, helping the Romanian women to win their first Olympic team gold medal since 1984. She qualified for the floor and vault event finals, and, along with teammates Simona Amânar and Maria Olaru, the all-around finals. In the preliminary round of competition, she had the second highest all-around score of all competitors in the meet, trailing behind Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina by 0.288. The all-around was mired in controversy. The vault was accidentally set 5 centimeters too low, creating a dangerous situation that completely altered the gymnasts’ pre and post flights. As a result of the incorrectly set vault, many gymnasts suffered serious crashes and injuries during both the warmups and the competition, including Khorkina.One athlete, British gymnast Annika Reeder, was hurt badly enough to withdraw from the remainder of the meet.Even those who escaped injury found themselves shaken by their experiences on the vault. When the error was discovered by Australian gymnast Allana Slater in the third rotation, International Federation of Gymnastics officials reset the vault height and allowed the competition to continue. They did permit the gymnasts who had vaulted in the first two rotations to take another turn on vault and be rescored; not every athlete accepted this offer.
Raducan was one of the gymnasts who had vaulted on the incorrectly set apparatus but did not suffer a fall on the event and performed without serious error. She continued through the competition, turning in strong performances on beam and floor, and ended up with the all-around gold medal. Also on the podium with her were her Romanian teammates; Amânar with silver and Olaru with bronze.
Raducan was the first Romanian gymnast to win the Olympic all-around title since Nadia Comaneci in 1976; it was also the first time since 1960 that gymnasts from a single country swept the WAG all-around podium at the Olympics.It was also the last time it was possible for three gymnasts from the same country to sweep the all around, as the ‘two per country rule’ was introduced in the next olympic cycle.
However, Raducan was disqualified and stripped of her gold medal shortly after the competition concluded, when it was revealed that she had failed doping controls, testing positive for pseudoephedrine, at the time a banned substance. She and her coaches maintained that she had been given the substance in two cold medicine pills by a Romanian team doctor, and that they had not impacted her performance in any way.
The case generated a significant amount of media attention, and Raducan was supported by members of the gymnastics community and the Romanian public.
Raducan’s case was brought before the Court of Arbitration for Sport in late September 2000. While the arbitration panel did concede that Raducan had not gained any advantage by taking the pseudoephedrine, and that she was an underage athlete who had followed her team doctor’s instructions, they also upheld the International Olympic Committee’s decision. The basis for their decision was the belief that the Anti-Doping Code of the Olympics had to be enforced “without compromise,” regardless of the intentions or age of the athlete.
Raducan was exonerated of any personal wrongdoing by the Romanian Olympic Committee, and therefore was not subjected to the sporting ban usually imposed on athletes involved in doping cases.
However Ion Tiriac, the president of the Romanian Olympic Committee, resigned over the scandal. The Executive Committee of the International Gymnastics Federation also unanimously decided not to impose any suspension or punishment on Raducan, taking the stance that losing her medal “was punishment enough for an athlete who was innocent in this situation.
Despite the controversy, Raducan was still seen as a positive and even sympathetic figure. She received a significant amount of support in Romania,and members of the gymnastics community, including Nadia Comaneci, publicly expressed their support. Upon returning to Romania with her teammates, she was personally greeted and presented with flowers by Romanian President Emil Constantinescu.
Raducan was given a replacement medal in pure gold by a Romanian jeweler. She, along with Amanar, was awarded a diplomatic passport by the Romanian government for being a “good ambassador for Romania.”
Raducan returned the year after the Olympics to win five additional World Championships medals. At the 2001 World Championships in Ghent, Belgium, she was part of the gold-medal winning Romanian team and picked up four individual medals: gold on floor and beam and bronze in the all-around and vault. Injuries and other concerns marred her training and in 2002 she quietly retired from gymnastics.
She continued her life, away from the gymnastic halls, focusing on a new career as sports announcer and media personality, after pursuing University level studies in journalism.
Part of the Romanian National Television Team, Raducan was reporter and commented the gymnastic competition at the Olympic Games in Athens 2004. She was involved numerous TV projects of which purpose were the promotion at national level of sport, such as: “Arena”, “How to make a champion?” (Cum se face un campion?), “Winners for Romania” (Invingatori pentru Romania), etc. Currently she is very much implicated in a gymnastic promotion campaign, along with the participation of the national team gymnasts.
Starting with 2006, Raducan works at the Romanian Olimpic Foundation, where pleads for the importance of exercises and sport, and takes part in charitable projects for ex-champions dealing with personal difficulties.
She uses her entire experience gained both as sportive and journalist, in her Ph.D thesis prepared at the Physical Education and Sport University in Bucharest.