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Bodybuilders Fountain, 2010

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Florin TeodorescuWorse than thin: 1,400 kg at birth
    I was born in Horia village, Neamt county, on March 30, 1961. We were five brothers. While my twin sister weighed 2,600 kg when she was born, I weighed only 1,400 kg. As a child, I was thin and rachitic and I remember how my sisters used to play with my ribs as if they were a dulcimer. I started to do physical exercises so that I could protect myself from my sisters and other children who would always beat me. I had heard that regular and chair push-ups made your body stronger. I started lifting a kitchen stool (try doing it with one hand only and you will see how hard – and heavy – it can be!) and training my biceps with a 15-kilo cooking pot. Sometimes I had to empty it because it was so heavy I simply couldn’t lift it… Then I tried to lift a railway piece and a ball from the shoulder. I did traction exercises using a tree. I did all these exercises but I had no idea what muscles they engaged. I had to wait for two or three months to see which of them were getting stronger. The first ones I saw really growing were my forearm muscles, after I had trained my flexor in 1974.

The first time I read about the legendary bodybuilder Steve Reeves was in the “Sport” and “Scanteia Tineretului” newspapers of the 1970’s.  Steve Reeves played in Hercules Conquers Atlantis. (I saw it a lot of times. I also liked 13 Days to Die, with Sergio Nubret.) That was the first time I saw how a bodybuilder works his muscles. In 1974-75, I read a book on bodybuilding by Ladislau Szekely, and I used it as my first guide in training. From 1974 and 1977, I was my own trainer; many people practiced bodybuilding, but there was no communication among them and everybody did as they thought best. Later, in the 1990’s, while browsing the books on my bookshelves, I noticed that other bodybuilders had had the same evolution as myself; they practically discovered bodybuilding. That is why I consider myself among the pioneers of this beautiful sport in Romania.
    I made my bodybuilding equipment myself
    Unfortunately, the mass media did not promote bodybuilding, so the bodybuilders had no means of communication with one another. I didn’t have a choice so I did what I could. I built  my first pieces of equipment: dumb bells made of concrete and cans, a wooden bar with cans at its ends. I had an iron ball which I lifted with each hand in turn. For traction exercises, I had a bent iron bar fixed between two poles. The wooden bench we used for washing clothes in the river became my support for weight lifting. In 1980, I had my first bench, dumb bells and weights made from iron. At the time, I was working at the pipe factory in Roman and I made them there. As I wasn’t very good, at first they came too thick. In time I improved my skills and made them thinner. I even wanted to open a bodybuilding room in Horia village. I talked to the mayor, but he didn’t understand what bodybuilding meant. In Romanian, the word for bodybuilding is culturism. He searched the dictionary for culture and tourism and thought culturism was a combination of the two words, So when we met next he told me: “If you want culture and tourism, go see the Eiffel Tower!”
   In 1980-1981, I did my military service at Sighetul Marmatiei as a frontier guard in several pickets. I had the possibility to build other pieces of bodybuilding equipment: I welded tractor engaging gears on metal bars. After the military service, I went to Roman. There I trained in a well-equipped centre where I met Dragomir Ion, a professional bodybuilder rewarded with several medals at national competitions. But Roman was a small town and it couldn’t offer much to a bodybuilder. So in 1986 I came to Timisoara. I trained in a modest hall at Electromotor Club, then at CFR Club. In 1990, I opened my own centre within the CFR recreational facilities. The same year I moved it at the Youth House and in 2000 I moved it again, this time in the Constantin Jude Sports Hall. Since 1990, Timisoara has had the best-equipped bodybuilding centre in Romania.Din 1990 şi până în prezent, aici se află cea mai dotată şi modernă sală de culturism în România.
    My first competition, on the kitchen stool
    As a child, when I started practising rudimentary bodybuilding, I noticed my body was growing stronger. Once I thought of competing with the strongest children in Horia, my village. Some were my age, others were even five years older. It was 1977. We started with the chest expander. We wanted to see who could expand all the five cords. We started with 2, then with 3, then with 4, and finally all 5 cords. I was the only one who managed to expand them all! Nobody else could do it. It required not only force, but also technical execution. For the beauty contest, as we liked to call it, I took a stool from the house and we climbed on it. Each of the competitors had to show his dorsals, to show how well-built he was! We also raised our hands to show our forearms and biceps. Nobody had heard of shin or calf training… Some time later we displayed our bodies on a table I took from my house. We even had some public.
