Famous Romanians: Elisabeta Lipa

Elisabeta Lipa is a famous Romanian rower that has a pile of sport records. In her rowing career she competed in six Olympics and she won at least one medal in each of them. She holds the rowing record for most Olympic medals won (eight, five of them gold) and at the Sydney Summer Olympics she became the oldest oarswoman to win a gold medal.

By Alexandra Fodor

Elisabeta Lipa was born in 1964 in Siret, Romania. She was discovered when she was fourteen years old, when a recruiter came to her school and noticed her talent. A couple of weeks later she was training at the Olympic Rowing Center in Bucharest.

In 1981, at the age of 16 she won her first World Championship medal as a member of Romania’s quad.

At the Los Angeles Summer Olympics in 1984 she won the first gold medal at double sculls (with Marioara Popescu). In 1988, she won the silver medal in the same event, this time with Veronica Cogeanu as partner. In 1992, at the Barcelona Summer Olympics she won a gold medal in the single sculls.

In 1996, in Atlanta she became the first rower in Olympic history to win a total of six medals.

Lipa is well known for her post-Olympic retirements. She announced her retirement after Atlanta in 1996 and did not compete again until the Sidney Summer Olympics in 2000. Lipa retired once again after Sydney but returned in 2004 for the Athens Olympics.

Elisabeta Lipa went from sculling to sweep rowing, from single scull to double scull to eight and to fours, quads and pairs, therefore becoming one of the most successful and versatile rowers of all time.

At the Sidney Summer Olympics in 2000, she was part of the winning eight-women team.

In 2000, the International Federation of Rowing declared her the best rower of the century.

At the Athens Summer Olympics in 2004, Lipa won her fifth gold medal as a part of the eight-women team and she became the first rower to compete at six Olympics games. After Athens, she officially retired from competitive rowing. The same year she received the Eurosport SportStar Award for sporting achievements.

By Romanian presidential decree, in 2004 Elisabeta Lipa was awarded the title of Police General.

Lipa’s longevity in the sport has made her the oldest oarswoman to win Olympic gold.

In 2008, she was honored for her outstanding sporting career with the Thomas Keller Medal, the most distinguished award in the sport of rowing.

In 2009, the Romanian Rowing Federation has elected Elisabeta Lipa as president. Lipa also remains involved in rowing as president of Dinamo Sports Club and as an appointed member of FISA’s Athletes’ Commission.

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