Earned A Perfect Ten At The Montreal Olympics
Nadia Elena Comăneci was born on November 12, 1961, in Onești, a small town in the Carpathian Mountains, in Bacău County, Romania, in the historical region of Western Moldavia. She was born to Gheorghe (1936–2012) and Ștefania Comăneci, and has a younger brother. Her parents separated in the 1970s, and her father later moved to Bucharest, the capital. She and her younger brother Adrian were raised in the Romanian Orthodox Church. In a 2011 interview, Nadia's mother Ștefania said that she enrolled her daughter into gymnastics classes because she was a child who was so full of energy and active that she was difficult to manage. After years of top-level athletic competition, Comăneci graduated from Politehnica University of Bucharest with a degree in sports education, which gave her the qualifications to coach gymnastics.
THE SIGHT OF THE 1.5M 14-YEAR-OLD GYMNAST NADIA COMANECI STANDING NEXT TO A DIGITAL SCOREBOARD SHOWING A MARK OF 1.00 AT THE OLYMPIC GAMES MONTREAL 1976 IS ONE OF THE MOST INSTANTLY RECOGNISABLE SPORTING IMAGES OF ALL TIME. THE WATCHING WORLD QUICKLY REALISED WHAT IT HAD WITNESSED: THE FIRST PERFECT ROUTINE BY A GYMNAST IN OLYMPIC HISTORY. FOR THE ROMANIAN, IT TOOK A LITTLE LONGER TO REGISTER.
Despite her demeanor Comaneci managed to win over both the judges and the audience at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada. She also made history at these games by becoming the first gymnast to score a perfect ten on an apparatus. The record breaking moment came with Comaneci's performance on the uneven bars. However, the judging equipment was not equipped to display the four digits of a 10.00 score, so the scoreboard simply showed 1.00. The crowd soon understood the meaning of the score when the announcer declared, "Ladies and gentleman, for the first time in Olympic history, Nadia Comaneci has received the score of a perfect ten," reported Septima Green in Top 10 Women Gymnasts.
The photograph wonderfully captures Comaneci’s slightly perplexed, bashful expression as she joins the world in realising, or sort of realising, what she had just done.
Comaneci earned a total of seven perfect ten scores at those Olympic Games. She won three gold medals for the all-around competition, uneven bars, and balance beam. She also won a silver medal for the team competition and a bronze medal for the floor exercise. Comaneci became the first Romanian to win the all-around title and she was also the youngest all-around champion at 14 years old. "The technical purity of her performance is her most brilliant characteristic. Physically she has strength, speed, and flexibility. Mentally, she has intelligence, phenomenal powers of concentration—and courage," Bela Karolyi told Peter Bonventre of Newsweek.
“I felt I had done a good routine,” Comaneci said of the moment she finished on the uneven bars in the team competition, on the second day of the Montreal 1976 Games. “So, I didn’t care to watch the scoreboard because I thought I was going to get a 9.9 or something like that, which was good as a start. I was already thinking of the balance beam because once the score comes, the music comes on and then we had to march [to the next apparatus]. So I was putting that routine away and not paying attention to the scoreboard, until I heard the noise in the arena.”
In one of the most celebrated technical lapses in history, the arena’s scoreboard struggled to deal with the diminutive Romanian’s brilliance. History recalls that OMEGA, the Olympic Games official timekeepers and scorers since 1932, had asked organisers before the 1976 Games whether the scoreboards needed updating to accommodate four digits. They were told it was not necessary.
“I looked around to see what was going on and then I saw the problem or whatever was happening with the scoreboard,” Comaneci laughed. “I didn’t understand it but I was like, whatever it is, it’s something wrong so I am just going to concentrate on my next event. One of my team-mates said, ‘I think it is a 10 or there is something wrong with the scoreboard’. I knew at least I was going to get a 9.9 – because a 1.0 was way too low.”
