In Memory of Adriana Giurca, 1982-1993

The training center for Romania's national gymnastics squad, Deva is undoubtedly the best known Romanian gymnastics "factory." It's closest rival is Bucharest's Dinamo Club school. Fans of the movie Nadia may recall that it was the Dinamo club which "stole" all of Karolyi's top athletes after the 1976 Olympics. In 1993, one of Dinamo's promising young athletes was 11-year-old Adriana Giurca.

That November, Adriana was training beam. From the start of the workout, coach Florin Gheorghe was said to be in a bad mood. He demanded that Adriana perform a dismount that she'd seldom been able to complete, and when she stumbled, he exploded. He slapped Adriana, then pounded her head against the balance balance beam. Lying on the floor, he proceeded to kick her. Adriana stumbled to her feet, and was ordered to proceed to the floor mat. When she failed to complete an element from her floor exercise, she was again punched and kicked...then came the bat.... Lying limp on the floor, Adriana was rushed to the hospital. She died that evening.

Even after Adriana died, Gheorghe was not immediately arrested. Although there had been many witnesses, apparently coaches and fellow gymnasts were scared to speak. Finally, one gymnast spoke up. Despite the vivid testimony and photographs, Gheorghe was ordered to pay restitution (in the amount the equivalent to $5,600 US) to Adriana's parents and was sentenced to only eight years in prison. Gheorghe appealed, and the Romanian court relieved him of prison time but insisted on payment. The Giurcas appealed the sentence, and Gheorghe was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison.

The Giurcas also tried to hold the Dinamo Club school responsible for Adriana's death, claiming the school knew of Gheorghe's violent behaviour. Indeed, Adriana would often come home from training sessions badly bruised. Adriana apparently denied any wrongdoings, insisting that she was happy and had been bruised only from falls. Her parents did not believe her, and they arranged a gym change for Adriana - the switch was to occur two weeks following the death....

Gheorghe spent three and a half years in prison, released on parole for "good behaviour." Three years after his release, Gheorghe granted an interview with Gazeta Sporturilor. "...I paid a price too high because I was honest and correct," he told the Romanian newspaper. His plight caught the attention of American journalist Eric Matson, who champions that "Gheorghe did not harm Adriana. Nobody did. Adriana died of an aneurism." Matson refers to Gheorghe as a "victim of political convenience."

Following his release from prison Gheorghe worked to repay the reparations ordered to the Giurca family. He has received offers from other countries, including South Africa, but wants to remain in Romania. Exiled from gymnasiums across Romania, Gheorghe is no longer a part of the sport. He has started his own company dealing with "interior arrangements."

References:
Bertelson, C. The littlest Olympians: Female gymnasts are superb athletes, but they never smile. St. Louis Post Dispatch. July 23, 1996: pp 01B.
Hudson, M. Romanian gymnast’s murder puts negative light on sport. Los Angeles Times. April 2, 1995: pp 05D.
Hudson, M. A tiny gymnast's final tumble. Minneapolis Star Tribune. April 10, 1995: pp. 05A.
Wilson, T. What price glory? Effects of gymnastics on physical and emotional health. Sojourner, 22, 9-10

Plus translations from Citroen's Amazing Andreea

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. This page was created on July 27, 1999 and last updated on July 31, 2001.

 

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