Performance Makes You Lose It. Cătălina vs Geta.
Two events are currently filling my Facebook news thread. First is about the Romanian gymnast, Cătălina Ponor, age 29, winning the gold medal at the European Individual Championship. Second is about two Romanian kids, Dor Geta Popescu and Erik Gulacsi, ages 13 and 12, climbers with multiple international age records, who died in an avalanche in Retezat Mountains, Romania. What do these two things have in common? Performance.
Both cases have made media and Facebook users go nuts. Everybody has an opinion. Hello! This is Romania! We know everything, we can fix anything, and, most important of it all, we ARE opinionated.
A success story
Yes, Cătălina Ponor is truly amazing for winning gold for balance beam at 29 years old. When I was a kid, gymnasts were retiring with 24. She had three comebacks. If that doesn’t show commitment and determination, I don’t know what does. Especially because the life and training of Romanian gymnasts have been revealed to be far from pretty in the 2005 scandal. Back then the trainers Octavian Bellu and Mariana Bitang were accused of abuse and cruelty against gymnasts.
Octavian Bellu and Mariana Bitang have been training the national gymnastic team since … ever (the ‘80s). They had a short intermezzo, due to mentioned scandal, but were quickly reinstated. And that happened for one reason alone: They delivered. They know exactly how far to push the gymnasts in order to get results.
An unhappy ending story
Now going back to the dead underaged climbers. Both Geta and Erik were multiple record-holders for having climbed mountains and volcanoes long before they hit puberty. Geta was planning on hitting Everest this year. She was mentored and trained by her father. He is this story’s Octavian Bellu, the pusher, the catalyst. He is also the one who is burned at the media stake for his daughter’s death.
Two apparently different stories. But look closer. Ingredients are the same: a doer (Cătălina or Geta) and a pusher (Bellu or Geta’s dad).
I will not judge the way these kids were guided to achieve greatness, how they were pushed, bent, made to tango with their limits. Somebody died, so somebody obviously made a mistake.
But I will, however, condemn the media coverage of these events.
A bigger picture
As Romanians, we were somehow born with an inferiority complex. We don’t think we are good enough, we always feel the need to prove ourselves. When one of us achieves it, especially abroad, we feel the need to make a big fuss about it.
As a parenthesis here, I have to mentioned those ridiculous “news” about Romanian students who are heads of their classes at ivy league universities. What the hell is up with that? It’s like admitting we are generally kind of retarded, so we need to point out the successes we have. Parenthesis closed.
In these circumstances it is easy to imagine why one would feel the need to broadcast success. It is all about the “Romanian greatness”, that, against all odds, triumphs. Hm, raise your hand if this sounds a tiny bit familiar!
The reverse of “Romanian greatness” is the expression “typically Romanian”, followed by a disgusted mouth grim. This usually happens when we lose, when we show the world something else other than success.
Once something bad happens, everybody knows how it should have been done in the first place.
It’s the same with Geta’s case. In 2016 everybody was in awe of her achievements. Nobody formulated concerns about her safety loud enough to be heard. And now, once she is dead, her dad is in a shitstorm. All Facebook, all media hates him.
He did something bad, no question about it, but let me ask you this: What reaction would the public (who now hates him) have had, had Geta conquered Everest this year?
I am not trying to find excuses for his lack of responsibility or ego excess. I am just trying to point out that all his feelings rest and feed on something that the exterior also provides. We are the exterior. We are a barometers. And we are hypocritical in appreciating only success and not considering the risks involved in the process of achieving it.