What happened to… Elisabeta Lipa
Elisabeta Lipa is a rowing legend. She is the most decorated Olympic rower ever with five gold medals, two silver and one bronze and to this day is still very much involved in rowing.
Lipa began her international rowing career for Romania in 1981 at the World Rowing Junior Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria. Her debut performance also won her first international medal, when she finished third in the junior women’s coxed quadruple sculls. This was just the start.
Lipa’s medal-winning career continued when just one year later, she medalled in the women’s quadruple sculls at the senior World Rowing Championships. Just two years after that, Lipa took her first Olympic gold at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles in the women’s double sculls. Lipa was particularly well-known for her ability to race and medal in multiple boat classes.
In 1992, she became Olympic Champion in the women’s single sculls and won a silver medal in the women’s double sculls. Her incredible talent also featured a seamless transition from years of sculling to sweep rowing. At the 1996 Olympic Games, Lipa not only won bronze in the women’s single, she became an Olympic Champion in the women’s eight. Lipa retired after the 2004 Olympic Games when she won her final Olympic gold in the women’s eight.
Following her outstanding career, Lipa continued to stay involved in the sport. She is currently the President of the Romanian Rowing Federation. And while she doesn’t row professionally anymore Lipa says, she rows when she feels like she misses it.
“I wish I was 20 years younger, or maybe even more, so I could relive the World Championships and the Olympic Games,” Lipa says.
Unfortunately, back pain limits Lipa’s ability to exercise. “I try to stay in shape by doing the exercises recommended by my doctor, so I guess you could say that I’m still active,” she says.
Lipa currently dedicates most of her time to her family and to the Romanian Rowing Federation. “My family accepted my career decision. My sacrifices were also their sacrifices. They have always supported me throughout my career. They are, and have always been, extremely proud of me.”
Her current goal is to ensure the future success of Romanian athletes. “I want them to work hard, to be dedicated, to make sacrifices, because life as a professional athlete is quite beautiful. I remind them of this each and every day, at every occasion, be it when we're training or right before a competition,” she says.
Lipa’s dedication to the federation and the athletes stems from a deep sense of gratitude to the sport and to the country.
“I've always been grateful to the country and the sport that granted me my notoriety and my reputation, and so I feel as though it is my responsibility to pass on all of my knowledge in order to shape the new generation of rowing athletes.”
The new generation of athletes is certainly lucky to have an icon to lead the way. The Romanian team has seen growing success over the last few years, including winning the elusive gold at 2017 World Rowing Championships in the women’s eight under Lipa’s guidance. As Lipa so aptly puts herself, “it's clear that I found my road in life.” There is no doubt about that.