The talent, grace, beauty and athletic ability found in the world of gymnastics has enthralled audiences for generations. And the Olympics has brought us a multitude of talented athletes to admire.
However, few gymnasts hold the iconic legacy of the young, petite, Nadia Comaneci. Since we know she still has fans worldwide, we’ve gathered a bit of background on this amazing gymnast, as well as a peek into her life today.
The Early Years
Nadia Comaneci was born in 1961, in a small town in Romania.
Her mother enrolled her in gymnastic classes to best utilize her rather uncontainable energy.
At the young age of 6, Nadia was discovered by a gymnastic coach, Karolyi, while she was doing cartwheels with her friend on the school yard.
Seeing her talent, he was determined to become Nadia's coach. By the time she was 7, Karolyi began training her professionally.
By the age of 9, Nadia had won the Romanian Nationals.
And by the age of 13, she won several top awards in Norway at an international gymnastic’s event. At that point, it was clear: The Olympics would be part of Nadia Comaneci's destiny.
At the age of 14, during the Montreal 1976 Summer Olympics, Nadia Comaneci was the first Olympian gymnast in history to score a perfect ten.
In fact, the manufacturer of the Olympic scoreboard had created the device with only three digit capabilities, because they were told a perfect score would be impossible for any gymnast to achieve.
Therefore Nadia’s perfect ten score appeared on the board as a 1.00. Moments later, the judges explained to the stunned audience, and to a victorious Nadia Comaneci, the reality of her achievement.
But she didn’t stop there. Nadia managed to score six more perfect tens, and ultimately walked away from the 1976 summer Olympics with 3 Gold Medals.
Then in 1980, Nadia won 2 more Gold medals and achieved 2 additional perfect scores at the Summer Olympics in Moscow.
Defection from Romania
Nadia Comaneci was watched carefully by the communist Romanian government, because they feared she would defect. Unlike other Romanian citizens, her travel abilities were greatly limited and deeply scrutinized.
In late 1989 — just a couple weeks before the revolution — Nadia Comaneci defected from Romania with a small group of people, traveling mostly by foot in the dark of night. The group courageously journeyed through Hungary and Austria, where she was ultimately able to take a flight to freedom in America.
Nadia Comaneci Today
Over her career, Nadia Comaneci Olympic legacy includes winning a total of 5 Gold Medals, as well as 9 groundbreaking perfect scores.
She now lives in the US with her husband, gymnast Bart Conner, and is a dual citizen of both the United States and of her native country, Romania.
There’s no doubt: Nadia Comaneci — the little girl from humble beginnings, who captured the hearts of fans worldwide — is an iconic gymnast whose legacy will go on forever.
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