The Most Famous

ATHLETES from Romania

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This page contains a list of the greatest Athletes. The pantheon dataset contains 3,059 Athletes, 35 of which were born in Romania. This makes Romania the birth place of the 26th most number of Athletes behind Belarus and Greece.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Athletes of all time. This list of famous Athletes is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Athletes.

Photo of Iolanda Balaș

1. Iolanda Balaș (1936 - 2016)

With an HPI of 59.46, Iolanda Balaș is the most famous Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 33 different languages on wikipedia.

Iolanda Balaș (Romanian pronunciation: [joˈlanda ˈbalaʃ], Hungarian: Balázs Jolán, later Balázs-Sőtér Jolán; 12 December 1936 – 11 March 2016) was a Romanian athlete, an Olympic champion and former world record holder in the high jump. She was the first Romanian woman to win an Olympic gold medal and is considered to have been one of the greatest high jumpers of the twentieth century.

Photo of Ivan Patzaichin

2. Ivan Patzaichin (1949 - 2021)

With an HPI of 57.00, Ivan Patzaichin is the 2nd most famous Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 28 different languages.

Ivan Patzaichin (Romanian pronunciation: [iˈvan paˈt͡sajkin]; 26 November 1949 – 5 September 2021) was a Romanian canoe racing coach and sprint canoeist. He took part in all major competitions between 1968 and 1984, including five consecutive Olympics, and won seven Olympic and 22 world championship medals, including four Olympic gold medals. This makes him the most decorated Romanian canoeist of all time.He later worked as a canoeing coach, attending five more Olympics in this capacity. In 1990 he was awarded the Olympic Order, and in 2006 a nationwide poll included him on the list 100 Greatest Romanians of all time.

Photo of Ion Drîmbă

3. Ion Drîmbă (1942 - 2006)

With an HPI of 49.65, Ion Drîmbă is the 3rd most famous Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 18 different languages.

Ionel Alexandru "Ion" Drîmbă (also Drâmbă, March 18, 1942 – February 20, 2006) was a Romanian fencer. he competed at the 1960, 1964 and 1968 Olympics and won the first ever Olympic gold medal in fencing for Romania in 1968.

Photo of Lajos Steiner

4. Lajos Steiner (1903 - 1975)

With an HPI of 47.36, Lajos Steiner is the 4th most famous Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 16 different languages.

Lajos Steiner (14 June 1903, in Nagyvárad (Oradea) – 22 April 1975, in Sydney) was a Hungarian–born Australian chess master. Steiner was one of four children of Bernat Steiner, a mathematics teacher, and his wife Cecilia,(née Schwarz). His elder brother was Endre Steiner. He was educated at the Technical High School in Budapest, and graduated in 1926 with a diploma in mechanical engineering from the Technikum Mittweida in Germany. In 1923, he tied for 4-5th in Vienna. In 1925 he took 2nd, behind Sándor Takács, in Budapest. In 1927, he won in Schandau and tied for 2nd-3rd in Kecskemét. In 1927/28, he took 2nd. In 1929, he took 2nd in Bradley Beach. In 1931, he won in Budapest (HUN-ch), took 5th in Vienna, and tied for 5-6th in Berlin. The event was won by Herman Steiner. In 1932/33, he tied for 3rd-4th in Hastings (Salo Flohr won). In 1933, he tied for 2nd-3rd in Maehrisch-Ostrau (Ostrava). The event was won by Ernst Grünfeld. In 1933, he took 4th in Budapest. In 1934, he tied for 1st-2nd with Vasja Pirc in Maribor (Marburg). In 1935, he tied for 1st-2nd with Erich Eliskases in Vienna (the 18th Trebitsch Memorial). In 1935, he tied for 5-6th in Łódź (Savielly Tartakower won) and took 4th in Tatatovaros (László Szabó won). In 1936, he won, with Mieczysław Najdorf, in Budapest (HUN-ch). In 1937, he took 2nd in Brno (Brunn), and took 3rd in Zoppot (Sopot). In 1937/38, he won in Vienna (the 20th Trebitsch Memorial). In 1938, he tied for 3rd-4th in Ljubljana (Laibach). The event was won by Borislav Kostić. In 1938, he tied for 8-9th in Łódź where Pirc won.Lajos Steiner played a few matches. In 1930, he lost (+3 –5 =2) to Isaac Kashdan. In 1934, he won (+7 –3) against Pál Réthy. In 1935, he won (+3 –1) vs Henri Grob. He played for Hungary in four Chess Olympiads: In 1931, he played at second board at 4th Chess Olympiad in Prague (+10 –3 =4). In 1933, he played at second board at 5th Chess Olympiad in Folkestone (+5 –4 =5). In 1935, he played at first board at 6th Chess Olympiad in Warsaw (+7 –4 =7). In 1936, he played at second board at 3rd unofficial Chess Olympiad in Munich (+13 –2 =5).He won individual bronze medal in Prague, and team gold medal and individual silver medal in Munich.Steiner emigrated to Australia in 1939. He won the Australian Chess Championship four times in 1945, 1946/47, 1952/53, and 1958/59. He also won nine of his ten attempts at the New South Wales title (1940–41, 1943, 1944, 1945–46, 1953, 1955, 1958). He took 3rd in Karlovy Vary – Mariánské Lázně in 1948. The event was won by Jan Foltys. He took 19th at the 1st Interzonal Tournament in Saltsjöbaden in 1948. The event was won by David Bronstein. He was awarded the International Master (IM) title in 1950.

