Viorica Daniela Silivaş-Harper (Romanian pronunciation: [daniˈela siliˈvaʃ]; born May 9, 1972), best known as Daniela Silivaş, is a Romanian gymnast who is most famous for winning six medals (three gold, two silver, and one bronze) in women's artistic gymnastics at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea. In her five year tenure as a member of the Romanian senior national team, Silivaş earned six individual World Championships titles as well the 1987 European Championships all-around title. She was the only gymnast, male or female, to medal in every single event at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, where she earned 7 perfect 10.0 scores. In 1989, Silivaş's training was hampered by the closure of the Deva National Training Center during the Romanian Revolution and further impeded by a knee injury. She formally retired in 1991 and moved to the United States, where she currently enjoys a career as a gymnastics coach. In 2002 she was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame. A popular gymnast, Silivaş was known for her pinpoint technical accuracy, effortless difficulty, charming performances and artistic flair.
Early life and career
Daniela Silivaş was born in Deva, Transylvania, on May 9, 1972. She began gymnastics at age 6 and was coached by the legendary Béla Károlyi for six months before his defection in 1981. Silivaş won her school's championships in 1980, and in 1981 and 1982, was the Romanian Junior National Champion. She continued to compete in various junior meets through 1984, enjoying a particularly strong showing at the 1984 Junior European Championships, where she won the balance beam title, earned silver medals on the uneven bars and floor exercise, and placed 4th in the all-around. The 1984 Junior Friendship Tournament (Druzhba) was another especially successful meet for Silivaş: she won gold medals in the all-around and uneven bars over a strong field that included future Olympic and World champions Svetlana Boguinskaya, Aurelia Dobre and Dagmar Kersten, among others.
However, Silivaş did not linger for long in the junior ranks. In 1985, the Romanian Gymnastics Federation changed her birth year from 1972 to 1970 to make her age eligible for the World Championships in Montreal. The falsification was suspected by some, but was never fully verified until Silivaş herself revealed it in 2002. She stated that she was never consulted about the matter: officials simply gave her a new passport, called her attention to the birth date, and informed her that she was now fifteen.
Although she was only thirteen at the 1985 Worlds, Silivaş scored a perfect 10 en route to capturing the World balance beam title; defeating the reigning Olympic Champion, her fellow countrywoman, Ecaterina Szabo, in the process. She finished behind reigning co-World Champion Yelena Shushunova in the individual all-around at the 1986 World Cup and quickly established herself as the leader of the Romanian gymnastics team. Silivaş's greatest triumph took place at the 1987 European Gymnastics Championships in Moscow, where she won the individual all-around, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise titles in addition to taking a silver medal on the vault. At the time, every single dominant nation in women's gymnastics was located in Europe; winning the European title over the deep field of powerful Soviet, East German and Bulgarian gymnasts marked a major victory.
At the 1987 World Championships in Rotterdam, Silivaş helped the Romanian squad win the team title, defeating the nearly invincible world champion Soviet team for the first time since 1979. She was a favorite for the all-around title, but, hampered by low scores carried over from the team optionals, where she had stepped off the balance beam, as well as a shaky uneven bars routine in the all-around, she only managed to win the bronze medal behind teammate Aurelia Dobre and 1985 World Champion Shushunova. In the event finals, Silivaş did win two gold medals, on the uneven bars and the floor.
At the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Silivaş, along with Dobre and Shushunova, was considered a heavy favorite for the all-around title. In the team competition, Romania finished second to the Soviet squad. The stage was set for the all-around, with a hotly anticipated battle between Silivaş, the technician and dancer; and Shushunova, the powerhouse and tumbler. Both gymnasts turned in especially strong performances. Both Silivaş and Shushunova received perfect 10.0 scores on floor; Shushunova received her second 10.0 on vault; Silivaş received hers on the uneven bars. Silivaş was in the lead entering the final rotation, but a score of 9.950 on the vault dropped her to second place behind Shushunova by only 0.025.
