Ivan Patzaichin 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.
Patzaichin was born in a Russian Lipovan family in the village Mila 23.
His father Vicol was a fisherman and his mother Alexandra was a
dressmaker. He took up canoeing in early age inspired by his
grandfather, and decided to pursue a canoeing career after watching a TV broadcast of two canoers from his village, Vicol Calabiciov and Serghei Covaliov, winning the 1966 world title in doubles. In 1967, aged 18, he moved to the capital Bucharest,
where he joined the club Dinamo.
Already in 1968 he was included to the
national team and won an Olympic gold medal, rowing with Covaliov. At
the 1972 Olympics, Patzaichin broke his oar and placed last in the
singles heats. Yet he managed to finish the race, paddling with a piece of wood that he removed from the floor of his canoe, and was included to the repechage.
He won the repechage and the final race. In the doubles he again teamed
with Covaliov and placed second, just 0.03 seconds behind the winners.
Patzaichin spent his entire career with Dinamo, first as a trainee and competitor, rowing 4000–5000 km per year in his prime, and then as a coach. His most famous trainees are Olympic champions Florin Popescu and Mitica Pricop.
A statue of Patzaichin is installed outside of the Dinamo main office. Besides canoeing he also founded the association Ivan Patzachin – Mila 23 and launched the national project Rowmania aiming to promote heritage tourism and other outdoor activities. Patzaichin has his own line of clothing made of natural products.
In 1976 Patzaichin married Georgiana, a woman he met in August
1975. They have a daughter Ivona Beatrice (born c. 1979), who works at
the National Commission of Hospital Accreditation.