30 Sep From Athlete to Ambassador, Daniela Silivas Inspires
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From Athlete to Ambassador, Daniela Silivas Inspires
By Christy Sandmaier
Of all of my early gymnastics memories, watching Romania’s Daniela Silivas’ floor routine at the 1987 World Championships in Rotterdam stands out. I can still remember the choreography, the tumbling, her pure joy during the performance. Imagine then, my complete awe and excitement years later when Daniela and I met up just minutes from our homes in Atlanta, Georgia while her daughter Ava participated in Inside Gymnastics’ Lovely Leotard Challenge photo shoot that day.
Once my nerves subsided and we started chatting, I quickly learned that Daniela’s brightest and best gymnastics memories all include her Romanian teammates. And probably not at all surprising to fans of 80s gymnastics, her favorite competition was the 1987 World Championships where she helped lead her team to the title, defeating the Soviets in one of the most storied Team Finals ever. When I asked her if 1987 was also when she was at her best as an athlete – her strongest gymnastics – she emphatically said, “yes,” even moreso than 1988 when she emerged from the Seoul Olympics with a medal on every event and seven perfect 10s. For Daniela, it was always about her team – her second family – and what they accomplished together.
“It wasn’t just because it was a great year for us for gymnastics, but the team was so close together. We worked so well together and with the coaches. I think everyone expects me to say the Olympics, but it was really the ’87 Worlds. That bond that we had… even before the competition people were saying we had a chance to win, to beat Russia. It was a miracle. It was so important for us to have that.”
After a strong, but pressure-packed Olympics the team trained all the way through with no days off (even after the competition was over), she says she “struggled” through 1989.
“I grew up a lot. It was a hard time being in the gym.” Still, she captured gold on bars (shared with Fan Di of China), beam, and floor (shared with Svetlana Boguinskaia of the former Soviet Union) at the World Championships in Stuttgart that year.
Daniela was born in Deva and started gymnastics at the age of 6. Her first World Championships was Montreal in 1985. In 1991, she settled in Atlanta where she has remained, raises her family and coaches gymnastics. She recalls one of her biggest adjustments when she began coaching in the United States was understanding that kids no matter the level or goal or talent, could all do gymnastics.
“It was hard for me to learn that doing gymnastics could be for more than being number one and winning. I learned so much as a coach from then until now,” she said.
Here in Antwerp at the 2023 World Championships, Daniela, along with Bulgaria’s Jordan Jovtchev, is serving as an FIG Ambassador for the event. It’s a role she’s embracing and enjoying and is definitely keeping her busy throughout the almost two weeks the gymnastics world gathers in Belgium. On Day 1 of podium training, we were able to exchange a quick hug and hello in the media tribune as she jetted off to her next official engagement.
Daniela and Jordan were chosen as Ambassadors for the FIG as they “embody the spirit of dedication, perseverance, and innovation that defines gymnastics. They are not only champions in their own way but also champions of the values that make our sport exceptional – discipline, courage, teamwork, and creativity. Their commitment to gymnastics has left an indelible mark on the sport’s history.”
As an athlete, Daniela was known for her grace, originality and difficulty. As an Ambassador, she hopes to encourage the competitors to embrace the experience.
“I’m incredibly proud that my gymnastics journey can inspire young people to join this incredible sport,” she said of the position in her official FIG statement. “I started gymnastics because of Nadia Comăneci, it’s truly amazing to realize that someone out there has begun their own gymnastics journey because of me. I hope the audience will relish the opportunity to watch these beautiful, incredible gymnasts competing and that they will cheer for everyone. As for the gymnasts, my advice is to stay focused on the present. Believe in yourself and enjoy the competition!”
Inside Gymnastics was on the scene in Antwerp for the opening Press Conference and asked Daniela about a few more of her favorite worlds’ memories.
“It was a long, long time ago (laughs). My first World Championships, it was in 1985, and I was very young, and I just don’t remember a lot. I was there to just enjoy it, and I was the newcomer. Nobody knew my name, so I didn’t have a lot of stress competing. It was actually my first 10 that I got from beam in Montreal, so it was exciting. I was very excited to be there, but not so stressful.”
“1987 was my second World Championships, and I think that’s my favorite competition because we did very well with the team. We won with the team after nine years of getting second place. So that was a happy moment, not just for me, but for the team.”
“And my third and last World Championships was actually in Stuttgart, and at that time, I didn’t know that it’s going to be my last competition ever. But what can I say? We did great, and the memories are always going to be it doesn’t matter if we won or we didn’t win. I think the competition itself and being there, enjoying the moment, was a little bit more important than just winning. So I think that’s what I’m trying to let the gymnast know, that it’s very important to enjoy this moment.”