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Multiple Olympic canoeist champion Ivan Patzaichin was celebrated on Monday evening, on the eve of his 70th birth anniversary, at a club in Bucharest by members of the association bearing his name and by hundreds of colleagues and friends, who threw a surprise party that moved the great athlete to tears.

Initiator of this event was Teodor Frolu, Patzaichin's partner in the Ivan Patzaichin Mila 23 Association, together with the team from the association. Patzaichin had been announced that there would be a dinner with his family and some close friends, and in the lobby of the club there was a table for 10-12 people. He entered, clinked a glass of wine and watched a Lipovan folkloric ensemble perform a song. Then the organisers invited him to visit the club and took him to the large hall, where over 400 people were quietly waiting in the dark for the celebrant to arrive. When the lights went on, a shower of confetti poured over everyone, to the cheers of his waiting friends. The great champion was not only surprised, but moved to tears.

He walked past all the guests, greeted them, hugged them, and then climbed a stage to thank them.

"I am very surprised, but also very happy that so many dear people, so many friends, have gathered here for me. I have always wanted to have friends. Even in competitions I tried to make friends with other athletes, even some of my competitors became friends to me. When I was competing, I used to thrive to win, to show that I can achieve what I set out to do. It was not easy at all, because very few people know that I didn't start anything on the right foot: every time something had to happen to me, I had to go back and fight again for everything I set out to do I had to compete with a broken paddle, a broken boat, even now there are some of my teammates with whom I have been working for the past decade, to whom I say 'It is only now that it starts, only when you find it hard we begin to do what we have set out to'. Thank you for your wonderful surprise," said Patzaichin.

Pictures of him competing, of him taking part in the Rowmania festival that he organises annually in Tulcea and in other places in the country, pictures of him participating in televised shows were rolling on a display.

Among the friends who were there for Patzaichin's birthday were many champions, including retired fencer Mihai Covaliu, the chairman of the Romanian Olympic and Committee; retired rower Elisabeta Lipa; retired fencer Laura Badea; famous retired women's artistic gymnastics coaches Octavian Bellu and Mariana Bitang; retired middle-distance runner Doina Melinte; retired middle-distance runner Violeta Beclea, and retired spring canoeist Vasile Diba, as well as many artists, as Patzaichin is a great music lover : Voltaj members, Victor Solomon (Conexiuni), Mircea Baniciu, Vlady Cnejevici and Teo Boar (Pacifica), Gabi "Gurita" Nicolau (Compact B), Costi Sandu (Iris), Eugen Mihaescu (Krypton), Radu Captari, Florin Chilian, Mihai Pocorschi (VH2), Vichi Stepanovici, Toni Seicarescu and many others.

Covaliu presented Patzaichin with a red-yellow-blue tricolor paddle signed by all the great champions there. The Voltaj band sang for the celebrant, including the song "Din toata inima" (From the Bottom of the Heart) in which official video Patzaichin is seen rowing a special kind of canoe invented by the canoeist called canotca.

A four-time Olympic medallist in 1968, 1972, 1980, and 1984, Patzaichin turns 70 on November 26. As a coach, Patzaichin won three silver medals at the European Championships and one gold and one bronze medal at the Sydney Olympics. He has been named athlete of the 20th century by the International Canoe Federation.

On Tuesday, Patzaichin will be decorated by President Klaus Iohannis at a ceremony at Cotroceni Palace. AGERPRES (RO - author: Marina Badulescu, editor: Mihai Simionescu; EN - author: Corneliu-Aurelian Cocleriu, editor: Adina Panaitescu)

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