Why we love Raluca…

Photo: Adam Pretty/Getty Images

There are few Romanian gymnasts, with the exception of a Nadia, Lavinia, Simona, Daniela or Andreea, who managed to build the amount of fan support Raluca Haidu did throughout her gymnastics career. Raluca has always been a fan favorite, having everyone rooting for her for one reason or another. We wanted her to make the team, to add skills, to perform her routines well from start to finish and be more confident. She was, as someone called her, “the sentimental pick for Romania”.

Her most notable results were her 2012 European Championship win with the team in Brussels, her 2 European bronze medals – team and beam – back in 2010, the Tampere EYOF team silver and her gold medals at the Romanian Nationals and Internationals. She was rarely the front runner, but rather a team player and the obvious pick for bars – her favorite apparatus – in a team that struggled to put three bar workers together. Surprisingly, the apparatus that helped her make the European and World teams up to 2012 didn´t get her into the London team – Raluca´s biggest dream –, missing out at the last minute in favor of Diana Chelaru (floor specialist, but more consistent). On another surprising note, it was vault the apparatus where Raluca performed her best routine (at the 2010 Rotterdam Worlds) as she herself stated, but she might have changed her mind after the Brussels Euros where she performed two steady UB routines and helped the Romanian team win gold.

There was always more about Raluca that made her a fan favorite than just her gymnastics skills: she was always the relatable underdog, who sometimes made it and sometimes didn´t. The Secret of Deva documentary helped us fall in love with a very talented, tiny gymnast who easily cried, elegant (that toe point!!) but fragile, shy and less confident than we would have liked her to be. We witnessed Raluca´s struggles from the very beginning and until the very end, when she sat alone on a chair in Bucharest´s Sala Polivalentă, looking very sad for not having made the Olympic team. Seeing her that day would have broken your heart…

Although she didn´t reach the success us Romanians usually expect from any gymnast (we expect piles of gold, but we don´t give much back lately…), when Raluca did manage to pull out that fighting spirit, this happened…

Pitic (Dwarf), as Raluca is warmly nicknamed, made everyone who fell in love with that tiny gymnast training at Deva years ago very proud to see her making the Romanian team and finally winning that gold medal.

There are few interviews with Raluca (which pretty much shows that you have to win a bunch of gold medals in order to be able to make it to the pages of a Romanian newspaper), but here is what she told Andreea Răducan in one of The Medal Factory´s episodes: “I liked watching gymnastics, I really liked what they – Nadia, Simona, Andreea – were doing and I thought I would never get to do that…”

But you did, Raluca, you DID!

This post is also available in: Romanian