[Exclusive interview] Mircea Zamfir: The first medal in gymnastics was the result of a 20 year journey.

Mircea Zamfir is one of the most successful Romanian Aerobic gymnasts with an impressive record of 3 World and 6 European titles. He was part of the very successful trio Zamfir – Brînzea – Mavrodineanu, many of his medals coming from this category. Mircea decided to retire last year, after having won the World Championships again with the Romanian team.

The number of medals in Romanian Aerobic gymnastics’ history has placed Romania ahead in the all-time medal standings. What made you, the Romanian gymnasts, be so successful in Aerobic?

If I had to give one answer, I’d say WORK. You achieve results through hard work. Keep in mind that the first medal was the result of a 20 year journey. We all worked hard until we got that World medal.

What drew you into Aerobics when you first started thinking about going into this branch of gymnastics?

My dad took that decision, I was way too young at the time. I had a problem with my legs, they were pretty crooked…In time, this problem was corrected and, on top of that, my legs were like “springs”.

You’ve competed a lot and with/against many gymnasts. Who do you remember fondly? Which gymnast or country was most innovative?

They say you “steal” from others but I don’t think we damage anyone if we get inspiration from their work. I took in the best everyone had to offer and I then created my own “recipe”. There are many people but I would like to name Claudiu Varlam, Remus Nicolai and Izabela Lăcătuș – they were the previous generation – but also my team mates Tudorel Mavrodineanu and Mircea Brînzea. I didn’t try to copy techniques but rather traits of character who help turn you into a champion. I think the latter are more important.

Maria Fumea is a very important name in Aerobic gymnastics and your National team coach. How was training with her?

I felt honored to have such a coach. She is the type of coach who is intelligent, wise, has character and is passionate about Aerobics. You can’t find many people like this nowadays. I am happy to have had the chance to work with her for a pretty long time and this comes from the heart.

Have you got your eye set on any of the gymnasts of the next generation? Who should we be following?

When I retired, they were still inexperienced but follow them all, you never know!

We will soon be celebrating 20 years since Aerobic gymnastics was recognized by the official gymnastics forums. How has Aerobics evolved in time? What is its future?

Romania is way too focused on football and forgets that there are other champions; this is true for other sports as well. Aerobic gymnastics deserves more attention but this is the current situation. Externally, more countries are starting to practice Aerobics and the countries already there have high level performers. This means people are interested. Asia is coming in strong but this is a good thing since this helps improve the current level from all points of views – artistically, visually and from a difficulty perspective.

What routine would you show those who have not been following Aerobics until now to draw them into this sport?

The 2010 France Worlds individual and trio routines.

What is the most emotional moment of you career, the one you will always remember?

When I won the individual men’s category and when I retired.

We have the World Cups and the Europeans in France this year. What should we expect?

Many things have changed inside the team and in the code of points since I retired 10 months ago. I still hope our guys, young or not, will keep the tradition going and make us happy.

Did you feel any impact of having organized a European Championship in Romania in 2011?

As you can also see on TV, not really.

We all believe our gymnasts are not valued or compensated proportionally to their achievements. This is, probably, even more valid for Aerobics. Would things change if this were an Olympic sport?

Yes. You work hard for 2,000 euros but you work even harder for 20,000, isn’t it? You can imagine the difference. And even so, I don’t like the way the system is working. Even for Olympics sports, if you are not the very best you’ve worked for nothing. It doesn’t matter that you were part of an Olympic team. Do you remember any other gymnast from Drăgulescu’s team? He’s an exceptional athlete but the others are good too. When they retire, they have to start from scratch without any benefit. No one in this country knows them. They don’t know me either…It hurts to realize this now, after 24 years of work representing Romania.

Sometimes, the gymnasts who go into Aerobics come from other branches of gymnastics. They bring in other qualities and a different feel to their gymnastics. Is this a way of looking for a new style or “stealing” some skills?

Those gymnasts who come from Artistic have a well-developed body but this is not a rule. There are champions who weren’t Artistic gymnasts. Gymnastics has its different forms but its basis stays the same everywhere. It is still Gymnastics. This means that it can share similar skills and characteristics. It is similar but not quite, which means it won’t lose its identity by borrowing skills. Mixing these will only cause Aerobics to become more spectacular.

Mircea’s gold medal routine at the 2007 European Championships in Hungary:

This post is also available in: Romanian