“Of course I knew that the 10 was the highest score, but I didn’t know first of all that it was the first 10 in Olympic history; no one had told me, even though I wouldn’t have listened because I would have gone, ‘OK, let me think about that later’. I would have been happy with 9.95 but now I think about it, it wouldn’t have been history.”
The perfect 10.00, or 1.00 if you prefer, in the team competition was just the start. Over the next five days, Comaneci produced a further six perfect routines, three more on the uneven bars and three on the beam.
Fearless and utterly focused, Comaneci took home gold in the individual beam, uneven bars and the all-around, as well as bronze in the floor exercise and silver in the team event. While she admits that the first 10 gave her the confidence to believe she was “well prepared”, she does still insist that gymnastics is not about numbers.
1961 - Born on November 12 in Onesti, Romania
1967 - Begins training with Bela and Marta Karolyi
1969 - Places 13th in first national competition
1970 - Wins Romanian National Junior Championships
1975 - Wins five gold medas at European Championships
1976 - Scores first perfect ten at Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada
1976 - Wins three gold, one silver, and one bronze medal at Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada
1977 - Wins two gold medals at European Championships
1978 - Wins three gold and one bronze medal at European Championships
1980 - Wins two gold and two silver medals at Olympic Games in Moscow, U.S.S.R.
1981 - Wins five gold medals at World University Games
1984 - Retires from gymnastics
1989 - Immigrates to the United States
1996 - Marries American gymnast Bart Conner
2001 - Becomes a United States citizen
AWARDS and AACCOMPLISHMENTS
1969 - Thirteenth place Romanian National Junior Championships
1970-71 - First place Romanian National Junior Championship
1971 - First place all-around, vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise, Cup of the Romanian Gymnastic Federation
1972 - First place team and all-around, Romanian National Junior Championship
1972 - First place team, Cup of the Romanian Gymnastics Federation
1973 - First place all-around, vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise, International Championships of Romania
1973 - First place team and all-around, Romanian Senior Championships
1974 - First place team and all-around, Romania-Poland-USA Junior TriMeet
1975 - First place all-around, vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise, European Championships
1975 - First place team, all-around, vault, uneven bars, balance beam, floor exercise, Romanian Championships
1976 - First place all-around, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise, second place team, Olympic Games
1976 - Named Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year
1977 - First place all-around and uneven bars, European Championships
1977 - First place team and all-around, Balkan Championships
1977 - First place all-around, International Championship of Romania
1977 - First place all-around, Orleans International
1978 - First place bars, second place vault and team, World Championships
1979 - First place all-around, vault, and floor exercise, third place balance beam, European Championships
1979 - First place all-around, International Championship of Romania
1979 - First place team, World Championships
1979 - First place vault and floor exercise, second place balance beam, World Cup
1979 - First place team, all-around, vault, and uneven bars, second place floor exercise, Balkan Championships
1980 - First place uneven bars, International Championship of Romania
1980 - First place bars and floor exercise, second place team and all-around, Olympic Games
1981 - First place team, all-around, vault, uneven bars, and balance beam, University Games
1984 - Received Olympic Order Award
1991 - Inducted into Sudafed International Women's Sports Hall of Fame
1993 - Inducted into International Gymnastics Hall of Fame
1996 - Named Honorary President of the Romanian Gymnastics Federation
1996 - Honored in Atlanta's Opening Ceremonies as an Unforgettable Olympian
1998 - Received Flo Hyman Award celebrating National Girls and Women in Sport Day
2001 - Named Sportswoman of the Century, World Sports Awards
“HAD SHE SCORED A 9.999, NOTHING WOULD HAVE CHANGED, BUT THE ‘PERFECT 10’ CHANGED EVERYTHING. NOBODY HAD THE FOGGIEST IDEA WHO SHE WAS OR WHERE SHE HAD COME FROM, BUT SHE
BECAME THE ICON OF THE GAMES”
(Olympic Review by Paul Zirt)
Info: sports-reference.com, olympic.org, TIMES
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