Aurelia Dobre: Golden Girl

Photo by Matthew Barber.
Aurelia began gymnastics at age six. At first gymnastics was just fun, but she began serious training at age nine, six hours each day. At age twelve she moved to the national training center in Deva, which meant eight hours of training each day.

Her first international result was 4th all-around at the Moscow News competition, in 1984, followed by gold all-around and team medals at the France vs. Romania competition in 1986. However, her competitive career really took off with a good result at the 1986 Junior Europeans, where she placed third all around and first on vault and the uneven parallel bars. She followed that with a gold all around medal in the 1987 Grand Prix of Rome and a 4th all-around in the Chunichi Cup.

Despite these successes, Aurelia's gold medal performance at the 1987 World Championships was a surprise to many. Her teammate Daniela Silivas had been expected to medal, but an unexpected fall by Daniela on beam allowed Aurelia the chance to shine. She turned in the performances of a lifetime on all four events

On beam, her favorite event, she displayed strength with a press to handstand front walkover mount. Her first acrobatic series was an aerial cartwheel, back handspring, back layout. She dismounted with an acrobatic series of back handspring step out, back handspring to double back tuck somersault. Her well deserved score was a perfect ten.

Her floor exercise was set to the popular song "Music" by John Miles. The rock music suited Aurelia's personality well and she showed off her ability to dance as well as tumble. Her first tumbling pass was a roundoff, whip back, two back handsprings to full in double back in a layout/pike position. Her second pass was an example of the then new trend in back-to-back tumbling, with a roundoff, backhandspring, double twist, punch front to hurdle, roundoff, backhandspring, double twist, punch front to sit. Her final pass was a round off, backhandspring, double back tuck. The Romanian team set a record on the floor when teammates Daniela Silivas and Camelia Voinea also scored tens.

On vault Aurelia performed a full twisting layout Yurchenko and scored yet another well-deserved ten.

Aurelia's combined score of 79.55 put her in first place, above Elena Shushunova of the Soviet Union who scored 79.475, and Daniela Silivas, who scored 79.45. The gold team medal also went to Romania, with the Soviet Union receiving silver and the German Democratic Republic receiving bronze. Aurelia also turned in fine performances during event finals, winning a gold medal on balance beam and bronze medals on vault and floor exercise.

When asked at the time if success had changed her life, she said "Everything is the same as before. The only change, if anything, would be that I came to be loved by the Romanian people." Aurelia said later of her world title "..that was a big surprise for me too, but I would have loved to trade it for more freedom at that time. As soon as I got off the awards stand I was a slave again. I'm happier now than I was then."

The Seoul Olympics and her later career

Bibliography: International Gymnast, April 1991 "The Lost Youth of Aurelia Dobre", Hans van Wissen, adapted by Nicole Citroen. Thanks to Joy Anne Bauer for sending the article to me. "Seoul Olympics: Official Guide and Souvenir Program" 1988