As a member of Romania’s national gymnastics team, Simona Amânar was considered one of the shyest and quietest girls at Deva. No one ever saw her in a guy’s company, not even towards the end of her career and certainly no one ever imagined the Constanta native was living her own love story. Even head coach Octavian Belu once said that "when I’ll see Simi with a boy, I’ll let the gymnasts beat me." Somehow both miracles happened. This February, coach Belu got into a whipped cream food fight with his gymnasts in front of an audience, while Simona was blowing kisses towards the stands where her secret boyfriend was sitting.
Their relationship was a secret until today, when the love story between the former gymnast and Cosmin Tabără -son of former senate member Valeriu Tabără- is now public. After more than a year-long silence, Simona showed up last week at a café in Constanta, holding hands with Cosmin and getting ready for a photo shoot. “We decided to talk about our relationship because in the end there’s nothing bad about it and people would have eventually found out,” Simona explained. Cosmin sits down next to his girlfriend and they start telling their story, having to stop every 5 minutes when a kid comes up to Simona to ask for her autograph.
Despite the short distance between them, Simona being in Deva and Cosmin in Timisoara, the two did not see each other for 9 months. At the end of July 2000, Cosmin decided to be brave, and went to Deva that Sunday to take Simona out on the town. Cosmin saw Simona only once more before the Sydney Olympics. “I left tens of messages on her cell phone and I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t answer me. I didn’t know she left her cell phone at home," he says of the time they couldn’t keep in touch. The only time he could see his girlfriend was during the Olympic broadcast. “Before she left, I didn’t call her too often because I wanted to let relax and focus on the Olympic Games,” explains Cosmin. After Simona got back from Sydney, Cosmin has yet another reason to get worried when he couldn’t get a hold of her. “I didn’t go to the airport because I wanted to keep this away from the press and since I couldn’t get a hold of her after a few days, I figured the success had gone to her head, that she had changed." "But he soon found out that wasn’t the case, interrupts Simona, once I got my phone back. He found me at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, where the rest of the team was and I called him on Maria Olaru’s cell phone."
They met at Milo's wedding
Lavinia Milosovici got married in Timisoara on October 23rd, 1999 and the entire national team who just recently won team gold at the Tianjin Worlds was invited, including Simona. Lavinia’s godfather was senator Valeriu Tabără, who brought along his son, Cosmin as he was a big fan of sports, and gymnastics in particular. The two saw each other during the religious ceremony and later met at the restaurant, immediately liking each other. They stayed at the same table, talked and danced all night and later exchanged phone numbers. “I knew Simona from TV, read about her in newspapers and I was up-to-date on her career because I am a big sports fan,” explains Cosmin, who played team handball for over two years while in school. The two kept calling each other, and every time, the long-distance conversations got longer and longer.
Simona says that’s when their relationship started developing and ever since they’ve been almost inseparable. They were discrete as far as their relationship is concerned, until fate had other plans for them. One day, Cosmin lost his wallet, where he also had Simona’s ID card and papers. The person who found the wallet sent it to the RGF, and the officials found their papers together.
Even though they’ve known each other for a while, Cosmin only saw Simona perform live once during the Stars of gymnastics tournament in Timisoara. Cosmin works as a lawyer in Timisoara and wanted to keep their relationship a secret in order to avoid rumors. “It was during that tense political period and, surely, there would have been comments made about my father, which was something we did not want. [As PUNR leader, the Romanian Unity National Party, Valeriu Tabara came under fire for party supporters' violent outbursts before the 2000 elections -one of the problems facing Romania's bid to enter the EU.] Now my father works as a professor again, in his domain –agriculture- and I hope we will be left alone," he added.
Simona and her boyfriend both live in Timisoara , where she is a student at the local Sports University. Until now, the two didn’t get a chance to offer each other much in terms of anniversary presents, as Simona got a giant stuffed teddy bear and he got a bottle of cologne. They did get a chance to travel, going together at Semenic, Vîrsad and Liman’s valley –all moutain resorts in Banat county. Once there, they got the best sign Simona had fallen head over heals for Cosmin, when she realized she forgot to bring her luggage. “I stayed in the mountains for three days, without bringing anything," she laughs. They’ve been spending the past few weeks together in Constanta, resting and going out with their friends. “None of us are crazy about bars or clubs”, as they explain, so they spend their evenings watching rented video tapes. Although she has a driver’s license, Simona prefers to let her friend drive. “Simo drives when we go carting, or when we’re in the park and she sees one of the little kids’ games with cars," laughs Cosmin, as Simona pinches him.