Who Is Marian Dragulescu? This Rio Olympic Gymnast Has A Vault Named For Him
The men's gymnastics final at Rio was disappointing for Romanian gymnast Marian Drăgulescu, who created the Drăgulescu vault. The 35-year-old has been competing in the Olympic Games since 2000 (with the exception of 2012), and he came out of retirement this year in pursuit of the gold. He didn't place high enough for a medal in 2016, but he's got a lot to be proud of. He's a pioneer in the vaulting event, and he has a move named after him — the Drăgulescu vault — and many of his competitors performed it at the games along with him.
Drăgulescu has won plenty of medals in his day — just not the Olympic gold. In 2004, he took bronze in both vault and team events, and the silver medal for floor. He won gold in vault at the World Championships in 2005, and silver in the event at the 2015 Championships. Between 2011 and 2015, he entered the world of gymnastics coaching. NBC Olympics reported on Drăgulescu's reason for returning to competition in 2016: "I’ve had all kinds of titles in my career and this is the only one missing before ending my career."
Sadly, Drăgulescu didn't get there in Rio, where he placed fourth. But he'll always be a legend in the vaulting world, thanks to the Drăgulescu vault, which he was the first to perform. It's a handspring double tuck finished off with a half twist, an incredibly difficult move. Watch him nail it below:
In the 2016 men's final, Drăgulescu initially tied Japan's Kenzo Shirai for third, with 15.449 for vault. He lost in a subsequent tiebreaker, thereby being narrowly denied bronze. Russia's Denis Ablyazin took silver, with North Korea's Ri Se-Gwang claiming gold.
Drăgulescu's entrance into gymnastics happened somewhat by chance. The International Gymnastics Federation reported that he only got into the sport in 1988 because his father would have made him do karate otherwise. Then he switched to swimming — which, unlike gymnastics, was free. He only returned to gymnastics when a charge was placed on swimming. Though he may have been ambivalent toward the sport as a child, his ambition as an adult is crystal clear.
Drăgulescu will go down in the books as a highly accomplished vaulter. Will he place his hopes for the Olympic gold on the shelf and return to his coaching gig? Or will he emerge for yet another bid in 2020? We probably won't know until Tokyo.