Photo of István Somodi

5. István Somodi (1885 - 1963)

With an HPI of 47.33, István Somodi is the 5th most famous Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

István Somodi (22 August 1885, Kolozsvár, Kingdom of Hungary – 8 June 1963, Cluj, Romania) was a Hungarian athlete who competed mainly in the high jump.He competed for Hungary at the 1908 Summer Olympics, held in London, Great Britain, where he won the silver medal in the high jump.

Photo of Maricica Puică

6. Maricica Puică (1950 - )

With an HPI of 46.28, Maricica Puică is the 6th most famous Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 24 different languages.

Maricica Puică (née Luca on 29 July 1950) is a retired Romanian middle-distance runner. She is the 1984 Olympic champion in the 3000 metres. One of the greatest female middle-distance runners of the 1980s, she also twice won the World Cross Country Championship (1982, 1984) and broke the world record for the mile in 1982.

Photo of Doina Melinte

7. Doina Melinte (1956 - )

With an HPI of 46.15, Doina Melinte is the 7th most famous Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 25 different languages.

Doina Ofelia Melinte (Romanian pronunciation: [ˈdojna meˈlinte]; née Beșliu on 27 December 1956) is a retired Romanian middle-distance runner. She competed at four Olympics (1980–92), and won a gold medal in the 800 metres and a silver medal in the 1500 metres in 1984. She won the world indoor title in 1987 and 1989 and the European indoor title in 1985, 1988 and 1990 in the 1500 m. Her world indoor mile record of 4:17.41 in 1990, stood for 26 years.

Photo of Mihaela Peneș

8. Mihaela Peneș (1947 - )

With an HPI of 45.77, Mihaela Peneș is the 8th most famous Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 23 different languages.

Mihaela Peneș (born 22 July 1947) is a retired javelin thrower from Romania. She competed at the 1964 and 1968 Olympics and won a gold and a silver medal, respectively.Peneș first trained in swimming, handball and basketball, and changed to athletics because of her mother, a former athlete. In 1963, she won the national junior championships, setting a national record in the javelin throw, and since 1964 competed as a senior. After finishing her active career she worked as an athletics coach and official. In 1990, she joined the Romanian Olympic Committee, in 1995 became head of its international department, and in January–April 1999 served as its Secretary General.

Photo of Argentina Menis

9. Argentina Menis (1948 - )

With an HPI of 45.59, Argentina Menis is the 9th most famous Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 18 different languages.

Argentina Menis (born 19 July 1948) is a retired Romanian discus thrower who won silver medals at the 1972 Olympics and 1974 European Athletics Championships. She finished sixth at the 1976 Olympics. On 23 September 1972 she set a world record that stood for eight months. After retiring from competitions she worked at her club Dinamo București.The reason why she is named "Argentina" is still unknown.

Photo of Ileana Silai

10. Ileana Silai (1941 - )

With an HPI of 44.52, Ileana Silai is the 10th most famous Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 18 different languages.

Ileana Silai (née Gergely on 14 October 1941) is a retired Romanian middle-distance runner. She competed in the 800 m at the 1968, 1972 and 1976 Olympics and in the 1500 m at the 1976 and 1980 Olympics. She won a silver over 800 m in 1968. At the European indoor championships she won silver medals in the 800 metres in 1971 and 1972 and a gold in the 1500 m in 1978.

Pantheon has 47 people classified as athletes born between 1885 and 1998. Of these 47, 38 (80.85%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living athletes include Maricica Puică, Doina Melinte, and Mihaela Peneș. The most famous deceased athletes include Iolanda Balaș, Ivan Patzaichin, and Ion Drîmbă. As of April 2022, 12 new athletes have been added to Pantheon including Valeriu Bularca, Valeria Bufanu, and Constantin Alexandru.

Living Athletes

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Deceased Athletes

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Newly Added Athletes (2022)

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Which Athletes were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 8 most globally memorable Athletes since 1700.