…….but in reality everyone has a story.” Andreea Raducan
TCG recently caught up with Andreea Raducan, who is now touring the US promoting her autobiographical book, The Other Side of the Medal. She reveals that she was very involved in the process of writing and shares her views about her career and work, retirement, learning new vaults. Discover them along with other interesting confessions in an interview by Bea Gheorghisor:
TCG: Tell us a little about the story of the book: how did the idea of you writing a book about your career and about Sydney happen?
Andreea Raducan: The book was demanded by the public. I had not intended to write a book about myself. Ten years have passed since I retired from gymnastics and during this period I met many people that wanted to know what achieving performance in sports meant. How difficult a gymnast’s daily life at camp is, because the gymnasts have the longest and most severe training camp. For 360 days I was living with the coaches and colleagues at the Olympic training center and only 5-6 days I spent with my family. Of course, there were also the events from Sydney Olympics, when because of a cold medicine, I lost the all around Olympic title. Everyone was revolted, there were people on the streets to show support, people at home also felt wronged by what happened to me. This was also the reason for which I started writing the book. In appearance the lives of the gymnasts are the same: same camp, same regimen, similar performances… but the story of each gymnast is different. The Other Side of the Medal is my story.
TCG: As I was reading the book, it occured to me that I was hearing Andreea Raducan’s voice narrating it. The end result seems to represent you very well. Did anyone help you to write the book?
Andreea Raducan: There have been many materials on TV and in the written press about me and my story. Journalits’ opinions about what happened in Sydney and all that. But I wanted this book to be written by me, for the people to understand what I thought and felt in those moments. What the whole experince meant for me as a professional athlete. The book was written in about a year and two months. I collaborated with a good friend, Rodica Boitos. She helped me divide the book into chapters and then I started filling them. The fact that she comes from outside the sport was beneficial because she was able to tell me if there were things harder to understand and where there was room for improvement. In the end, this is not a book only for gymnastics fans, but also for those who want to find out how nice and difficult the road to success is, about the life lessons that you have to learn prematurely but which don’t have to break you. All these remain useful experiences for the future. Many people who read this book understood the motivational message behind it. That is the book’s essence!
TCG: Regarding the English version of the book, how was it written, how did you make sure it will keep the quality of the Romanian version, the autenthicity?
Andreea Raducan: For the English version I worked with Magda Petrescu. She is a huge fan of the Romanian gymnasts and very connected to everything that has to do with Romanian gymnastics. And we have known each other for a long time. Then, our editor was Marisa Finetti, a journalist from the US; the modifications she made were minor, for adaptation purposes.
TCG: In the book you speak tenderly about your colleagues from the Olympic team, what about the colleagues prior to Deva, how do you remember them?
Andreea Raducan: It is true, there is a chapter about my colleagues. It’s only natural! We grew up together and we shared the happy moments and the difficult ones, but we managed to overcome with dignity whatever obstacles we had. About the colleagues from the junior team I remember very well too, of course. I think we were a generation a good young gymnasts. Each of us had a chance to make it but in the end only a few managed to get to Deva.
TCG: If when you got to Deva, in 1997-1998, someone asked you which one of your colleagues has the most chances of succeeding at the Olympics in Sydney, who would you have picked?
Andreea Raducan: It’s hard to tell. I remember that there was a gymnast from Constanta, Elena Oprea, a very gifted and hardworking athlete. Unfortunately she suffered a shoulder surgery and that took her out of contention. Besides that, we were joining the seniors that were at Deva. So, theoretically there were not that many spots for the young and newcomers. But each of us trained as hard as we could in order to gain our place in the team.
TCG: There’s a point in the book where you speak about the year 2002 when despite your coaches’ and family support you felt like your body could not keep up the pace anymore. Do you think that in such cases a special training regimen, fewer hours, specializing on certain events, etc. help? Or they only prolong the “agony”, increasing the risk of injury?
Andreea Raducan: For such cases there is no general consensus. We are all different. We act and we react differently. Indeed it’s very important to have the support of people, not to feel alone and to be convinced of the fact that no matter what you choose they will support you: your family, coaches, colleagues, friends. But the decision is entirely yours. No one can get there on the apparatus in your place and there comes a moment when your body cannot cope with the requirements of gymnastics anymore. It’s not a tragedy. It’s nice and recommended to thank everyone for their support and make room for others who what to get where you once were too, on the highest level of the podium. And this change of generations is nice, as long as it’s not too sudden.
TCG: In 1999 you placed 5th in the all around competition at Worlds. Coach Bellu said later that he saw that if you had a more difficult vault you would become even more competitive. How hard was it to learn the new vault and to achieve the consistency?
Andreea Raducan: Taking part in the 1999 Worlds in Tianjin was a very important experience for me. It was my first year as a senior and I was competing next to gymnasts that I had only seen on TV. I managed a good competition, thus becoming one of the “pillars” of the team. It’s true that the marks I got on vault took me off the all around podium because I did not have a lot of difficulty. So in the next year, until the Olympics I had to learn two vaults from different groups and with a higher difficulty mark. I was the only gymnast in the team that had gone through all the groups of vaults and I was not only trying them in training but also competing them in various meets to see if they were consistent enough to do them in a major competition. With a lot of patience and dedication from my coaches I managed that the two vaults, a Cuervo from handstand and another one with a round off, which in the end even brought me the silver medal (in the event finals) in Sydney.
TCG: With your TV show, The Medal Factory, you have travelled a lot and seen most of the gyms in Romania and probably managed to get a good idea of the human potential – of gymnasts and coaches. Do you think that there are coaches out there that would be able to take over the National team should the Coaches Octavian Bellu and Mariana Bitang retire in 2016 or 2020?
Andreea Raducan: I think we should let things follow their natural course. For now we have the coaches, not just anyone but the best in the world; and this is not something I say, but the results that they have had over the years with the gymnasts they coached. The team inside the Romanian Gymnastics Federation will take care of the changes of coaches, when it will be the case.
TCG: Many people, especially from outside Romania, ask why there aren’t more books written by Romanian gymnasts. Why do you think in the US for instance there are books written by gymnasts published almost every year, but in Romania gymnastics books are so scarce?
Andreea Raducan: Well, at the number of World and Olympic gold medalists that Romania has produced, if each of them wrote a book, (people who purchase them) would need to buy a new library to keep them all (smiles). I think things are a little different in the US compared to Romania. Maybe my former colleagues would also need encouragement in other to do it.
In the US, children -the young gymnasts- are looking for role models among the champions they have seen on TV, they choose the leotards to be like them, do their hair the same, they want to be like them one day. Obviously, they wouldn’t miss any detail in order to achieve being more like their idol and want to know everything about them. When I launched my autobiography, The Other Side of the Medal, in the US, I spoke to young girls and they told me they can’t wait to read it and that they have already read books about Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Shawn Johnson, Gabby Douglas… The next day, one of the girls -she was about seven years old- came to me and asked very puzzled: “Andreea, do you really steal the candies?” (smiles). I understood again that the children are not superficial at all! Probably, as a child, that was the detail that impressed her the most and she couldn’t understand why we had to hide in order to eat sweets.
TCG: After the success of your book, would you consider ever writing another one?
Andreea Raducan: I never had in plan writing this but I wrote it anyway and the feedback is very good. If I ever think that I am ready and I can come up with something fresh and interesting, I will let you know for sure!
For the ones interested in reading the book, “The Other Side of the Medal” can be ordered online on Andreea’s website: http://andreearaducan.ro/comanda .
Related – read a review of the book here: http://www.thecouchgymnast.com/?p=8048
Interview: Bea Gheorghisor
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