Whatever Happened to
Maria Neculita?

Photo courtesy of Beth Squires

Neculita's
Competitive Results:

1988 Moscow News: 6th All-Around, 6th UB, 3rd FX
1989 Cottbus Cup (Mixed Pairs): 2nd T (with Nicusor Pascu), 2nd AA
1990 Dutch Open: 2nd All-Around
1990 Arthur Gander Memorial: 6th All-Around
1990 Romanian International: 1st AA
1990 European Championships: 6th AA, 3rd BB, 5th FX
1991 Romanian International: 2nd AA
1991 World Championships: 3rd T, 2nd BB, 3rd FX
1991 ROM vs USA: 1st Team, 10th All-Around
1991 World Sports Fair: 2nd FX, 3rd All-Around, 3rd V, 3rd B, 5th UB
1991 Arthur Gander Memorial: 6th All-Around
1991 Dutch Cup
1992 World Championships: 2nd B, 3rd FX
1992 Romanian International: 1st AA (tie), 1st FX
1992 Trophee Massilia: 1st AA
1992 South African Cup: 1st All-Around, 1st V, 1st UB, 1st B, 1st FX
1992 Olympics: 2nd T
1992 Balkan Championships: 1st T, 1st AA

The majority of these results were compiled
from information found at
Gymn Forum. Many
thanks to C. Paulian, I. Jadic and Sara for providing some
additional results and information..


Tribute courtesy of Ioana Jadic.

Maria Neculita was one of the most elegant and creative gymnasts to ever come out of Romania. Unfortunately for her, she never seemed to live up to her potential, but she won herself many fans with her unique and difficult routines.

Born in Deva on March 30th 1974, gymnastics was a natural choice for the 8-year old youngster who became fascinated with the sport after seeing an open-air competition organized by the Cetate Deva club. Her parents signed her up for lessons, and pretty soon, she was going to school at Deva and training at the Cetate Deva Gymnastics Club. Maria's progress surprised even some of her coaches and it didn't take long for her to become one of the best gymnasts at the club. She was selected to be on the Senior National team in 1987.

Maria's first international medal came at the prestigious Moscow News,where she finished 3rd in floor final in 1988. She went on to win a silver in the all around at the 1989 Cottbus meet and helped the Romanian team finish second. The 1990 season was off to an auspicious start after her all around victory at the Romanian International. She was selected to be on the Romanian team for the 1990 European Championships, along with Cristina Bontas and Mirela Pasca. Maria finished sixth in the all round competition, third on beam and fifth on floor, great results by anyone's standards, but based on those results, the national coaches decided not to send her to the World Cup -- opting instead for a team made up of Mirela Pasca and Cristina Bontas. Instead of complaining about what happened, Maria started getting ready for next year and found a new hobby: choreographing floor routines (she helped choreograph her floor routines in 1991 and 1992).

Maria finished second in the all around at the 1991 Romanian International, and went on to compete for Romania in that year's World Championships. Despite the fact that many experts and fans felt Maria was one of the best beam and floor performers in the world, she was one of the first gymnasts in the line-up for both events. Maria made the most of her Worlds experience and was very supportive of her teammates' in the all around and event finals, helping them set up the equipment before their performances and being one of the first to offer a high five or a consolation hug.

The 1992 Worlds were Maria's first major individual competition in a long time, and her performance came as a surprise to everyone, including herself. Free from the pressures of high expectations, she had one of her best meets, finishing second on beam and third on floor. She probably would have placed higher on floor, but she was the first gymnast to perform her routine. Maria chose In the mood as her 1992 floor music, a piece/song that showcased her musicality, and amazing sense of style. Combining that with world-class tumbling, her floor routine established her as one of the medal contenders for the upcoming Olympic games. Asked to comment on her performance by Gazeta sporturilor (a Romanian sports newspaper), Maria explained, "I never thought I could win a world medal. This is definitely a surprise to everyone, especially for me, but I will try to do my best in Barcelona and hopefully, that will be good enough for a medal." Maria went on to win the all around at the 1992 Romanian International, tying Gina Gogean's score and finishing first in the floor final.

By the time the Olympics came, she was poised and ready to take on the world...but the world wasn't ready for her -- not as a lead off performer on beam, or as the second gymnast up on the floor. Romania's team undoubtedly benefited from her performances, and Maria said she accepted her role as a team player. Despite the obvious disappointment she must have felt, Maria decided to keep competing until the end of the year. The 1992 Balkan games were her last competition and she left the sport winning the all around (ahead of Gina Gogean) , the floor and beam finals and finishing second on bars. " I think I was lucky enough to do something I love and be good at it", she said when asked what were her final thoughts on her career. Maria is still very much involved in the gymnastics and in 1995, ProSport reported Maria was coaching in Nuero, Italy at the Centro Sportiva Osaka club. Her gymnasts were reported to be showing some great results at the club level.

More than any other gymnast, Maria had a right to get frustrated with a sport, where she never got a chance to shine, despite her amazing talent and all her hard work. Instead, she was always the first gymnast to smile at her fans, and the last one to leave an autograph session. She will always be remembered for her wonderful personality and for leaving her mark on the sport as one of the few gymnasts who combined artistry and difficulty in her original routines. And, most of all, for being able to say so much with a simple smile at the end of a routine. : )

. This page was created on August 14, 1999 and last updated on December 22, 1999.

 

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