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The new “youth fountain†of Romania: how tennis overtook gymnastics as the premier juvenile sport of the country

Vasile-Teodor Burnar

Journal of Community Positive Practices, 2020, issue 1, 47-68

Abstract: Starting with the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games, which saw then 14-year-old Nadia Comăneci book her place in the history of sport with the first perfect 10 ever recorded, gymnastics became a national craze in Romania, where thousands of young girls, as little as 3, would flock the Deva training complex in Transylvania, in a bid to become “the new Nadia†. Following the Romanian Revolution in 1989, gymnastics remained at the fore of sport in a society marred by corruption and poverty, acting as a unique springboard to stardom for disadvantaged youth from all over the country, second only to football prestige-wise. However, after peaking in the early 2000s, Romanian gymnastics eventually dwindled. We argue that this reverse in the history of the sport in Romania and its sharp drop in youth appeal come down not only to falling standards or the steady “bankruptcy†of the Communist-inherited sports system, but also to a change in mentality and the emergence of a new socio-economic class which embraced tennis as a positional good. Interest in the sport is today at an all time high thanks to the exploits of Simona Halep in particular, making tennis the new “youth fountain†of Romania.

Keywords: gymnastics; juvenile sport; tennis; Nadia Comăneci; Simona Halep (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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