Ecaterina Szabo

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Ecaterina Szabo Tamas
Ecaterina Szabo 1985cr.jpg
Szabo in 1985
Personal information
Country represented Romania
Born (1967-01-22) 22 January 1967 (age 53)
Zagon, Romania[1]
Height145 cm (4 ft 9 in)[1]
Weight40 kg (88 lb)
DisciplineWomen's artistic gymnastics
ClubLiceul Sportiv Deva[1]
Head coach(es)Adrian Goreac
Assistant coach(es)Adrian Stan, Maria Cosma
Former coach(es)Márta Károlyi, Béla Károlyi, Mihai Agoston

Ecaterina Szabo (Hungarian: Szabó Katalin, Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈsɒboː ˈkɒtɒlin]; born 22 January 1967) is a former Romanian artistic gymnast who won 20 Olympic, world and continental medals.

Szabo won gold medals in the 1984 Olympics in three individual events (vault, balance beam (tie), and floor exercise), won the all-around silver medal, and contributed to the team gold. With her four gold medals and a silver medal, Szabo was the most successful athlete at the 1984 Summer Olympics. Afterwards, she led her team to the world title at the 1987 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, defeating the USSR in the team competition for only the second time in the history of the competition. In 2000, Szabo was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.[2]

Early life and career[edit]

An ethnic Hungarian from Transylvania,[3] she was named Katalin, which was later changed to Ecaterina by the Communists to try to hide her Hungarian background.[1][4] Szabo's first language is Hungarian; she learned to speak Romanian only after she started going to gymnastics lessons.[5] She started gymnastics in 1973 at the Gymnastics School in Oneşti with coaches Maria Cosma and Mihai Agoston.[6] Later she trained with Márta and Béla Károlyi. After the Károlyis' defection to the United States in 1981, she was coached by Adrian Goreac, Adrian Stan and Maria Cosma at Cetate Deva.[7] She enjoyed tremendous success as a junior. Szabo became the first gymnast to win two Junior European all-around titles, competing against Lavinia Agache and Natalia Ilienko (in 1980) and Olga Mostepanova and Yelena Shushunova (in 1982).[5] Individually, in 1980 she won gold on vault, beam and floor and placed fourth on uneven bars[8] and in 1982 she won gold on vault and floor, silver on uneven bars and placed fourth on balance beam.[9]

Senior career[edit]


Szabo's first major international event was the 1983 European Championships in Goteborg. There she won gold on floor and uneven bars, silver on vault[10] and bronze (tie) all around.[11] At the 1983 World Championships she placed third all around after Olga Mostepanova and Natalia Yurchenko. In this event she scored two perfect tens, one on floor and one on vault.[12] In addition to her all around bronze she won gold on floor and silver on vault and uneven bars. She did not qualify for the beam finals.[13] She also contributed heavily to the team silver medal by scoring perfect tens on floor and uneven bars in the team optional.[14]

1984 Olympics[edit]

Ecaterina Szabo on a 1984 Romanian stamp

In response to the American-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, 14 Eastern Bloc countries and allies including the Soviet Union, Cuba and East Germany (but not Romania) boycotted the Games. In the absence of the Soviet competitors, Szabo entered the competition as the favourite. Even with the Soviets competing, Szabo would have been a strong contender. While preparing for the Olympics, Szabo scored a perfect 40.0 for her compulsory exercises at a dual meet held in Czechoslovakia.[5] During the team section of the Olympic Games Szabo performed strongly, leading her team to their first Olympic title and qualifying second into the all-around (mainly due to a fall on bars in the team finals) and into three of the four event finals (vault, beam, and floor). Szabo was a heavy favorite to win to the all-around title and was dubbed "the next Nadia", after Nadia Comăneci. In the all-around competition, however, she lost the title by .05 to Mary Lou Retton and received the silver medal. Despite the second-place finish, she posted the highest cumulative score, which would have given her the title if the competition was held under the New Life rule. However, she had a strong comeback in the event finals, winning three gold medals on the three event finals she had qualified for; vault, beam and floor.[7] Despite personal disappointment for not winning the all-around title, Szabo returned home to Romania a heroine. Later that year, she was elected the most successful athlete of the year in Romania.[5]

After the 1984 Olympics[edit]

1985 was a disappointing year for the multiple Olympic champion. At the 1985 European Championships Szabo placed sixth on beam and floor, fifth all around and did not qualify in the uneven bars finals. However, she managed to win a silver medal on vault.[7] Later that year she had a similar showing at the 1985 World Championships; she placed fifth all around, fourth on floor, sixth on uneven bars. She left the competition with silver medals on beam, vault and with the team.[7] But in 1987, Szabo's hard work paid off. As a member of the tremendously successful Romanian team (five gold, one silver and four bronze) at the 1987 World Championships, Szabo and her teammates dealt a crushing defeat to the Soviets, winning the gold medal in the team event.[5] Individually, she tied for bronze on beam with Svetlana Boginskaya and placed 14th all around.[15]