    In 1981, during my military service, I gave many muscle display performances. After that, in 1982, I went to Iasi for the Union Cup, but I didn’t enter the contest. At that time I weighed 70 kg and was 1.77 m tall. Trainer Florin Viziru told me that I had  to gain at least 10 kg. He also said he doubted I would gain weight, because it was very difficult and both me and my family should work to make money for my training. After several years, I reminded him about his words. He smiled and said “Trainers can be wrong, too. You are an exception. I was wrong only about you, of all the people whom I thought they would never become bodybuilders.” At the 1982 competition I saw the real bodybuilders of the time: Eugen Kantor, Petre Ciorba, Nicolae Giurgi. I was disconcerted when I saw how strong they were and I realised how hard I should train to become like them… For three weeks I refused to go to my training sessions. One day my mother told me not to give up. “Go back to training, you’re born for bodybuilding.” I took her advice and never gave up training again. I train even today, after 25 years… My greatest performance was on August 23 1989. Now I realise it was an extraordinary step forward for me. I had started as an entertainer for the few gapers to whom I displayed my muscles on my village streets. Now I had an audience of thousands of people…
Real competitions. The Liberty Cup
    My first competition, the “Vagonul” Cup,  took place at Arad, in 1986. I had already moved to Timisoara. I entered the contest as an Electromotor Club member, where I trained. I came in third of the eighteen competitors in my category. Eugen Kantor came in the first. I told him that I would be the first in my area to take his place. Many contests were organised in 1986-90, about 20-25 a year, besides the demonstrations. Unfortunately, as I had left Electromotor for CFR, I was assigned only a few points, because the judges were all from Electromotor. I told them I was not competing for diplomas, I only wanted to make people familiar with this sport. In February 1990 I organised my first competition, the Liberty Cup, also called Vasile Balmus Memorial, in memory of my friend and colleague who died near me during the December 1989 Revolution. I sold 400 tickets two days before the contest and on the first day I ran out of them. The Lira Hall was packed! This was the first edition. The next took place in December the same year, but at the Youth House, the place that was to host the Liberty Cup until 2000. I won the first five editions (at the open category, where the winners of each categories competed together). Until 1995, I organised the junior contests as well. We had 120 bodybuilders in our competitions and in 2000, when the Liberty Cup was organised at the Constantin Jude Sports Hall for the first time, we had 3000 people in the audience! In 2008 we celebrated the 20th edition of the Liberty Cup.
    Romania’s Grand Prix, a dream come true
     Meanwhile I organised other contests as well: Romania’s regional championships, the West Cup (one edition) and in 2006 I added the Liberty Cup to a competition I had dreamed of for years: Weider Grand Prix of Romania, Romania’s greatest award in bodybuilding. I had wanted to organise it since 1994. I had sent faxes to IFBB, but I wasn’t aware of the huge sums of money involved. I had thought the sportsmen, even the professionals, participated in competitions only for cups and medals. When I saw the sum, at least 60,000 dollars for all expenses, I told myself that I would probably find the resources for such a contest some time in life, but maybe after I turned 60! Fortunately, I was able to fulfil my dream after only twelve years, in 2006. The world’s best bodybuilders came to Timisoara: Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler (who had just won a Mr. Olympia and knocked Ronnie off his perch after eight consecutive titles!) and the competition itself turned out great a event. Two years after, in 2008, I organised another Grand Prix, with another Mr. Olympia, Dexter Jackson.
    Having read so much about such contests, I always wanted to watch a live Grand Prix. In 1997, I went to the Hungarian Grand Prix and saw Kevin Levrone (he came in first), Lee Priest, Nasser El Sonbaty, Ronnie Coleman (he came the 6th!), Flex Wheeler, Milos Sarcev and many others. They all wanted to see Dorian Yates, the Mr. Olympia of the time, but he didn’t show up. I saw another Hungarian Grand Prix in Hungary in 2000, together with my good friends Nicolae Parfenie and Ovidiu Forai. Ovidiu, a journalist, managed to take Flex Wheleer’s picture, but I couldn’t! Others  entered that competition besides Flex (the winner): Denis James and Nicu Giurgi, who was very appreciated.
