Elisabeta Lipă (born October 26, 1964 in Siret, Suceava County) is a retired rower from Romania, born under the name of Elisabeta Oleniuc. She is the most decorated rower in the history of the Olympics, winning five golds, two silvers and one bronze. She is the only person to win a gold medal in the two premiere rowing events: the single scull and the eight oared boat.
Rowing came into this superstar’s life at the age of 14, in 1979, when a recruiter visited her school at her hometown Botoşani. This person obviously saw the potential in young Elisabeta and in three weeks she was training in Bucharest at the Olympic Rowing Center.
At the age of nineteen, she debuted at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, where she win the double sculls final. In 1988, at Seoul, she earned a silver medal in the same event, and the bronze medal in the quadruple sculls without coxswain. In 1992, at Barcelona, Lipă repeated the second place finish in the double sculls. The next day, Elisabeta led the single sculls from start to finish to earn her second career gold medal. At the 1996 Atlanta Games, she placed ninth in the single sculls, but then won another gold medal as a member of Romania's coxed eight with coxswain crew. With this race, she became the first rower in Olympic history to win six medals. Lipă competed in her fifth Olympics in 2000 at the age of 35. At the Sydney Games she helped Romania defend its title in the eights, thus becoming the oldest oarswoman to win a gold medal in the eight with coxswain event at the Olympics. At the Athens Olympic Games in 2004, Elisabeta Lipă again won the gold medal in the eights. Through this performance, she became the only woman to hold five gold medals at the Olympic Games. Only the 5 consecutive golds by Great Britain's Sir Stephen Redgrave can match Lipă's Olympics rowing achievements. At the World Championships, she won one gold, ten silvers, and two bronzes.
Many would say that athletics and sports are sometimes more a game of fate than a test of endurance, and ‘you win some-you lose some’ but people like Elisabeta disprove this by performing consistently under high pressure – the pressure of their country’s expectations, the pressure they have from within and the pressure of the moment. After her decision to retire (following her last Olympics victory, 2004), she said ‘It was my last race. I am very happy because I won five gold medals in six participation in Olympic games. I dedicate the medal to me’. She was awarded the 2008 Thomas Keller Medal (the 'Oscar' of rowing) at the Rowing World Cup in Lucerne, and now she works as general with a star in the Romanian Ministry of Internal Affairs.
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