Where did the baby name Ecaterina come from in 1984?

Gymnast Ecaterina Szabo at the 1984 Summer Olympics
Ecaterina Szabo

The name Ecaterina was a one-hit wonder in the U.S. baby name data in 1984:

  • 1986: unlisted
  • 1985: unlisted
  • 1984: 10 baby girls named Ecaterina [debut]
  • 1983: unlisted
  • 1982: unlisted

If you were paying attention to sports that summer, no doubt you’ll recall the source: Ecaterina Szabo, the Romanian gymnast who battled it out with Mary Lou Retton at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. (Romania was the only Eastern Bloc country that did not boycott the ’84 Games.)

Ecaterina Szabo, 17 years old at the time, was the most successful competitor overall at the 1984 Summer Games, winning four golds and one silver. (In second place was American track and field athlete Carl Lewis.) Mary Lou Retton, who was 16 years old, won one gold, two silvers, and two bronzes.

But what most people remember is Retton coming from behind to beat Szabo in “the big one” — the women’s individual all-around competition — by a mere five-hundredths of a point. (The usage of the baby name Marylou increased in both 1984 and 1985 as a result.)

Ecaterina Szabo, an ethnic Hungarian, was born with the first name Katalin. She told Romanian news site Transylvania Now that her name was changed (from the Hungarian form of Katherine to the Romanian form of Katherine) in order to mask her background:

It happened in 1980 when she participated at the Youth European Championship in Lyon. “This was the place where I arrived as Katalin, and left as Ecaterina,” she remembers. “The name change happened without my knowledge. Actually I didn’t have the chance to realize it, since I never even saw my passport.”

What are your thoughts on the baby name Ecaterina?

Sources:

P.S. Did you know another one-hit wonder baby name was inspired by a Romanian Olympic gymnast? Check out Comaneci

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