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[Exclusive interview] Irina Deleanu: You need to love gymnastics, so that this love can turn into passion and not just a hobby…

Irina Deleanu made history for Romanian Rhythmic gymnastics by winning the first World (bronze, rope, Brussels 1992) and European (bronze, ball, Goteborg 1990) medals. She placed 6th in the All-around at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and dominated National competitions between 1989 and 1993. Today, she is the president of the Romanian Rhythmic gymnastics federation. Romanian Gymnast caught up with Irina and talked about the past, present and future of Romanian Rhythmic gymnastics.

Irina Deleanu is a reference name when it comes to Romanian – together with that of Doina Stăiculescu (1984 Olympic silver medalist in Los Angeles). We are not only talking about the results achieved, but also about how much one person can contribute to the development of his sport. Do you feel you have all the necessary support in everything you do (the Federation work, competitions organized, collaboration with the Olimpia Club, Irina Deleanu Cup etc.) or is this a one woman show?

I’ve never felt alone in this, my contribution to the development of this beautiful sport is part of a team effort. Of course we face a lot of obstacles, the system we work in is not always friendly. But patience and resilience have always helped us achieve our goals.

Was Doina Stăiculescu a reference for you as well? The proof that you can make it in Rhythmic gymnastics?

Yes, Doina Stăiculescu was a model for me since I was 5. I remember being fascinated by her at a Floreasca competition while she was preparing for the Los Angeles Olympics… We all felt bad when she narrowly lost the Olympic title but her silver medal will always be a reference point for Romanian Rhythmic gymnastics, of course.

Is there any particular moment or routine in your gymnastics career that you specifically remember?

The one I’m most fond of was when I won the bronze medal at the Brussels World Championship… It was a difficult competition since the USSR block had just dismantled and, if before you would compete againt 2 gymnasts, I was now competing against gymnasts from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus… So achieving this result was even more important for me.

We don’t get to hear much about Rhythmic gymnastics coaches, they are always overshadowed by their gymnasts. Could you please name a few of the most important coaches for Romanian Rhythmic gymnastics along the years?

Of course! I can only start with Maria Gârbă – elite coach (and my mentor). I started doing gymnastics with Doina Firică, also an elite coach. Mihaela Târnoveanu Manoș, Mia Variu…

How was the transition from gymnast to Romanian Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation President, the person who holds the responsibility over the future of this sport in Romania?

Going from a gymnast to the Romanian Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation President was a slow transition. I first finished studying (college, master and doctorate degrees, International judging). Since then, with the help of the existing team, I’ve been running the Federation for almost 10 years now…

Starting this year, the Irina Deleanu Trophy is a World Cup event (the only competition of this caliber in Romanian gymnastics, whether we are talking about Artistic, Rhythmic or Aerobic). How hard was it for this competition to get to this level?

It’s not easy at all…You need to take the initiative, dedicate yourself to this and, most importantly, you need funding because organizing this costs 50,000 euros. But we managed to get here due to an exceptional management effort.

Is the Romanian Federation trying to reach the Romanian public? I know there is a site where we can check information on National competitions but beyond this, I don’t know if there are other programs we could support…

There is a timid attempt to do this… Unfortunately – or fortunately – this isn’t football and people’s interest is low… Doing 2 or 3 interviews a year and getting 2 competitions on TV will not make a huge difference but we keep insisting… I hope this World Cup will place us in a better position…

What does the gymnast Irina Deleanu share with the girls who are competing internationally now, from her own experience?

You can share with them all kinds of things you’ve experienced… But, at the end of the day, it’s their genetics, their desire and their potential which make a difference in competition… Something that will always be valid, though, is the fact that they need to love it, so that this love can turn into passion and not just a hobby…

Is there any gymnast that you would point out for the future?

Alexandra Piscupescu is, undoubtedly, the best Romanian Rhythmic gymnast at the moment and a model for the younger generation, a gymnast very much loved… Then, of course, you’d have Ana Luiza Filioreanu, Diana Pavel and others.

Olimpia București and Anghel Saligny Iași are two of the best clubs in the country. What is their ”secret”?

Very important for the first one – Olimpia – is having Maria Gârbă…I think this says it all. With Anghel Saligny it’s all about the consistent hard work the technical staff has put in for the past years…both Cătălina and Constantin Radu are very passionate about this sport and have dedicated their entire life to it. Thus, their achievements…

How could the fans repay you for the efforts you’ve made as a gymnast and as the President of the Romanian Rhythmic Federation? What message would you send them if you were to encourage them to follow this sport even more?

I don’t expect anything for what I do. Everything I do is out of passion and love for Rhythmic gymnastics…

As a message, I would ask the fans to come join us. Rhythmic gymnastics is the most beautiful sport for women and girls… It’s a clean sport, defined by elegance, beauty, attitude and tenderness…

The Irina Deleanu World Cup will be held in Bucharest between the 18th and the 21st of April. For more information, please follow this link.

This post is also available in: Romanian