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Title:Superpower: Romanian women's gymnastics during the cold war
Author(s):Wood, Mihaela A.
Director of Research:Hitchins, Keith
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Hitchins, Keith
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Todorova, Maria N.; Chaplin, Tamara; Micale, Mark S.
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Cold War
Women's History
Abstract:This dissertation explores how athletic victories in elite sports, particularly on the international stage, became Romanians’ ultimate expression of "Romanian-ness” during the Cold War years. As a result of the Romanian socialist state’s efforts to foster international successes in gymnastics, foreigners would ultimately associate elite women gymnasts’ success with the Romanian nation itself. The chapters of this dissertation explore the ways the Romanian socialist state fashioned elite women’s gymnastics as a key way to (1) fashion a sense of national pride and national community at home, (2) legitimize the socialist regime as a successful state, both internally and externally, (3) project positive images of Romania abroad in order to secure international recognition and prestige. During the Cold War, Romanian women gymnasts became cultural, national, and socialist heroes. Using Romanian archival sources, a wide range of Romanian periodicals, and American newspapers and magazines, this study examines the institutional and cultural development of elite women’s gymnastics in Romania from its earliest beginnings in the 1950s through the collapse of socialism in 1989. In the 1950s, Romanian coaches employed Soviet models of training to secure early women gymnasts’ medals at the Olympic Games. By the 1960s, Romanian innovations and sustained investments in gymnastics recruiting and training, dubbed the “Romanian School of Gymnastics,” transformed socialist Romania into a gymnastics powerhouse. The Romanian School enjoyed its heyday during the 1970s and 1980s, as superstar athletes such as Nadia Comăneci became a fixture on the medal stand at the Olympic Games. I argue that elite women gymnasts transformed Romania into a global sports superpower, allowing the socialist regime to challenge, in its own way, the prevailing binary frameworks of the Cold War.
Issue Date:2010-05-19
Rights Information:Copyright 2010 Mihaela Andra Wood
Date Available in IDEALS:2010-05-19
Date Deposited:May 2010

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