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Vanda Hadarean, IFBB Pro
2011 CBBF Bikini, Figure and Fitness and Elite Bodybuilding Championships - Fitness Overall
By: Domenic Mauro
As a world-class gymnast, Vanda won a silver medal for Romania in the 1992 Olympics! In 2011, Vanda won her IFBB Pro Card with what some have called the most electrifying fitness routine in CBBF history! Her goal in 2012 was to qualify for the Olympia…and in less than a year later, she did just that! Read on as MUSCLE INSIDER goes 1-ON-1 with Vanda Hadarean.
Q. Where were you born, and what led you to Canada?
A. I was born in Cluj, Romania. As a little gymnast I traveled a lot, and by the age of 14, I had a competition in Toronto. I told myself that I wanted to live like that. I wasn’t even sure what I was thinking, but subconsciously it was a decision. I also had Italy on my mind a lot. But the final decision was made for Canada.
Q. How did you get started in athletics, and how did it lead to you competing at the 1992 Olympics?
A. I started gymnastics very early in life, at age five. I was playing in the park, supervised by my parents, and Coach Darvas spotted me. I was small and I was moving fast, swinging on bars and just being a child. Then Coach Darvas went to speak to my parents. Not long after that, I was in the gymnastics club at Cluj. From that point on to the Olympics, it was a long road. At the age of six, I started to train three hours every day except Sundays. By the age of nine, I started training twice per day, about five hours per day. I did competition after competition, and finally the Romanian Gymnastics Federation took note of me. At 11 years old, I moved away from my home and family and started to train at the Olympic Junior Centre in Onesti. Here, everything changed! Everything! It started to be all about gymnastics. There was not much time for anything else. Maybe you ask yourself, how many hours of training? Well, the answer is eight. Eight hours of focus, pushing, pain, tears, fatigue, exhaustion, and missing family, but when all those hours of hard work for months in a row came all knitted together for one competition, it was all so worth it. I started with international competitions. Coming to Canada was only my second international competition. In 1991, I had the opportunity to compete in the European championship in Greece. This was an incredible story, as I left Romania as an alternate. One night before the championship, the coaches and my teammates had a short meeting at the hotel. The decision was made that I was competing. So there I was competing the next day. I had a great day competing, and to everyone’s surprise, I became the European Junior Champion. In the finals I also grabbed another gold medal on the uneven bars. A few months later, the 1991 World Championship was on in the USA. Again, I left home as an alternate. I wasn’t happy. Okay, I will share with you why: Vault was my problematic event. I was scared, and I would make crazy mistakes. Of course when it’s a team competition no coach would want to risk a medal. We got in the USA, and after a couple of accommodation practices, I made the team. God knows I was happy about that. All I was saying to myself was do a clean job, stay on the event, don’t mess up, and everyone will be happy! We, the Romanian team, placed third. Leading up to the 1992 Olympic Games, there were more competitions, of course. But in 1992 for the Olympic Games, I actually left Romania as a team member. I was in great form and at my peak of my gymnastics career. The coaches timed our training so well that we would be in peak form. My mind, my heart, and my body all wanted the same thing at the same time. I felt confident, and I wanted to help my team. Oh, I could talk for hours now about the competition. In short, I competed great on all four events, and the Romanian team came home with the silver medal. After the team scores, I placed eleventh but because only three gymnasts per country were allowed in the all-around competition; with me being fourth in the team, I didn’t have a spot in the all-around.
Q. What is the biggest highlight of your athletic career?
A. The Olympic Games. I’m not sure anything can top that in a athletic career. It’s all an athlete can think of if they know they have that one chance.
Q. Can you describe your Olympic experience and how it’s similar to your experience competing within the IFBB?
A. That’s a very good question, and it’s sometimes hard to answer because it’s so different. The mental focus is the same. The expectations I have for myself are the same. However, as a gymnast I was told what to do, what to eat, when it’s time to recover—the whole program was made for me. All I had to do was to be in the gym and work hard. Now, as an adult, I have to plan my own competitions, I have to plan my workouts, (cardio, weights, stretching, routines, dance), meal planning, shopping, cooking, taking care of injuries … that’s my training alone. Then I have to take care of my business, Inspired by Vanda. I have other fitness girls that I work with, and I constantly think of them as I also want them to succeed. So the difference is, back then everything was planned for me, but now I do it all.
Q. What led you to compete in fitness and model competitions after retiring from international competition?
A. I didn’t want to compete! A dear friend of mine, Yvette, came to me one day and told me much about fitness competition. My answer was absolutely no. Too much work and diet again. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it. It took her nearly two years to convince me. Then I gave in and went together with her for my first competition. I was in love right from the beginning. I was excited to come home and learn more about it.
