Whatever Happened to
Simona Pauca?


Photo by Tom Theobald
Check out Tom's photography site!

Tribute courtesy of Ioana Jadic.

For a listing of Pauca's competitive results,
please visit Gymn Forum's Simon Pauca Biography.

Despite her short-lived career, Simona Pauca managed to leave her mark on the sport of gymnastics through a combination of difficult routines, and a winning personality. Known for her smile, she was offered (and accepted) an invitation to appear in a commercial for a Romanian candy company. 

Simona was born on September 19, 1969 in Azuga, Romania. Soon after her family moved to Bucharest, where Simona started gymnastics in first grade after Dinamo coach Iulia Rotarescu spotted her in a pre-selection organized at her school. Coached by Dinamo's respected duo of Florin Stefanescu and Emilia Lita, Simona quickly rose through the ranks, and eventually joined the National team at Deva along with club mate and close friend, Laura Cutina. National team coaches Adrian Goreac and Maria Cosma also recognized Simona's potential and sent her to numerous international competitions before the 1984 Olympics.

Photo by Tom Theobald
Check out Tom's photography site!

Simona's great results at the Olympic Games came as a shock to the general public, but gymnastics insiders already knew the 15-year old had the makings of a great champion. She had already competed in 12 international meets in 1983, coming back with one or two medals from each. She ended 1983 with a bang, taking the Senior Balkan Games by storm. Simona won a total of four gold medals at this competition, including the all-around crown and three event finals. She continued her winning streak in 1984, taking first place in the all-around at the Arthur Gander Memorial, and winning gold on balance beam and bronze in the AA at the prestigious Cottbus International.

Simona headed into the Los Angeles Olympic Games feeling confident, but hardly anyone gave her more than an outside shot at an individual medal. The Romanian team consisted of Cristina Grigoras, Mihaela Stanulet, Kati Szabo, Lavinia Agache, and Laura Cutina. The latter three were the most well-known internationally and were expected to go on to the AA competition; Simona wasn't expected to be more than a team player. Simona rose to the occasion though, helping the Romanian win its first ever Olympic gold medal, scoring a 10.0 for her optional beam routine in team optionals. Due to a sluggish performance by teammate Lavinia Agache in team optionals, Simona jumped ahead of Agache to earn Romania's third bearth in the all-around. 

Szabo and Pauca share gold
on beam at the 84 Olympics.
Photo by Tom Theobald. Check out Tom's photography site!

Simona would perform even better in the women's all around finals to take the bronze medal. Her chance to shine came in the beam final, and she took full advantage of it, tying teammate Ecaterina Szabo for the gold medal. Some of the skills she performed on beam included her original tumbling pass of ff, layout step-out, back pike, and a full (double?) twisting back layout. 

Ironically,  the event that would eventually become her signature piece, beam, wasn't always her favorite. Simona's father built her a beam in the backyard to help ease her fear of the event. In fact, Simona's father was very involved in his daughter's gymnastics career, attending every (afternoon) practice session and quoted as saying he "would walk to the North Pole, if that would help [Simona]" (Pro Patria). 

Despite having her parents' full support, and being dubbed the next Nadia - "The future is hers to take" proclaimed an article in Pro Patria after the Olympics - Simona disappeared from the world of competitive gymnastics. Just one year after the Olympics, Simona was forced to return to her home club of Dinamo Bucharest. "My father got into a fight with the coaches at Deva. I have no idea what he was thinking, but I do know they didn't pay as much attention to me as before, so I was forced to leave. I kept training until the summer of 1986 and then I had to give up gymnastics for good. It was a sad moment, but I was already 17, and time seems to go by even faster for gymnasts," adds Simona. She finished high school in Bucharest and later on got her coaching degree. Simona worked at CSS 7 Bucharest between 1990-1992, and Satu Mare from 1997-1889.

In 1993, Simona married Gheorghe Rus, chairman of the board for Castrum Corporation, one of Romania's most successful business firms. Even though there is a 20 year age difference between the two, Simona says that "I couldn't have found a better man, who could understand me and make me feel like I have a real family. " A year later her daughter Ana was born, and she has already started gymnastics. "She really likes it, but I thinks she's still afraid to do certain skills. I hope to bring in other girls alongside hers and start the actual training," said Simona, who has been visiting local schools and kindergartens looking for prospective future gymnasts. "They have to be small, tiny and flexible. The rest is my job, and I can hardly wait to prove I can be a good coach," she explains. 

At the end of 2000, Simona and her family moved from Satu Mare to Cluj, where they re-established the gymnastics program of CSM Cluj with help from the local Youth And Sports Program. Simona smiles as she thinks about her future plans. "My dream would be to build a national training center here in a few years, one that would rival the ones at Deva and Onesti, and to have one of the gymnasts I coach make the senior national team," she adds emotionally.

At 31 years old, Simona says that if she had a choice she'd do everything all over again. "The joy you feel when you win an Olympic gold medal, or the sadness that comes when you're not chosen to represent your country in a major event cannot be replaced by anything else. Gymnastics is my life," she concludes. Petite and almost unchanged since she won her Olympics gold, Simona looks like one of her students. Her 6 year old daughter does whatever it take to get back up on the beam. She's just working on walking on beam, but she smiles towards her coach. "I'm gonna win too, right mommy?"

. This page was created on December 31, 2000 and last updated March 18, 2001.


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