    Uncle Papi’s adventure
    I’d like to tell you what happened to Uncle Papi at the Hungarian Grand Prix. When we left for Hungary, the Hungarian customs officers warned him that his passport expired the same day. Uncle Papi didn’t worry. He hoped we would return before midnight. But the contest lasted longer than expected and the traffic in Budapest was very heavy, so we arrived at the border after 1 a.m. Very calmly, the Hungarian officer explained Uncle Papi that he had no reason to worry. He must go to the consulate in Hungary and solve the matter! Uncle Papi started to fret and begged a frend to tell the officer that he was a VIP, the president of the federation, anything, just to let him cross the border. Eventually the officer gave in and let him pass. We laughed as we hadn’t laughed in years. Uncle Papi had suddenly turned into a VIP! Leaving the joke aside, I had great respect for my dearly departed friend. Nicolae Parfenie was the man who brought the first books for the library that I now have at the Constantin Jude Hall in Timisoara. He loved bodybuilding, he read a lot about it and he collected a large number of books about it. He has a special place in my heart.
    Mr. Olympia live
    All my life I had wanted to watch the Mr. Olympia contest live and see the legendary bodybuilders of the world with my own eyes. In 2003, my dream came true. I travelled to Las Vegas – it was my third time in the USA. I met the great Reg Park and Steve Reeves and I recalled that it had taken Arnold seven years to meet them. It had been his greatest wish and he had been very nervous about meeting them. Me, I needed 30 years to see them live! I was not only nervous, I had tears in my eyes! I had heard so much about them, but Romania’s borders had been closed and until then I hadn’t had the least opportunity to contact these great sportsmen in any way. I should consider myself extremely lucky, because thousands of other bodybuilders who still want to meet them may not have this chance at all! I also met Joe Gold, the founder of the famous chain of fitness centres commonly called gyms (the first in the world), and the man who had advised Arnold to emigrate. Gold’s Gym is still the world’s best professional gym chain. Gold was 81, but he seemed in good physical shape for his age. I had my picture taken with him. (Unfortunately, he died the following year) When Arnold climbed the stage, I was very nervous. In his speech he told the audience how he had become a star and expressed his gratitude to Joe Weider, to whom he owed his success. It was a very special thing to say, as gratitude is so rarely seen today. I should add that I met personalities like Oliva, Frank Zane, Dorian Yates, and Lee Haney and I felt honoured in their companionship. I also saw Larry Scott, the first Mr. Olympia in 1965! So in 2003 I had the chance to see both the first and the latest winner of this competition.
    Romania’s Grand Prix in Timisoara
    After two years, in 2005, I wanted very much to see the 40th Mr. Olympia anniversary. It was a special edition, a unique performance, I could say, as all Mr. Olympia starting with 1965 climbed the stage! I think that seeing them all was an honour for the Weird brothers too. Ronnie Coleman came in first again. It was his eighth title. During that contest I started thinking seriously about organising a Grand Prix myself. In fact, my former guests at the Liberty Cup, Craig Titus and Dexter Jackson, even Ronnie, encouraged me to organise a professional competition instead of inviting famous bodybuilders at my contests. So next year I organised Romania’s first Grand Prix in Timisoara.
    In 2008 I saw the third Mr. Olympia live. I got in touch with several bodybuilders and invited them to come to Europe and promote bodybuilding on the “old continent.” I’m saying this because very few Grand Prix contests have taken place in Europe. For instance, the one I organised in Timisoara was the only one in 2008. Very few Mr. Olympia participants want to cross the Atlantic! 2008 was the year when Dexter Jackson, whom I’d known for some time (he’d come to Romania for a demonstration) won his first Mr. Olympia. After two weeks our Grand Prix started and he was the third Mr. Olympia to visit Timisoara!
    I love history. I believe that people who love history feel that they should leave something unforgettable behind. They want to write their own page in the book of history. I like travelling. I like visiting old monuments, museums and other tourist sights.
    I like swimming and sunbathing (I can lie in the sun for hours, no matter how hot it is) and I like running on sand.
    I like design, both fashion and interior design. I try to choose everything in good taste: my clothes, my bodybuilding equipment, even my furniture. I can say that I am a demanding person. And I like flowers.
    I am a true lover of any sportive competition, but I like boxing, gymnastics and athletics best.

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