Rowing for gold
Romania’s Viorica Susanu competed in four editions of the Games, in both the coxless pairs and in the eights, winning five medals, three of them gold.
A golden generationBorn on the banks of the Danube, in the town of Galatj, Viorica Susanu was part of a golden generation for Romanian women’s rowing. A member of the eight that won consecutive World Championships in 1997, 1998 and 1999, and claimed Olympic gold at Sydney 2000, she subsequently went on to enjoy similar success in the coxless pairs, rowing with Georgeta Andrunache. During the final of the 2002 World Championships in Seville, the duo set a new world record of 6:53.80 as they finished over four seconds ahead of Canadian pair Jacqui Cook and Karen Clark.
Unbeatable in AthensAt the Schinias Olympic Rowing and Canoeing Centre at Athens 2004, Susanu and her Romanian oarswomen were at the peak of their powers. In the final of the coxless pairs on 21 August, she and Andranuche were untouchable. Leading from the start, by the halfway point they had established a gap of over two seconds, which they maintained into the finish. The following day, Susanu won her third Olympic gold in a Romanian eight that was every bit as dominant, again winning by over two seconds ahead of the American and Dutch boats in second and third.
Mixed fortunes in BeijingIn the final of the coxless pairs on 16 August 2008 at the Olympic rowing park in Shunyi, Andrunache and Susanu were once again in imperious form as they completed the defence of the title, leaving Chinese pair Wu You and Gao Yulan and Yuliya Bichyk and Natalia Helakh of Belarus to battle it out for the other podium spots. Twenty four hours later, they were back in action in the final of the eights, but this time found themselves out-rowed by the USA crew, and then pipped at the finish line by the Dutch boat, to finish third.
Final fling in LondonBy the time London 2012 came around, Susanu and Andrunache were 36 and 35 respectively, and both now mothers. Despite four years away from competition, they finished fifth in the coxless pairs final, at which point they announced their retirement. Asked to name her favourite race during 10 years at the top, Susanu replied: “They are all equally magnificent if they end in a gold medal.” With two European titles, five world titles and four Olympic golds, Susanu enjoyed a career that was full of magnificent moments.