1999 European Championships, Walldürn, Germany
The road trip from Bucharest to Walldürn was a continuous two-day, one-night journey for my fellow teammates and I. With only few intermittent pit stops, travelling by car along the narrow, winding mountainous roads of Romania through Hungary was far more wearisome than anticipated. By the time we arrived at our hotel some 1,715 kms later, we were rather sleep-deprived. And, as our bodies seemed to have been so stiffly molded by our car seats, we could barely walk straight. But we didn’t mind that our postures seemed to lag, for we laughed it off as we witnessed each other barely being able to stand-up out of the car! Although tired, we were in good spirits and could already feel the competitive atmosphere at our fingertips.
A day of pre-rest prior competition would no longer be part of the plan, for upon arriving in Walldürn I learned that I would have to travel another 660 kms roundtrip the very next day to pick up a fellow teammate to be arriving at Munich airport. Having had only one night of bed sleep, I woke up that very next day to drive, with another teammate, a 10-hour trip to Munich and back, and did so finding my energy and motivation still moving at full-speed. The day after that, was competition day.
The competitions were underway. Being part of a big international event gave me so much energy that I did not really notice how tired I was. After several preliminary fights I already made it to the finals. It was then that I began fearing my final opponent because I started hearing rumours and gossip that the Belarusian was a very good fighter. I let my sensei know that I was feeling this fear. My sensei Iorga told me to take a careful look at my opponent’s face. So I looked at his face and I saw that he appeared to be more afraid than I. I quickly discovered a new confidence in myself before my final fight started. After my first point, I began imagining what it would be like to be European champion. I continued to fight with confidence and focus, and I won another point. With only a few seconds remaining to the end of the fight, I kept my opponent at a distance by using my kicks, and I continued to make use of the ring, moving left and right. The fight was over… and I became European champion.
I was invited to the podium to receive my gold medal. Before stepping onto the platform, I shook hands with the third and second-place winners, congratulating them both. Then stepping onto the highest platform, an official came to shake my hand and to congratulate me. As my medal was placed around my neck I felt an exuberated state of victory, both for my mental and physical performance. I stood in awe as the national anthem of Romania played for first time in my competitive career; knowing that I made this happen was an honour for me.
Furthermore, I found out that because of my high-standing I was granted acceptance into university without having to take an admission exam. This was a sign for me to embrace the opportunity and go to the university sports academy.
I thank my coach Daniel Iorga and his wife Mihaela Iorga for all their years of continuous support; for treating me like family.
What did I learn from my experience?
1. If you have the drive inside you, your going to find the energy to make it happen.
2. Make a connection with your coach. Tell him how you feel and what you think. Be coachable!
3. Believe in yourself. You are stronger than you think.