Beijing Olympics women's marathon champion, Constantina Dita of Romania, was recognized last Saturday with the "Premiul National Pentru Sport," or national sports award, her nation's most prestigious honor for athletes.
In a gala ceremony presided over by Romanian President Traian Basescu at the Olympic Complex Izvorani, Dita received a standing ovation and said, "I am extremely happy to be awarded with this prize. It is really an honor to be placed alongside all those sportsmen and sportswomen who have received this award since 1933."
So precious is this honor that athletes can only receive the award once in their lives. Previous recipients include Romanian sports icons like Olympic gold medalists Nadia Comaneci (gymnastics) and Iolanda Balas (high jump), and tennis great Ilie Nastase.
At 38, Dita became the oldest Olympic Marathon champion ever after she broke away from the field just before the half-way mark on the streets of Beijing and romped to a solo victory in 2:26:44. Residing in Erie, Colo., Dita is also a three-time IAAF World Road Running Championships medalist (gold, silver and bronze), and was the 2005 IAAF World Championships marathon bronze medalist. She is currently preparing for the Flora London Marathon in April.
PHOTO: Constantina Dita receives the National Pentru Sport on Jan. 31, at the Olympic Complex Izvorani (photo by Daniel Santa, used with permission).