The all-around duel between Silivaş and Shushunova is widely acknowledged to have been one of the finest contests in the history of the sport, not to mention most hotly debated. In particular, Silivaş' score on vault came under scrutiny. Of the six judges on the panel, three marked her first vault as a perfect 10.0; two others gave her 9.9s. The Soviet judge on the panel Nellie Kim, however, only scored Silivaş at a 9.8. On her second vault attempt Silivaş took a hop on her landing; all six judges gave her 9.9s. Silivaş was visibly upset after Shushunova's scores were posted and at the medal ceremony; according to a report in International Gymnast, her comment on the competition was "after my last vault, I thought maybe I should be the champion." However, she did not argue the results publicly. Her former coach, Bela Károlyi, noted, "This kid had the honesty and decency to shut up. She didn’t want to say ‘I’m better’ because she knows Shushunova is the Olympic champion but she couldn’t praise a rival. So she just didn’t say a word. These kids have more decency than all the judges and coaches in the world."
In spite of the controversy, no score protests were ever filed by Silivaş, her coaches or her Federation, and no disciplinary measures were taken against any of the judges. In addition, even though Kim's first mark was considered questionable by many fans, it did not actually figure into Silivaş' final score: in 1988, the highest and lowest marks of the panel were dropped; the final score was the average of the remaining four marks. Also, in spite of her vault score, Silivaş' cumulative overall all-around total was actually higher than that of Shushunova: if the competition had been held under the New Life rule, she would have won.
Silivaş returned in the event finals to win gold medals on the uneven bars, floor and beam, well as bronze in the vault behind Soviet Svetlana Boguinskaya (gold) and teammate Gabriela Potorac (silver). In the process, she became the only gymnast in Seoul to win medals on every single event in all three competitions (team, all-around and event finals). She also equaled Nadia Comăneci's record of seven perfect 10.0 scores in a single Olympic competition.
Post Olympic Games and retirement
Despite being plagued with a serious knee injury in 1989, Silivaş was able to successfully defend her floor exercise title at the European Championships and won three additional medals. In the all-around, she placed second to Svetlana Boguinskaya. Still injured, she went to the Worlds in Stuttgart where she placed 12th in the all-around after falling from the balance beam. Undaunted, she returned in event finals to capture three more gold medals on the bars, beam and floor. After several more competitions in 1989, Silivaş underwent surgery on her knee and intended to return to the gym to train. The Romanian Revolution of 1989 closed the National Training Center at Deva, putting an early end to her career.
|1981||Romanian Junior Nationals||1st|
|1982||Romanian Junior Nationals||1st|
|1984||Junior European Championships||4||2nd||1st||2nd|
|Junior Friendship Tournament||1st||1st|
|Arthur Gander Memorial||2nd|
|International Mixed Pairs||3rd|
