Looking Back at the 1981, 1983 & 1985 European Championships.

Madrid 1981.

Maxi Gnauck who was already a medallist from the 1979 Europeans (silver vault & bronze bars) dominated this competition winning four out of five possible gold medals. The only apparatus where she didn’t place first was vault, she took the silver medal tied with teammate Birgit Senff.

The vault gold was won by Cristina Grigoras, who was the most decorated Romanian gymnast with four medals. Aside from the vault title she placed second in the all-around and bars and placed third on Floor. She did not medal on beam, but her teammate Rodica Dunca did, she took third.

Between East Germany and Romania they took 11 medals out of 15 possible, a major upset for the Soviet team that only won four medals and none of them gold. Alla Misnik took silver on bars and floor as well as bronze in the all-around; Natalia Ilienko took silver on beam.

After her retirement, Natalia Ilienko moved to Great Britain and took up aerobic gymnastics in the 90s. As for Alla Misnik, she passed away extremely young, aged 38, from a stroke on July 11th, 2006.

Gothenburg 1983

The Soviet Union regained its dominance in terms of gold medals, Olga Bicherova took the title in the all-around, vault and floor while Albina Chichova took bronze in the all-around but that was it, only four medals.

It was the Romanian Games. the country dominated with a total 9 medals won by three gymnasts: Ecaterina Szabo (gold on floor and bars, silver vault and bronze all-around); Lavinia Agache (gold beam, silver all-around and bars, bronze vault) and Mihaela Stanulet (bronze beam). She had a risky, and unseen at the time, front tuck mount.

The remaining medals were won by three countries: East Germany’s Astrid Heese took silver on beam, Czechoslovakia’s Jana Labakova won bronze on bars while Bulgaria appeared on the map with Boriana Stoyanova taking bronze on vault (tied with Agache) and Floor. Boriana’s floor music at the time was titled “Space Warrior”

Helsinki 1985

After a “bad” couple of European Championships, the Soviets were back with Yelena Shushunova dominating in Soviet fashion taking every single gold medal with the exception of beam where she placed third. However, the title went to another Soviet, Oksana Omelianchik, who also took silver on Floor and bronze in the all-around and bars.

This was the farewell competition of Maxi Gnauck who had missed the 1984 Olympics due to the boycott so she chose to end her career in Helsinki taking silver in the all-around and gold on bars (tied with Elena Shushunova). Maxi Gnauck was not the only East German on the podium, teammate Dagmar Kersten placed third on vault.

Another goodbye unknowingly came for Czechoslovakia. The country was seven years away from separating itself into the Czech Republic and Slovakia and Hana Ricna was the last ever European Medallist for Czechoslovakia with her silver on beam. Hana Ricna’s son David Jessen (b. 1996) represented the Czech Republic at the Rio Olympic Games.

As for Romania, they were the unhappy ones, only a couple of medals for them, Ecaterina Szabo placed second on vault and Daniela Silivas was third on Floor. This was her first major competition but at the time she was just 13 years old and underage to compete.

The minimum age requirement had been raised to 15 years old in 1985, however, Romanian officials saw so much potential in Silivas that waiting two years was too much and gave her a passport that stated she had been born in 1970 and not 1972 as it was revealed decades later.

The queen of this competition Yelena Shushunova passed away on August 16th, 2018.

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