Born to a wealthy family in Bucharest in 1921, Angelica Adelstein-Rozeanu was one of the greatest female table tennis players in history. Between 1950 and 1955, she won seventeen world championship titles, including a record-breaking sweep of the singles, women’s doubles, mixed doubles, and team contest in 1953. She moved to Israel in 1960 and drifted away from table tennis, ending an extraordinary career. Rozeanu was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1981 and the International Table Tennis Hall of Fame in 1995. She died in Israel in 2006.
Possibly the world’s greatest female table tennis player in history, Angelica Adelstein, born in Bucharest, Romania, on October 15, 1921, came from a wealthy family. Her father was a farmer who owned a vineyard and her mother was a homemaker. As a young girl, Angelica was a devotee of several sports—tennis, cycling and swimming being her favorites. But when she was nine years old she was introduced to table tennis and immediately, as she herself said, “I preferred table tennis or perhaps, if you like, table tennis preferred me.”
At the age of twelve Adelstein won her first competition and three years later won the 1936 Romanian national women’s championship. She remained the national champion every year until 1957 (excluding 1940–1945, the years of World War II). By the time she was sixteen she was of world class and eclipsed by only a very few.
Table Tennis Dominance
Adelstein-Rozeanu was the first Romanian woman to win a world title in any sport. Between 1950 and 1955 she won seventeen world titles, including six straight singles championships. She took the world women’s double title three times (1953, 1955 and 1956) and the world’s mixed doubles title three times (1951–1953).
In Budapest in 1949–1950 she won the world singles title and carried the Romanian team to victory in the Corbillon Cup. The next year in Vienna she repeated the performance and added the mixed doubles title. In 1951–1952 she won the world singles championship in Bombay, India, and was triumphant in Bucharest in 1952–1953, when she set a world record by winning all four titles: single, women’s doubles, mixed doubles, and the team contest.
In 1950 Adelstein-Rozeanu was appointed president of the Romanian Table Tennis Commission, a position she held until 1960. In 1954, she was awarded Romania’s highest sports honor—the title of Merited Master of Sport. The government presented her with four Order of Work honors. In 1955 she was appointed a Deputy of the Bucharest Municipality.
Move to Israel
When an antisemite became the chairman of the Romanian Federation in 1957, Angelica and other Jewish players were forced out. During the same year her husband decided to immigrate to Israel, but Angelica decided not to go with him. Not long after, the antisemitic chairman of the Federation was removed from his position and Angelica was allowed to compete once again. She went on to win three titles in Russia in 1960.
During the summer of 1960 Angelica left Romania to start a new life in Israel, where she won the gold medal at the Maccabiah Games in 1960 and 1961 and was three times the Israeli champion (1960, 1961 and 1962). But table tennis was at a low ebb in Israel. Asian countries began to dominate the sport and Angelica drifted away from it, finding other outlets for her energies in swimming, healthy exercise, and bridge. In 1981 she was elected a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and in 1995 she was inducted into the International Table Tennis Hall of Fame.
Her daughter Mihaela (Miki) is married to a computer engineer. Of her four grandchildren—Ilan, Ofir, Orly and Efrat—the first two are good bridge players who have represented Israel in international competitions and won many major tournaments.
Her former husband, a professor emeritus at the Technion Institute in Haifa, died in January 2006, a month before Rozeanu herself died of cirrhosis at her daughter’s home in Haifa on February 21, 2006.
“Angelica Rozeanu.” International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, n.d. http://www.jewishsports.net/BioPages/AngelicaAdelstein-Rozeanu.htm.
ITTF Hall of Fame. (n.d.). https://web.archive.org/web/20161126003439/http://www.old.ittf.com/museum/HoF/ITTF%20Hall%20of%20Fame.pdf
Matthews, Peter and Ian Morrison. The Guinness Encyclopaedia of Sports Records and Results. Enfield, UK: Guinness, 1987.