Olympic Games | 21 Jul 2021

SAMARA:In London I was so happy I did not recognize Bill GATES

Having competed at Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016, Romania’s star Elizabeta SAMARA will be on duty once again at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in July.

SAMARA was European champion in Singles in 2015, in Doubles in 2009 and 2012, in Mixed Doubles in 2011 and 2012 and in Team’s Event in 2005 and 2017, with Bernadette SZOCS and Daniela MONTEIRO DODEAN.

Speaking about her current shape SAMARA said:

“Unfortunately due to Covid 19 I could not participate in any tournaments last year. My first tournament took place this year, in March, at WTT contender and WTT Star Contender in Doha. I reached the semifinal in WTT Star Contender where I won against a player better ranked than I was. I had the Polish League immediately after Doha, where I played some good matches and these matches helped me keep my focus. Even if I played few matches, it gave me a lot of confidence in my perspective for Tokyo.”

Where you were in the last month before the start of the Olympics?

“My preparation went well. My team and I were already in training camp, before the European Championships in June in Poland. In July we had train for 2 weeks in a bubble at the Romanian Olympic Center in Izvorani, before flying to Tokyo. I’m feeling good, pushing myself to practice harder and work on every single detail.”

What is the goal for the team of Romania and what is your goal?

“The Romanian Team is always aiming for a medal. Our way of thinking is to fight for a medal. We know it will be very hard, but we are stronger and we feel this is our moment. My goal is a medal in the team event, but I also keep in mind to reach in singles as far as I can, and to get a good draw as well.”

You have already prepared so many times and I wonder how the preparations during the pandemic are different compared to previous experience?

“During the pandemic circumstances, I focused more on physical training and playing with my Amicus Prime robot, until the restrictions went off and I could return in my training hall.”

You have been to three Olympics, can you remember your feelings before the first one?

“I still remember my first Olympic Games in 2008. I needed to go through European Qualifications as I was low ranked. There were two difficult days with a lot of matches. That moment I will never forget is winning against the Italian Tan Monfardini Wenling. I had so many emotions before and after the match. I was a child who had a dream - to be an Olympic Player!”

Please can you choose one of your most vivid memories from each of the Olympics you attended? A moment that will always remind you of Beijing, London and Rio?

“2008 Beijing, I think it was the best Olympic Games ever for me. To be out there on the stadium, to see the best players in the world from all the sports, it was amazing. Than it came the group match against Germany, where we were the outsiders, as they were much higher ranked than us. We beat them 3-0, and I will never forget that moment. 2012 London, there I qualified with my ranking. I won against Tie Yana from Hong Kong, she was in the top 10 in the world. Near to my table, playing was Lily Zhang, and in the tribune Bill Gates was supporting her. Her match finished and my match was the last remaining one. I remember after the match I was with our table tennis president Mr. Romanescu and Bill Gates came to congratulate me. I was still so emotional after my match that I didn’t realize it was him!Mr. Romanescu asked me if I knew who the man was who congratulated me. When I realized, I was so happy! 2016 Rio, I had the opportunity to play against the Ding Ning, who was no. 1 in the world ranking at that moment, winner of the World Cup and World Championships. Even if it was such a difficult draw, I played against the World Cup, World Championships and Olympic Games champion.”

How you will describe the woman you are now, shaped by the events most of us have never experienced?

“I became more aware of myself, I learned how to pay attention to small details that could make the difference in my game or in life.”

The players will not be allowed to watch other events due the safety reasons, but is there any other sport beside TT you would like to watch at Olympics, at least at TV?

“Unfortunately by the safety rules, I cannot go to watch tennis court, its one of my favorite sport to watch.”

What comes first to your mind when you think about t he greatest Olympic achievement of any other athlete?

“Working hard to be one of them myself.”