On Instagram Romanian gymnast Daniela Trica announced her retirement and this development is so significant, I felt it warranted a few reactions.
Romania needs to address its recent trend of young retirements
Back in April of 2020 Denisa Golgota announced her retirement just two months after celebrating her 18th birthday. To put into context just how significant Denisa’s career was for Romanian gymnastics, here’s a list of every Romanian gymnast who qualified to an All-Around or Event Finals in a major competition from the years 2018-2019:
Denisa Golgota: 2018 European Championships (Vault)
Denisa Golgota: 2018 European Championships (Floor)
Denisa Golgota: 2018 World Championships (All-Around)
Denisa Golgota: 2019 European Championships (All-Around)
Denisa Golgota: 2019 European Championships (Vault)
Denisa Golgota: 2019 European Championships (Beam)
Denisa Golgota: 2019 European Championships (Floor)
It can’t be overstated just how important Golgota’s career was to Romanian gymnastics, and how significant her retirement was. Until recently, I thought Denisa opting to retire young was a case study in bravery and courage. Something that was a one-off example of a lone gymnast who had the confidence to decide she could do anything and be anything she wanted in life, and it didn’t have to involve gymnastics.
But then Carmen Ghiciuc also retired just one month after her 18th birthday and again I figured well maybe a second high profile retirement at such a young age didn’t signify a larger issue.
While I wouldn’t yet rule out the possibility that perhaps a non-gymnastics related medical aliment could be a key reason for this particular retirement, with yet another high profile early retirement it is difficult to keep giving Romania the benefit of a doubt.
Daniela Trica is just 16 years old and was a member of Romania’s 2020 European Championships team which won a silver medal in the team competition. While she was one of the minor members of the team, at the most recent National Championships Trica produced some interesting results. She finished 7th in the All-Around, but her performance in Event Finals was impressive.
With a performance like that combined with her young age, this was a gymnast that at the very least could have been an excellent reserve member of the program with lingering potential for breakout success down the road. It shouldn’t be an annual event where the same national program keeps experiencing a high profile retirement involving a core gymnast who is still of high school age. Well performing programs simply can’t afford to lose talent like that.
What does this mean for the 2004ers?
The retirement of Daniela Trica is also significant because she is a member of Romania’s strong 2004 class of junior prospects who have recently turned senior. This generation of Romanian gymnasts have long been touted as the savior of the program. Fans had such high hopes for this class that many are under the belief that had they been allowed to compete earlier in the quad, they could have qualified a full Romanian delegation to Tokyo.
Effectively making the Romanian 2004s a rallying cry amongst gymnastics fans and an example of why Olympic team qualification rules need to be rewritten to better accommodate gymnasts who turn senior in an Olympic year. It is my opinion that the retirement of Daniela Trica does not indicate the rest of the 2004 class is doomed to follow a similar fate. The remaining three gymnasts of this class have continued to display strong results.
However, the 2004s are quickly becoming a case study as to whether a strong junior class can salvage a struggling program, or will a struggling program ruin a strong junior class? I wouldn’t say the retirement of Trica is bad news for the rest of the 2004s regarding their long term prospects, but it certainly isn’t good news.
It has long been a dream for fans of Romanian gymnastics to see the 2004s enjoy success as a group in a major competition. Unfortunately for the sport, even if the rest of the 2004s go on to do that, gymnastics fans will always feel that someone is missing. There is simply no replacing Daniela Trica both in terms of her raw physical talent, and what she means as a symbol to this program.
If you were to ask gymnastics fans back in 2019 what would be the future of Larisa Iordache, most would have said she would have long been retired by now. Golgota, Trica and the other members of the 2004 class were supposed to have replaced Iordache with ease. But instead the opposite has occurred. First Larisa Iordache made an improbable comeback, then she made an even more improbable run to the Tokyo Olympics.
Conventional wisdom dictates that young guns replacing aging veterans is the “cycle of life” when it comes to women’s gymnastics. But Larisa Iordache keeps doing the opposite. The other side of the sad news that Daniela Trica has retired is it empowers the legend of Larisa Iordache. It is a testament to her longevity, perseverance, and raw physical talent that Iordache continues to outlast the very gymnasts who were pegged to replace her. That for all the talent that was Golgota and the 2004s, Larisa Iordache managed to reign supreme.