Q. When we first met a few years ago, you were competing with different organizations. What lead you to finally make the IFBB your competitive stream?
A. Yes, I did try a few organizations before. I felt that I’d reached my goals and I needed more challenges in my fitness career. Then I remember sharing this with my fitness girls in the studio, reading that the IFBB gives more score for the routine round. That was my decision. I started to look into qualifiers in Canada, and one year later, I became a IFBB pro and I am very happy.
Q. What does your supplementation plan look like during the off-season and how does it change while training for a competition?
A. Great question again. There aren’t many changes. I wake up and take BCAAs first thing in the morning. Then I do my cardio, and take BCAAs again as well as glutamine this time. CLA is part of my everyday supplementation as well. For the protein supplementation, I like whey protein in the chocolate flavour. Don’t take my chocolate away! I would say that what changes before competition is that I use more BCAAs and glutamine.
Q. What tips can you give to women who want to compete in fitness? What qualities make a great fitness competitor?
A. Start early! Competing in fitness requires a lot of skills and work. The earlier you start, the better for you! You don’t have to be a gymnast; however, you will see a lot of gymnastics skills in fitness routines. Take gymnastics lessons; dance is great as well. Have a strong mind, and don’t ever give up. Be consistent, rather than just having super-intense workouts the month before. I, for example, train all year round, with very small breaks for recovery. Work constantly on your flexibility as well, as we tend to lose that faster than strength. Hire professionals where you feel that you need some extra help. And again, be constant, know your goals, and stay focused on your job as an athlete.
Q. Where do you see yourself and your career in five years from now?
A. My career as a competitor? It’s hard to say; many things can happen. I also have a business career, so I have to balance both. For now, I take this step by step, and if the priorities in my life change, then I will also welcome the change.
Q. What would you like to achieve in fitness competition before you ultimately retire?
A. I always work so hard to improve on my physique; however, in the routine round, I want to be that girl that everyone will remember. And of course some higher placings in major competitions are on my mind as well.
Q. You’re well known for inspiring people to be and do their best, but who inspires you? What do you do to keep motivated?
A. I really am pleased that I have the possibility to help and inspire others. There are so many competitors that I can be inspired by. I can look and take a little inspiration and motivation from figure athletes, from fitness competitors, from dancers … I am looking everywhere. I am looking at my clients when I train them, and they each have their own story that they go through. They have full busy lives, and then they are in the studio, pushing themselves to be stronger and better. I always learn from their drive as well. But honestly, it’s my own drive that always makes me get up and go. Once I am focused and I want something, try and stop me … you are in trouble!
Q. Have you had to overcome any challenges on your road to becoming a champion competitor?
A. Oh, so many. One of my biggest challenges is always being away from family. I miss them terribly, so much that sometimes I push away the thought of them because it hurts so much. I know they love me and support me so much, and it’s just sad that we cant share this journey together. I deal with injuries like every other competitor, and I am an emotional rollercoaster sometimes.
Q. You’ve just qualified for the 2012 Olympia. Congratulations! A great way to celebrate your 20-year anniversary since winning the silver medal at the 1992 Olympic Games! What improvements have you made to your physique since winning the 2011 CBBF Canadian Fitness Championships that lead to your Olympia qualification?
A. Yes, thank you very much! This was my goal in fitness for this year! I really wanted to be on the Olympia stage, 20 years after being on the Olympic podium. I am thrilled that I am in. I would not have been happy not to be. I know there would have been another opportunity next year, but this year had a big significance to me. I feel that I have improved my physique since last year. I came in tighter and leaner; however, I also had to learn that I am gluten intolerant, and so that was a step back from achieving the physique I wanted. Once I took care of that, things have changed, I am also doing a lot more cardio, and I eat more.
Q. What do you hope to accomplish at this year’s Olympia?
A. Wow, it’s hard to say! But just as I mentioned before, I want the public and judges to remember me! I am a competitor, and I don’t take this lightly.
Q. What would you like to say to your fans leading up to your first appearance at the Olympia?
A. To my dear fans, thank you for supporting me and encouraging me along the way! I am going to compete with you in mind, and I hope to make you proud! I want to thank my sponsors: InterACTIVE Nutrition, Daydreams Fitness Wear, for always taking care of my suits and costumes; and Melastyles, for making me feel pretty onstage. Thank you to all my friends and fans, and thank you to my biggest sponsor, God, for always watching over.
Thank you so much to Domenic and MUSCLE INSIDER for the interview and great questions.
MI. As well, thank you Vanda for taking the time to interview with us and inspiring our fans. I wish you the best of luck at the Olympia and future shows.
For more inspiration by Vanda, check out her site, http://www.inspiredbyvanda.com/