After the 1987 Worlds Szabo retired from artistic gymnastics and she went to study at the University of Physical and Sports Education in Bucharest. After graduation, she worked as a coach at Deva where she trained among others Nadia Haţegan, Andreea Cacovean, and the 1999 World Champion Maria Olaru. In June 1991, Szabo married Christian Tamas, a former member of Romania's kayak team. The two later had two sons named Lorenzo and Zeno. In 1992, the family left Romania and settled in Chamalieres, France where she now works as a coach.[1][5]

In 2005, she was featured in a two-part documentary series titled Székely sportolók Kelettől Nyugatig (Székely Athletes from East to West). The 30-minute portrait film about Szabo was captioned A zágoni üstökös (The Comet of Zagon).[16] A kindergarten in her hometown of Zagon, the Szabó Kati Óvoda, bears her name since 2007.[17] In 2008, the sports hall of Sfântu Gheorghe was renamed in the honor of the four-time Olympic champion.[18]

Szabo in 2017


A strong all-arounder with artistic sensibilities, Szabo had a clean form in execution and was rewarded 17 scores of perfect ten between 1983 and 1984.[19] Her skills included a tucked backward salto with a full twist on beam (e.g. 1982 Ennia Cup[20]). On floor she performed difficult passes such as 1½ twist back salto to 1½ twist back salto, punch front or 1½ twist back salto to 1½ twist back salto, salto forward 1/2, punch front.[21][22] She also mounted floor exercise with a double back flip with a full twist in a piked position. At the 1983 Worlds and 1984 Olympic Games Event Finals she also dismounted with a double back flip with a full twist in a tuck position which was unheard of. Most gymnasts at the time did not even mount with this move. This cemented the Olympic title in the Floor Exercise for her in which she received a perfect 10.0 for the exercise beating both Julianne McNamara and Mary Lou Retton for the Gold medal.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Ecaterina Szabo.
  2. ^ International Gymnastics Hall of Fame Ecaterina Szabo
  3. ^ "Gymnast Ecaterina Szabo wins 4 Gold Medals for Rumania!". American Hungarian Federation. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  4. ^ "Povestea de chin, luptă şi glorie a păpuşii blonde a gimnasticii mondiale, Cati Szabo » Viaţa pe morfină". Gazeta Sporturilor (in Romanian). 13 October 2010. Retrieved 12 October 2011. The real name of the former gymnast is Katalin Szabo, but the Communists wanted to change her identity to hide her Hungarian origin. (Numele adevărat al fostei gimnaste e Katalin Szabo, dar comuniştii au vrut să-i schimbe identitatea pentru a-i ascunde provenienţa maghiară.)
  5. ^ a b c d e f Gymnastics Greats Archived 11 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine Whatever happened to Ecaterina Szabo
  6. ^ Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique Archived 7 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine Ecaterina Szabo
  7. ^ a b c d Gymn Forum Bios Ecaterina Szabo
  8. ^ Gymn Forum Results 1980 Junior European Artistic Gymnastics Championships Women Event Finals
  9. ^ Gymn Forum Results 1982 Junior European Artistic Gymnastics Championships Women Event Finals
  10. ^ Gymn Forum Results 1983 European Artistic Gymnastics Championships Women’s Event Finals
  11. ^ Gymn Forum Results 1983 European Artistic Gymnastics Championships Women’s All Around
  12. ^ Gymn Forum Results[permanent dead link] 1983 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships Women’s All Around[dead link]
  13. ^ Gymn Forum Results[permanent dead link] 1983 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships Women’s Event Finals[dead link]
  14. ^ Gymn Forum Results 1983 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships Women’s Team Finals Archived 2 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ Gymn Forum Results 1987 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships Women’s All Around
  16. ^ Kelemen, Zsolt (7 February 2005). "Sport a Duna Televízióban" (in Hungarian). Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  17. ^ Ághassi, Attila (27 July 2007). "Szabó Katit ütötték" (in Hungarian). Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  18. ^ "Szabó Kati nevét vette fel a szentgyörgyi sportcsarnok" (in Hungarian). 28 October 2008. Archived from the original on 3 April 2012. Retrieved 12 October 2011.
  19. ^ GymnStands Archived 17 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine List of perfect 10s in Artistic Gymnastics
  20. ^ Youtube 1982 Ennia Cup
  21. ^ Youtube 1987 World Artistic Championships Women's All Around, Ecaterina Szabo
  22. ^ GymnStands Profiles Archived 17 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine Ecaterina Szabo

External links[edit]