|Montreal World Championships||2nd||1st|
|Beijing World Cup Final||2nd||3rd||3rd||2nd||2nd|
|Arthur Gander Memorial||2nd|
|Moscow European Championships||1st||2nd||1st||1st||1st|
|Rotterdam World Championships||1st||3rd||1st||1st|
|1988||Seoul Olympic Games||2nd||2nd||3rd||1st||1st||1st|
|1989||Brussels European Championships||2nd||2nd||2nd||1st|
|Stuttgart World Championships||2nd||12||1st||1st||1st|
1985-1986 - "Turkey in the Straw"/"Cotton Eye Joe"
1987 - "Ochi Chernye"/"Dark Eyes"
1989 - "Ciuleandra"
|Olympic Uneven Bars Champions|
|Margit Korondi • Agnes Keleti • Polina Astakhova • Věra Čáslavská • Karin Janz • Nadia Comăneci • Maxi Gnauck • Ma Yanhong | Julianne McNamara • Daniela Silivaş • Lu Li • Svetlana Khorkina • Émilie Le Pennec • He Kexin • Aliya Mustafina|
|Olympic Balance Beam Champions|
|Nina Bocharova • Agnes Keleti • Eva Bosáková • Věra Čáslavská • Natalia Kuchinskaya • Olga Korbut • Nadia Comăneci • Ecaterina Szabo | Simona Păucă • Daniela Silivaş • Tatiana Lysenko • Shannon Miller • Liu Xuan • Cătălina Ponor • Shawn Johnson • Deng Linlin • Sanne Wevers|
|Olympic Floor Exercise Champions|
|Agnes Keleti • Agnes Keleti | Larisa Latynina • Larisa Latynina • Věra Čáslavská | Larisa Petrik • Olga Korbut • Nellie Kim • Nellie Kim | Nadia Comăneci • Ecaterina Szabo • Daniela Silivaş • Lavinia Miloşovici • Lilia Podkopayeva • Elena Zamolodchikova • Cătălina Ponor • Sandra Izbaşa • Aly Raisman • Simone Biles|
|World Uneven Bars Champions|
|Vlasta Děkanová | Matylda Pálfyová • Anna Petersen | Gertchen Kolar • Agnes Keleti • Larisa Latynina • Irina Pervushina • Natalia Kuchinskaya • Karin Janz • Annelore Zinke • Marcia Frederick • Ma Yanhong • Maxi Gnauck • Gabriele Faehnrich • Dörte Thümmler | Daniela Silivaş • Daniela Silivaş | Fan Di • Kim Gwang-Suk • Lavinia Miloşovici • Shannon Miller • Luo Li • Svetlana Khorkina • Svetlana Khorkina | Elena Piskun • Svetlana Khorkina • Courtney Kupets • Chellsie Memmel | Hollie Vise • Nastia Liukin • Beth Tweddle • Ksenia Semenova • He Kexin • Beth Tweddle • Viktoria Komova • Huang Huidan • Yao Jinnan • Fan Yilin | Viktoria Komova | Madison Kocian | Daria Spiridonova|
|World Balance Beam Champions|
|Vlasta Děkanová • Helena Rakoczy • Keiko Tanaka • Larisa Latynina • Eva Bosáková • Natalia Kuchinskaya • Erika Zuchold • Nellie Kim • Ludmilla Tourischeva • Nadia Comăneci • Vera Cerna • Maxi Gnauck • Olga Mostepanova • Daniela Silivaş • Aurelia Dobre • Daniela Silivaş • Svetlana Boginskaya • Kim Zmeskal • Lavinia Miloşovici • Shannon Miller • Mo Huilan • Dina Kochetkova • Gina Gogean • Ling Jie • Andreea Răducan • Ashley Postell • Fan Ye • Nastia Liukin • Iryna Krasnianska • Nastia Liukin • Deng Linlin • Ana Porgras • Sui Lu • Aliya Mustafina • Simone Biles|
|World Floor Exercise Champions|
|Matylda Pálfyová • Helena Rakoczy • Tamara Manina • Eva Bosáková • Larisa Latynina • Natalia Kuchinskaya • Ludmilla Tourischeva • Nellie Kim | Elena Mukhina • Emilia Eberle • Natalia Ilienko • Ecaterina Szabo • Oksana Omelianchik • Daniela Silivaş | Elena Shushunova • Daniela Silivaş | Svetlana Boginskaya • Cristina Bontaş • Kim Zmeskal • Shannon Miller • Dina Kochetkova • Gina Gogean • Gina Gogean | Kui Yuanyuan • Gina Gogean • Andreea Răducan • Elena Gómez • Daiane Dos Santos • Alicia Sacramone • Cheng Fei • Shawn Johnson • Beth Tweddle • Lauren Mitchell • Ksenia Afanasyeva • Simone Biles|
