Doina Ignat is one of Romania’s greatest Olympic heroines, having won a quad sculls silver in Barcelona in 1992 and then a gold in the women’s eights in Atlanta four years later. Besides her medal success she is also known for her inadvertent role in one of the best side-stories of the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000 after her gold medal from the rowing eights was initially lost but then found by a local taxi driver.
Ignat won the coxless pairs in Sydney, partnered that day with Georgeta Andrunache (née Damian), who was herself a seasoned if unassuming performer in eights on the international scene since 1991. Andrunache would go on to eclipse her partner’s Olympic achievements in spectacular style at the Olympic Games in Beijing.
Andrunache won her first gold medals in Sydney. Besides her pairs victory with Ignat she was also in the victorious women’s eight. She repeated this feat with the golden double in Athens four years later, this time with Viorica Susanu in the coxless pairs.
Romania’s golden run in the eights came to a halt at the Shunyi Olympic Rowing Park in Beijing, but Georgeta Andrunache’s quest for gold remained on track in the pairs.
She and Susanu faced the might of home pair Wu You and Gao Yulan as well as the vocal support of a vociferous home crowd as the sun beat down.
The Chinese pair’s tactics failed to pay off as they opted to preserve their energy in the opening half of the race.
Andrunache and Susanu opened up a decent lead and pushed home their advantage in the second half of the race, winning in seven minutes, 20.60 secs to beat the Chinese by 1.68secs.
In securing her fifth gold medal, Andrunache put herself alongside Nadia Comaneci but three short of the great gymnast’s overall total of nine Olympic medals.