Olympic gold medals are cherished in any country, but in 2000, Romania was especially desperate to be seen as something other than a poor unstable Balkan nation. That is when an unknown 16 year old girl emerged, who would become known as “Golden Diana”.
Diana Mocanu was from the small Eastern Romanian town of Braila. She was virtually unknown in her own small town, much less Romania, when she headed off to Sydney to compete in the 2000 Olympic Games. All totaled, Diana would compete in five events at the Olympic Games, but her specialty, the backstroke would bring her gold. On the third day of Olympic competition, Diana won her first gold medal and became Romania’s first Olympic gold medalist in the sport of swimming. Her gold medal in the 100 meter backstroke set a new Olympic record. Her second gold medal came on the seventh day of competition, in the Women’s 200 meter backstroke, where she swam 2:08.16. Diana also qualified for the finals in the Women’s 100 meter butterfly, where she finished eighth. With her Romanian teammates, she also competed in the 4 x 100 medley relay and the 4 x 100 freestyle relay. Unfortunately, they did not make the finals in either event.
Diana competed in the 2001 World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan where she won gold in the 200 meter backstroke and silver in the 100 meter backstroke.
She competed in two European Championships, the 1999 Championships in Istanbul, Turkey, where she placed third in the Women’s 100 meter butterfly, fourth in the Women’s 50 meter backstroke, fifth in the Women’s 4 x 100 medley relay, and sixth in the Women’s 200 meter backstroke. Her next trip to the European Championships in 2002, in Berlin, she placed fifth in the Women’s 200 meter backstroke and eighth in the Women’s 50 meter backstroke.
Diana decided to retire in 2004 after not making the Olympic team. She was quoted as saying “My decision is final. I totally lost my determination as an athlete. My future is now in coaching.” Diana’s career as a swimmer may not have lasted a long time but what she did for her country’s morale by winning double Olympic gold, in a time when it was so desperately needed, will last a lifetime.