Simona Amânar (born October 7, 1979 in Constanţa) is a Romanian gymnast. She is a seven-time Olympic medalist and a ten-time world medalist. Amânar helped Romania to win four consecutive world team titles (1994–1999) as well as the 2000 Olympic team title. She has a vault named after her, the Amanar. She was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2007.
In 1994, her first year on the senior national team, she was known primarily as a team player and contributed to the 1994 World and European Romanian team titles.
She began to excel as an individual performer at the 1995 European Cup, placing 2nd all-around behind Svetlana Khorkina, as well as winning gold on both vault and floor. She continued her success at the World Championships that year, helping to secure the second consecutive World team title for Romania, and became co-world champion on vault (with all-around champion Lilia Podkopayeva). Amânar had a powerful floor routine and huge vaults that put her in the lead after two rotations. However, she dropped to fourth overall after an average bar routine and a shaky beam routine.
Amânar won the silver medal on vault at the individual apparatus at the World Championships behind teammate Gina Gogean and ahead of Cuban Annia Portuondo-Hatch.
At the 1996 Summer Olympics, Amânar was one of the front-runners to contend for several individual medals. However, her Olympics started inauspiciously as she fell off the beam during the compulsories. Though she would later post the highest all-around score during the optionals (39.387), she still only placed fourth amongst her teammates and did not qualify for the all-around finals. In a scenario similar to the 1992 Olympic substitution by the Unified Team of Tatiana Gutsu for Rozalia Galiyeva, Amânar replaced her teammate Alexandra Marinescu, which was legal according to the rules at the time. Head coach Octavian Belu stated that Amânar deserved to compete because she worked harder and was a better athlete than Marinescu. The decision proved to be sound as Amânar shared the bronze medal with teammate Lavinia Miloşovici, behind her other teammate Gina Gogean.
In both the 1996 Olympic All-Around and the 1995 World Championship All-Around, Amânar failed to score over the 9.800 mark on the floor exercise despite well-executed and extremely difficult tumbling. In Atlanta, she scored a 9.887 in Optionals (the highest score of the entire Olympics, on any event, for men or women) and only a 9.737 in the All-Around. She did not start from a 10.0 in the All-Around despite having the most tumbling bonus of anyone at the Games (.6 in D and E elements, and .3 in Connection Value) because her tour-jete half (Strug), a C element, was not completed or credited. Thus, she did not have enough simple A, B, and C skills to fulfill her value part requirements and much of her D and E rated tumbling had to count as these easier elements to fulfill requirements.
Amanar did not perform a double turn in either the team optionals or the all-around because it was not necessary as long as she completed her Strug. She included few A, B, and C skills in her routine because her excess D and E tumbling bonus could count to fulfill these simpler element requirements. However, when she failed to complete her Strug, four of her six tenths in D and E elements had to count towards fulfilling requirements, which left her with only .2 counting towards her bonus. In that Code of Points, gymnasts needed .3 in D and E skill bonus, and .3 in Connection Value bonus to start from a 10.0. Without the error, Amânar would have finished well ahead of her more established compatriots Gogean and Milosovici. Her failure to score well on the floor was also evident when she failed to medal on floor at the 1995 Worlds or qualify for the event finals on floor at the 1997 Worlds.
In the event finals in Atlanta, Amânar completed her Strug, added a double turn to fulfill the more stringent Competition III (event final) requirements, and earned a 9.850 and the silver medal behind Lilia Podkopayeva and just ahead of Dominique Dawes. She won the Olympic vault event the day before largely due to a 9.875 for an enormous double-twisting Yurchenko vault. She left the 1996 Olympics with four total medals, including Romania's team bronze.
Svetlana Khorkina of Russia. She actually performed better and scored higher than Khorkina on three of the four pieces, but the discrepancy between their bars performances gave the title to Khorkina. Amânar's vaulting score was not as high as in previous all-around competition due to a rule change that required the athletes to perform two different vaults in all-around competition. Her second vault—a Phelps—was a considerable weakness for her due to failing to remain in layout position. She did, however, unlike most of her competitors, complete the required half turn onto the horse, twist in the same direction off the horse as she twisted onto the horse, and twist early enough off the horse to perform an Arabian front. (Her teammate, 1997 World bronze vault medalist Gina Gogean, who also won several World and Olympic vault medals, not only twisted in two different directions, but completed her second half twist far too late for it to be a true Arabian to front salto; rather than perform the Phelps with which she was credited, she performed a layout tsukahara with a half twist). Nevertheless, Amanar won the vault title, and the victory made her a two-time World champion and Olympic champion on the event. Romania also won its third straight team title.
In the 1999 World Championships, Amânar lead the team to a fourth consecutive team title, but fell off the bars during the all-around and placed well out of the medals. She lost her vaulting title to Russia's Elena Zamolodchikova, who dominated that event in the following years due to a more difficult second vault - a double twisting Tsukahara. Amânar eventually learned this vault by 2000, but only completed it at the European Championships. Amânar's younger teammates carried the banner for the Romanians. Maria Olaru won the all-around, and Andreea Răducan won the title on floor exercise. Amânar won her first ever (and only) World Championship medal on the floor, taking home the silver behind Raducan.
At the 2000 Summer Olympics, the Romanians once again edged out the Russians to take the team title—their first since 1984 and their first ever in a non-boycotted Olympics. The vaulting horse was set too low by the Olympic organizers before the Women's All-Around. The undisputed favourite for the all-around title, Svetlana Khorkina, fell on her signature vault. Several other gymnasts in the competition met peril because of this same scenario. Many went on to their next event knowing their medal chances were gone, only later to be informed of the error and their chance to vault again. By that point, it was too late. The three Romanian women managed either to vault well on the faulty vault or to vault after the mistake had been corrected. They swept the medals, with Răducan winning the title, followed by Amânar and Olaru.
Răducan had used a cold medicine containing a banned substance. Although she was not banned and her results in other events were allowed to stand, Răducan was stripped of her gold medal which went to Amânar. Initially, Amânar refused to accept the medal, insisting that Răducan had rightfully earned the title. Teammate Maria Olaru took the same stance when the silver was awarded to her, as well. The two eventually reconsidered, deciding instead to bring the medals home to Romania as symbolic victories of the team. Amânar later returned the gold medal to her teammate Răducan. Although Răducan intends to file paperwork with the IOC, Amanar is still credited as the 2000 All-Around champion. To this day, Amânar has stated that she firmly believes that Răducan is the true All-Around Olympic champion and refuses to acknowledge herself as the winner.
In the event finals, Amânar had the opportunity to defend her Olympic title from four years earlier. However, she stumbled badly while debuting a new vault—a 21⁄2 twisting laid-out Yurchenko, which was then named after her, and her medal hopes were erased. She won the bronze on floor exercise, losing points for a step out of bounds on her last tumbling pass.
Throughout her career, Amânar was criticized for her stoicism and the robotic qualities to her gymnastics.She did not possess the same elegant style that favored her longtime nemesis Svetlana Khorkina, and perhaps prevented her from ever winning a major all-around title. She was a power athlete, showing exceptional difficulty on vault and floor but with less strength on bars and beam. She maintained a hugely successful career at the highest ranks of the sport for over five years. Amânar ranks highly on the list of most medaled gymnasts ever, with 17 World and Olympic medals. Amânar played a crucial role in the four straight World team titles and Olympic title which firmly stamped Romania as the number one ranked team in the world.
A vault element is named after her, the "Amanar".
Amânar retired in 2000 shortly after the Olympic Games, saying it was the right time to retire.