Gymnastics is a beautiful sport but a lot of times it is not that beautiful behind the scenes.

As a little girl Adriana Giurca, who was born in 1982, had a big dream to one day become a successful gymnast like her compatriots. Little did she know, her dream would lead to an early end of her life.


One day in the fall of 1993, 10 year old Giurca went to training at CS Dinamo Bucuresti, the club which has produced many of Romania's great gymnasts, like any other day. Her coach Florin Gheorghe, who was 25 years old at that time, was in a very bad mood that had him not tolerate any kind of failures, at that day.

Adriana was asked to do a complicated beam routine which she had failed to deliver over and again. Florin grew frustrated and snapped. He grabbed her head and smashed it to the beam several times, he then ordered her to do a difficult floor routine which she again failed to do. He reacted even more violently as he started kicking and punching her, then threw her on the floor where she landed on the padded mats and her spin was pushed to her brain.

Adriana never got up and fell in a coma. She was rushed to the hospital where she died two days later.

Florin denied physically assaulting the gymnast and claimed that he had only pushed her to the floor where she fell and hit her head.

He said that he only did it because he wanted her to be scared of him so she can perfect her skills.

"Adriana was a gymnast that was close to my heart, I really cared about her" said Florin who was not arrested immediately.

Coaches and gymnasts were scared to speak up. But one gymnast stood up for justice and told the truth which led to Florin's arrest, three months after the incident.

Florin was sentenced to eight years in prison, later reduced to six years. He was condemned to pay 12 million lei jointly with Dinamo club, a lot of money back then, as a compensation for Adriana's parents.

During trial gymnasts said that they were often subjected to corporal punishment as part of their training.



"We accepted the beatings and the pain because we were convinced that this would open the door to top performance for us," a young girl gymnast said during a court hearing.

Even Gheorghe testified that he was not the first to hit his students. He singled out then Romania's most famous coach, Bela Karolyi, accusing him of using corporal punishment as a key to success.


Giurca on the far left, Florin in the back

After Romania's women gymnasts won the world championships in 1995, World's most successful gymnastics coach Octavian Bellu said: "Bulgaria and Russia lost their place in world gymnastics when they lost their iron discipline."

Due to good behavior, Florin left the jail after 3 and a half years.

He said in an interview after he was released from prison that he did not think at that time that he was responsible for her death. He also claimed that Adriana's parents, whom he used to have a good relationship with, told him that it was not his fault during the funeral. Only at the trial, the mother called him a criminal and asked for compensation.

Florin believes that the punishment was exaggerated and motivated by public opinion.

"I don't regret anything but I realize that I paid a price too high because I was honest and correct." said Florin. "In this country, you easily escape all kinds of offences. I have said that I didn't want anything to be covered up and because of that I didn't hire myself a lawyer at first.I preferred to do it alone because I considered myself innocent."

"I haven't lied, I haven't beaten or hit gymnasts. I could have said that it was a training accident and got away with it quite easily."

He also said that what he did, was nothing compared to the other coaches' practices. 

Since his arrest, Florin has completely abandoned gymnastics. After his release, he was forced to start his own business in order to pay his bills since no one wanted to hire him.  

Adriana who was a very promising gymnast, could have been a part of the 2000 gold medal winning Olympic team, had she been alive.

Sadly, Adriana was not the first nor the last who suffered from physical and emotional abuse in the gym. US Dominique Moceanu, Romania's Alexandra Marinescu and other gymnasts were outspoken about the physical and emotional assault done by their coaches.

Written by Gigi Khazback Farid


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