|European All-Around Champions|
|Larisa Latynina • Natalia Kot • Larisa Latynina • Marjana Bilic • Věra Čáslavská • Karin Janz • Tamara Lazakovich | Ludmilla Tourischeva • Ludmilla Tourischeva • Nadia Comăneci • Maxi Gnauck • Olga Bicherova • Elena Shushunova • Daniela Silivaş • Svetlana Boginskaya • Tatiana Gutsu • Gina Gogean • Lilia Podkopayeva • Svetlana Khorkina • Alina Kozich • Marine Debauve • Vanessa Ferrari • Ksenia Semenova • Anna Dementyeva • Aliya Mustafina • Giulia Steingruber • Ellie Downie|
|European Uneven Bars Champions|
|Larisa Latynina • Polina Astakhova • Thea Belmer • Věra Čáslavská • Karin Janz • Tamara Lazakovich • Ludmilla Tourischeva • Nadia Comăneci • Nadia Comăneci | Elena Mukhina • Elena Mukhina • Maxi Gnauck • Ecaterina Szabo • Elena Shushunova | Oksana Omelianchik • Daniela Silivaş • Henrietta Ónodi • Svetlana Boginskaya | Natalia Kalinina | Mirela Paşca • Tatiana Gutsu • Svetlana Khorkina • Svetlana Khorkina | Simona Amânar | Lilia Podkopayeva • Svetlana Khorkina • Émilie Le Pennec • Beth Tweddle • Dariya Zgoba • Ksenia Semenova • Beth Tweddle • Viktoria Komova • Aliya Mustafina • Becky Downie • Daria Spiridonova • Becky Downie • Nina Derwael|
|European Balance Beam Champions|
|Larisa Latynina • Věra Čáslavská • Polina Astakhova • Eva Rydell • Věra Čáslavská • Karin Janz • Tamara Lazakovich • Ludmilla Tourischeva • Nadia Comăneci • Elena Mukhina • Natalia Shaposhnikova • Maxi Gnauck • Lavinia Agache • Oksana Omelianchik • Daniela Silivaş • Gabriela Potorac | Olesya Dudnik • Svetlana Boginskaya • Gina Gogean • Roza Galiyeva • Yevgeniya Kuznetsova • Svetlana Khorkina • Ludmila Ezhova • Cătălina Ponor • Yulia Lozhechko • Ksenia Semenova • Yana Demyanchuk • Amelia Racea • Anna Dementyeva • Cătălina Ponor • Larisa Iordache • Maria Kharenkova • Andreea Munteanu • Aliya Mustafina • Cătălina Ponor|
|European Floor Exercise Champions|
|Larisa Latynina • Polina Astakhova • Larisa Latynina • Marjana Bilic • Věra Čáslavská • Olga Karasyova • Ludmilla Tourischeva • Nadia Comăneci • Maria Filatova | Elena Mukhina • Nadia Comăneci • Maxi Gnauck • Lavinia Agache • Elena Shushunova • Daniela Silivaş • Daniela Silivaş | Svetlana Boginskaya • Lilia Podkopayeva • Lilia Podkopayeva | Lavinia Miloşovici • Corina Ungureanu • Ludivine Furnon • Alona Kvasha • Cătălina Ponor • Isabelle Severino • Sandra Izbaşa • Vanessa Ferrari • Sandra Izbaşa • Beth Tweddle • Sandra Izbaşa • Larisa Iordache • Ksenia Afanasyeva • Larisa Iordache | Vanessa Ferrari • Ksenia Afanasyeva • Giulia Steingruber • Angelina Melnikova|
|Romanian National Champions|
|Elena Ceampelea • Anca Grigoraș • Nadia Comăneci • Cristina Itu • Emilia Eberle • Lavinia Agache • Ecaterina Szabo • Daniela Silivaş | Ecaterina Szabo • Daniela Silivaş • Cristina Bontaş • Lavinia Miloşovici • Simona Amânar • Maria Olaru • Simona Amânar | Andreea Răducan • Sabina Cojocar | Silvia Stroescu • Aura Andreea Munteanu • Cătălina Ponor • Sandra Izbaşa • Steliana Nistor • Ana Porgras • Larisa Iordache|