Best All Time Gymnast

Nadia Comaneci was the idol of an entire generation (maybe two) of young girls. A 14-year-old Nadia Comaneci became the first gymnast ever to receive a perfect score. It happened at the 1976 Olympics and earned Comaneci the title of, in a lot of people’s minds, the best all time gymnast. Her youth and energy inspired not just the crowd in Montreal but everyone who saw her performance on television.

Representing Romania, the 4-foot-11 girl went on to perform perfectly six more times at the Montreal Olympics. She led her team to the all around team silver medal. There are five individual events in women’s gymnastics. Comaneci gave gold medal performances in the uneven bars, the balance beam, and the all around. Her skills were completely over the top and she holds a place in gymnastics history that will be talked about for many more years.

Nadia Comaneci.
Nadia Comaneci. Thanks to 00gym00 on for the picture.

Comaneci began gymnastics in kindergarten. She soon became a pupil of Bela Karoly who later emigrated to the United States. She trained four hours a day, six days a week. She wasn’t always the top gymnast. In fact, Nadia placed 13th in a gymnastics meet on her way to the Olympics. Her performance at the Olympics earned her the cover of Time magazine and the headline, “She’s Perfect.” She was an inspiration to a lot of people who learned that hours of hard work could bring them to the pinnacle of their talent and their dreams.

Nadia Comaneci during her practice session.
In October '77, Nadia Comaneci during her practice session for an appearance at the Hartford Civic Center. Thanks to eye2eye on for the picture.

Her first event at the Olympics was the uneven parallel bars. Her performance awed the crowd and when the score was posted it showed up as “1”s because the scoreboard was not big enough to display “10”s. No one had ever before scored that high. To make it even more over the top, she was the youngest all around winner ever. In 2005, the scoring system was changed and scores higher than 10 are now possible. In 1981, she took all the golds in her last major competition.

After being kept from traveling by the Romanian government, Comaneci defected in 1989. She married another gymnast, Bart Connor, and now runs a gymnastics school in the U.S. In 1999, ABC and Ladies Home Journal named her one of the 100 most important women of the century. Her drive and devotion to her sport made her stand out from the crowd. In the hearts of the people who watched that perfect performance in Montreal, she will always be the best all time gymnast.

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