Daniela Silivas (ROM)
Romanian newspapers were plastered with photos of Nadia Comaneci during the late 1970s. In the background of one of these photos stood tiny Viorica Daniela Silivas. The caption read, "Handover of a baton - Will this girl take over the baton from Nadia?" Silivas would not disappoint, establishing a career that made her one of Romania's most successful gymnasts.
Silivas was born on May 9, 1972, however competed under a passport listing her age as 1970. Admitting to the press of this age change only in 2002, Silivas attributed the controversy to the many post-1984 Olympics retirements which left Romania with insufficient age eligible girls for the 1985 World Championships.
Silivas began gymnastics at school No. 7, training under Ion Carbinecean. A native of Deva, she quickly moved to the national training center when it was first founded. She won the school's championships in 1980, and in 1981 was the Romanian Junior National champion. She retained this title in 1982, adding golds in vault, beam, and floor finals. Whereas most Eastern bloc countries used the Junior Friendship Tournament (Druzhba) meets to debut their top talents, Silivas instead jumped directly to the prestigious International Japan Junior competition. She won the meet by over a full point, and sparkled on floor, where she scored a meet high 9.850 in finals.
Silivas gained a wealth of experience in 1984, competing against top seniors in numerous invitationals. She medalled in all competitions in which she was entered, including the Blume Memorial (1st AA), Coca Cola International (2nd AA, 3rd UB, 3rd BB), Moscow News (1st BB), Paris Grand Prix (2nd AA, 1st BB), and Riga International (2nd AA, 1st V, 1st FX, 2nd UB, 2nd BB). She would have had the 1984 Junior European title bagged, were it not for vault. At only 130 cm "tall," it was difficult for young Silivas to get over the horse!
Silivas continued to travel the globe in 1985. Competing officially as a senior, she announced herself as a Worlds medal contender by winning bronze on floor at the 1985 Europeans in Helsinki. As expected, Silivas was one of the darlings of the 1985 Worlds, contributing to her team's silver medal, placing a respectable 7th in the all-around, and reigning on beam.
The World Cup in Beijing, China took center stage in terms of events in 1986. Silivas and Soviet Elena Shushunova competed neck-in-neck, tied on three events combined. Vault proved to be the differentiator, Shushunova outperforming Silivas in a preview of what would follow in Seoul two years later.
Competing on Soviet territory, Silivas reigned supreme at the 1987 European Championships. She topped her gold medal in the AA with golds on bars, beam, and floor. She took silver on vault.
As the reigning European champion, Silivas was considered the favourite for the World title later that year. Sadly, a stumble on beam during team optionals (at the time these scores carried over into the AA), and a less-than-stellar bar routine, cost her the AA crown. Rotterdam wasn't void of happy memories however; the Romanian team reigned triumphant over the dominant Soviet women, capturing the gold medal in the team competition. Silivas was also awarded an amazing five perfect tens in Rotterdam, a tribute to her supremacy. Two of these tens were awarded on floor, earning her the floor title with a perfect 20.0 score.
The Romanian women were under tremendous pressure in Seoul to retain their team title, but fell short. In what proved to be an "edge of your seat" battle, Silivas and Shushunova answered one another's perfect routines with ones of their own during the all-around competition. Silivas' floor routine was particularly stunning, naturally scoring a perfect 10.0. Fittingly, this routine marked the 100th perfect ten in Olympic history.
The all-around competition came down to the vault, in which Shushunova managed to edge out a devastated Silivas. Proving herself to be a true champion, Silivas returned in the event finals with vengeance, capturing three golds (UB, BB, and FX) and one silver (V).
Silivas continued past Seoul, but 1989 proved to be a difficult year. Nursing a knee injury, she was not quite up to par for the World Championships in Stuttgart. Although still a favourite for the AA competition, seconds before mounting the balance beam, Silivas glanced over to see Boguinskaya's perfect 10. Knowing that the gold was out of reach, a disheartened Silivas appeared to give up, falling off beam. She finished 12th AA, and Boguinskaya first. Again however, she bounced back in the event finals with shine, capturing gold on bars, beam, and floor.
Romania suffered a political revolution in 1989 which altered all facets of life, including the treasured gymnastics program at Deva. The girls' training suffered greatly, not good for the struggling Silivas. In early 1990 she flew to France for a much need operation on her knee, financed by the French gymnastics federation. (In exchange, members of the French national team were invited to train at Deva, now recovering from the effects of the Revolution).
Although the 1990 World Cup in Brussels, Belgium was on her mind, training time lost due to the Revolution and knee surgery forced Silivas into retirement. She spent a year at the University of Bucharest before accepting an invitation from family friends to move to the United States. She arrived in NYC on August 26, 1991.
These friends, Justin and Zenovaia Ivanchiu, former Romanian sports acro gymnasts, owned a club in Atlanta, Georgia. Silivas helped the Ivanchius with their coaching. Soon after, to the delight of long time fans, she also competed in the 1991 World Professional Championships. At the time, Silivas actually hoped to compete for the Georgia Gym Dawgs. The University of Georgia offered her a scholarship, but it was contingency on English proficiency, a skill that she had not yet mastered.
In 1992 the Ivanchius opened a gym (the Universal Gymnastics Training Center) in a suburb of Atlanta and Silivas began coaching at this gym. She also began working with the Olympic committee on preparations for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.
Silivas now works as the chief manager at Hammond Park Gymnastics in Atlanta, GA, and as team coach at Modern Gymnastics in Marietta, GA. In 2002, she was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.
Silivas and her husband Scott Harper, a graduate in sports management (2001), married May 24, 2003. "It wasn't love at first sight, we were friends first," Silivas told Romanian newspaper Monitorul de Sibiu. "After a couple of months we realized that we were meant for each other." The ceremony in the USA will be followed by another at Cetate Deva, in Romania in July. Included on the guest list are Silivas' former coaches Adrian Goreac, Octavian Belu, and also Mariana Bitang.
Daniela and Scott have one child, son Jaden Scott born April 8th 2004. She is rumoured to be expected their second.
. This page was created on May 18, 2001 and last updated August, 2005.