The Most Famous

ATHLETES from Romania

Icon of occuation in country

This page contains a list of the greatest Romanian Athletes. The pantheon dataset contains 3,055 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 Romanian Athletes of all time. This list of famous Romanian 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 Romanian Athletes.

Photo of Iolanda Balaș

1. Iolanda Balaș (1936 - 2016)

With an HPI of 68.71, Iolanda Balaș is the most famous Romanian 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 Lajos Steiner

2. Lajos Steiner (1903 - 1975)

With an HPI of 60.71, Lajos Steiner is the 2nd most famous Romanian 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), and a younger brother of Endre Steiner. He was educated at the Technical High School, Budapest, and gained a diploma in mechanical engineering (1926) from the Technikum Mittweida, 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 Mihaela Peneș

3. Mihaela Peneș (1947 - )

With an HPI of 59.24, Mihaela Peneș is the 3rd most famous Romanian 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 Ivan Patzaichin

4. Ivan Patzaichin (1949 - )

With an HPI of 58.51, Ivan Patzaichin is the 4th most famous Romanian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 22 different languages.

Ivan Patzaichin (Romanian pronunciation: [iˈvan paˈt͡sajkin]; born 26 November 1949) is a Romanian canoe racing coach and retired 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 times. 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 Argentina Menis

5. Argentina Menis (1948 - )

With an HPI of 58.30, Argentina Menis is the 5th most famous Romanian Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 16 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.

Photo of István Somodi

6. István Somodi (1885 - 1963)

With an HPI of 58.26, István Somodi is the 6th most famous Romanian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 15 different languages.

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

Photo of Doina Melinte

7. Doina Melinte (1956 - )

With an HPI of 57.99, Doina Melinte is the 7th most famous Romanian Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 24 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 Ileana Silai

8. Ileana Silai (1941 - )

With an HPI of 57.71, Ileana Silai is the 8th most famous Romanian Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 17 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.

Photo of Maricica Puică

9. Maricica Puică (1950 - )

With an HPI of 57.24, Maricica Puică is the 9th most famous Romanian Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 22 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 Leon Rotman

10. Leon Rotman (1934 - )

With an HPI of 56.99, Leon Rotman is the 10th most famous Romanian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 15 different languages.

Leon Rotman (born 22 July 1934) is a retired Romanian sprint canoeist. He won two individual gold medals at the 1956 Olympics and a bronze medal in 1960.

Pantheon has 35 people classified as athletes born between 1885 and 1982. Of these 35, 29 (82.86%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living athletes include Mihaela Peneș, Ivan Patzaichin, and Argentina Menis. The most famous deceased athletes include Iolanda Balaș, Lajos Steiner, and István Somodi. As of October 2020, 11 new athletes have been added to Pantheon including Argentina Menis, István Somodi, and Leon Rotman.

Living Athletes

Go to all Rankings

Deceased Athletes

Go to all Rankings

Newly Added Athletes (2020)

Go to all Rankings

Which Athletes were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 6 most globally memorable Athletes since 1700.