Monday, March 1, 2010


Last night I finally watched the documentary, The Secret of Deva, featuring up-and-coming Romanian junior talent, Raluca Haidu, when she was a wee little thing.  For those of you who haven't seen it yet, it is available on  Shagya1987s Youtube  channel and follows Raluca and another gymnast, Malina's, training within the Deva school and on to their first Romanian Nationals competition.  The makers of this documentary were lucky to select a girl in Haidu who actually happens to still be around, climbing the ranks of Romanian gymnastics as we speak. Malina, however, has since retired due to injury.

The doco is at times sweet, often mildly depressing and sometimes a wee bit disturbing.  I really don't know how I feel about it.  It was tough, seeing how poor the girls parents are, talking about not being able to afford the fees, knowing Haidu's father works in the mines.  It was hard to see the cramped spaces where the little Deva girls sleep.  It is all a reminder of just how tough things can be in Romania.  It is not like I wasn't expecting it, I have spent time in Romania, but still. 

The worst part for me, though, was when the girls were moved up a level, and into the hands of new, far fiercer coaches than the woman they had been with previously.  Seeing one of the girls being verbally abused and then sent from the room was hard to watch.  Of course I have no idea of context, of wether she had been lazy, or had been insolent, but it seemed like she just didn't yet have the strength to do the bars move the male coach required of her.  Either way, I can never advocate motivation by humiliation.  That stuff is always hard to see and this coach, Cottiu, I believe, berated a girl in a way that  lacked the good humour and mild nature of Forminte's teasing in other documentaries I have seen.

(Haidu bottom right)

Another thing that made it a little more confronting was how young Haidu looked.  As a teensy thing, smaller than all her classmates, it was particularly tough to watch her suffering through those ubiquitous shots of the girls in impossibly painful looking stretching positions, or being told off by her coach, or melting into tears when she was upset or confused.  It was also hilarious and cute to see her charging around her dorm though, pretending to be a film maker, dancing on her mattress and being unable to find clean clothes to wear to Nationals. She reminds me, in the face, a little of baby Oana Ban.

(pic by Bernard Garau)

Haidu herself was fascinating on another level too.  Called 'Pitic' by her team mates, Haidu was nearly half their size at this time and quite stocky.  Her coach, Dana, called her her 'little fatty', not in a cruel way, but in an endearing sense. Haidu was already, obviously so immersed in the idea of being a gymnast.  It was amazing to see her erupt into a fit of tears when her poor old father mentioned the possibility she may not make it in the sport.  At such a young age, Pitic already seemed to find this idea both abhorrent and devastating.  It was incredible.  You could see this self-pressure too when she finished her first performance at Nationals, and thought she did not fall or embarass herself badly at all, she dissolved into tears at seeing her score. 
There is an obsessive little gymnast inside Raluca Haidu.  It will be very, very interesting to see how far this takes her.

I am not sure if this doco actually revealed any Deva secrets that I didn't already know, or that anyone didn't already know, but it is one of those rare opportunities to watch theRomanian training process with english subtitles and that and Haidu's hilarious character made it worth every minute.

Also, for those of you with who know Romanian. Mihaitza48 has uploaded a long interview with Nicolae Forminte that I'd LOVE to be able to understand.  It also features an interview with Ana Porgras (presumably about Formtine) who looks much older and more mature than she did even in London.



  1. In the group photo you can also see Diana Trenca, Amelia Racea and Claudia Voicu. In the documentary also appears Cera Patrascu and Loredana Sabau.

  2. Hi,

    Soon (probably in the weekend) we will put the translation of the interview with Nicolae Forminte on Fangymnastics.

    Ioana (Fangymnastics)