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Romania at the Olympic Games

Constantina Diţă

Photo: pixabay.com
Photo: pixabay.com

, 24.04.2024, 13:45

 

With 3 months left until the start of the Paris Olympics, we invite you to a new segment devoted to Romanian sports legends. Today’s guest is Constantina Diţă, the first and only Romanian to win the gold in the Olympic marathon, at the 2008 Beijing Games.

 

The marathon is one of the oldest events in the modern Olympic Games. Inspired by the legend of Pheidippides, the soldier who ran to Athens from the town of Marathon, Greece to carry the message of a Greek victory in the year 490 B.C., the race has been part of the Games ever since Athens 1896. After running approximately 40 km, the Greek Spiros Louis won the first marathon race, to become a national hero. In 1984, at the Los Angeles Games, the women’s event was also introduced, won at the time by the American Joan Benoit.

 

In 2008, in Beijing, the event was won by the Romanian athlete Constantina Diţă. Her victory was perhaps the biggest Romanian surprise at the Beijing Olympics. Few had expected her to finish among the first, and Romanians had rather pinned their hopes on Lidia Şimon, the silver medallist in Sydney. Right after that race, Constantina Diţă gave RRI an exclusive interview:

 

Constantina Diţă: “I am very happy to win the gold, because I have never won an Olympic medal, and this has always been my dream. I didn’t expect to win. I was expecting a medal, but the gold? Never. The world elite has been here, really strong girls, Paula Radcliffe, Ndereba, the Chinese girl, I had never expected to win the gold against them.”

 

Constantina Diţă was born on January 23, 1970, in the village of Turburea, Gorj County. Before taking up athletics, she used to play handball. In 2005, in Edmonton, Canada, she won the world half marathon champion title, while at the marathon championships that same year, held in Helsinki, Finland, she came out 3rd.

 

We met Constantina Diţă again last year, a decade and a half after her great Olympic feat:

 

Constantina Diţă: “Wow, I can’t believe it’s been 15 years since the Olympic gold in Beijing. Thank God I am still healthy and active in many, many sports-related projects. I attend lots of sports events, I talk to kids about sports, I am an ambassador for various events, including the world half marathon championships in Riga, Latvia, these days, and right after that, the Chicago marathon. I try to find the time to work out at least once or twice a week. In Chicago I’m going to run 5 km for people with disabilities, as an ambassador. I urge all parents to guide their children towards sports, because sport means health, intelligence, energy.”

 

In 2022, the local authorities in Târgu Jiu named the town’s new stadium after Constantina Diţă, “the best atlete born in Gorj County in the past 100 years,” as the mayor Marcel Romanescu said. (AMP)

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