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Elisabeta Lipa-Oleniuc of Romania is the most decorated Olympic rower ever. With five gold medals, two silver, and a bronze over an astonishing 20-year period, the Romanian won an Olympic medal every time she competed. Lipa is one of just four rowers to have taken part in six different Olympiads.
Born in the town of Siret, Lipa started rowing at the age of fourteen in 1980 and competed in her first Olympic Games just four years later at Los Angeles where she won her first gold medal in the double scull event.
At Barcelona Lipa won gold, this time in the single sculls event. Having pulled away from the rest of the field early on to establish a comfortable lead, she managed to hold off the challenge of silver medallist Annelies Bredael of Belgium. Lipa covered the 2000m distance in a time of 07:25.54. She also picked up a silver medal in a double scull boat with Veronica Cochela.
The South Korean Seoul Games delivered Lipa Olympic silver and bronze in the double scull and the quadruple scull boats. And there were to be three more Olympic gold medals, at Atlanta in 1996, Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004. No other rower in Olympic history had won so many honours. Lipa’s final Athens gold medal came at the age of 39.