Two-time Olympic champion, rower Leon Rotman is one of Romania's sports legends. In July this year, Leon Rotman will be 85. He was born on July 22,
1934 in Bucharest. He was the 4th child of carpenter Iosif Rotman.
At the age of 15, when he was an apprentice with Timpuri Noi Plant, Leon took
up training as a wrestler with the Flacara sports club, being one of the
67-kilogram category hopefuls. In 1952, as he was on the shores of Floreasca
Lake, Leon Rotman discovered nautical sports. Soon afterwards he became a
member of the Kayak-canoe section of Dinamo Bucharest sports club.
Leon Rotman was quick to persuade his coaches that the
men's singles boat was where he belonged. Quite rapidly, Rotman succeeded a
string of wins at national level, so he was summoned for the delegation that in
1956 travelled to Melbourne, to take part in the Olympic Games.
Three of the four medals awarded for the canoe event went
to the Romanian rowers, who had no problem outperforming their challengers from
Russia and Hungary, at that time the dominating countries in nautical sports.
Leon Rotman's first win occurred in the 10,000 meter
race. Rotman had a bit of a problem registering for the event, since his boat
had a slight twist organizers considered officially unacceptable. He was given
another boat, which also had a problem: it was longer than a standard
competition boat. A jigsaw was used to shorten the boat, then as he set off for
the race Rotman showed his force and talent, outclassing the favorites of the
race, Hungary's János Parti and István Hernek, and Ghenadi Buharin of the USSR.
Rotman was 80 meters clear of the last rower in the race, the Hungarian János
Then the 1,000-meter race followed; Rotman had no problem
being ranked as favorite. He confirmed all the forecasts and again won the
race. This time, Hernek was the runner-up rower. Just like in the 10,000-meter
race, the bronze medal went to Buharin.
Alexe Dumitru and Simion Ismailciuc won the third gold medal
at the Melbourne Olympics, in the 1,000-meter race.
At the Rome Olympics in 1960, Romanian rowers won only
one medal. The Romanian delegation's top performer was once again Leon Rotman,
who walked home with the bronze medal he won in the men's singles 1,000-meter