Nadia, perfect in every respect

Golden Heroes

Nadia, perfect in every respect

Nadia Comaneci seamlessly combined her infectious looks and talent to take gymnastics to a whole new level. The Romanian, just 14, achieved the perfect-10 mark for the first time in the history of Olympics.
 

Nadia took up the sport of gymnastics aged six, becoming one of the first students at a school founded by legendary coach Béla Károlyi. Growing up in a communist-ruled country, she was forced to go under rigorous training for eight years. Nadia showed the first signs of her potential in 1975, when she won gold in every event at the European Championships except the floor exercise.

A year later in Montreal, she became the first gymnast in Olympic history to be awarded the perfect score of 10.0 for her performance on the uneven bars. Before 1976, no athlete -- male or female -- had ever received a perfect score in any Olympic gymnastics event. At 4-foot-11 and 39 kgs, the diminutive Comaneci did just that, wowing the judges into awarding her not just one, but seven perfect scores. The first came after her dazzling showing on the uneven bars, and the additional six as Comaneci won three golds, one silver and a bronze.

Judged against he own standards, Comaneci’s career over the next four years can be termed slightly less spectacular.

At the 1980 Games, she won her fourth and fifth golds but finished second in the all-around competition behind Yelena Davydova. Comaneci retired a year later, leaving her with a career haul of nine Olympic medals.

After her retirement, Comaneci was rarely allowed to travel outside her country. She defected to the United States in 1989. She has since married 1984 Olympic gold medallist Bart Conner, a gymnast she first met in the 1970s.

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