who captivated the world in 1976, when she became the first gymnast to ever score a perfect 10
in the Olympics. She proceeded to do it 7 times over the course of the Montreal Summer Olympics
, at the age of just 14.
Comaneci (DOB: 11/12/1961; Onesti, Romania) wasn't an unknown entering the 1976 Olympics. A year earlier, she had won the all-around competition in the European Championships. However, her performance in Montreal was astounding.
On July 18, 1976, Nadia amazed the judges with her uneven bars routine, earning the first ever perfect 10 (male or female) in the Olympics. She would proceed to rack up 6 more perfect 10s in the next few days. Previously, no one had EVER had a perfect 10 in the Olympics...14 year old Nadia had done it 7 times in under a week.
In those Games, she won 3 gold medals (all-around, balance beam, uneven bars), one silver (team competition, as part of the Romanian team), and one bronze (floor exercise).
If she was American, Nadia would have likely earned millions in endorsements and been a major celebrity (such as Mary Lou Retton and Kerri Strug). However, she was in communist Romania, and as such didn't have those opportunities. Still, she appeared on the covers of Time, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated in the same week for her accomplishments.
Despite having personal and physical struggles the next few years, Nadia participated in the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics. She took the silver in the all-around. Soviet Yelena Davydova took the gold in highly disputed fashion (accusations of a pro-Soviet bias were rampant). Nadia added another silver in the team competition. In addition, she won 2 more golds (beam and floor exercise).
Nadia's total medal count was 5 golds, 3 silvers, and 1 bronze.
In 1984, she officially retired from competition, at the age of 22.
In November 1989, Nadia fled communist Romania (weeks before the government was overthrown) to Hungary, and eventually gained asylum in the United States. In the U.S., she became reacquainted with American gymnast Bart Conner, whom she had met a few times previously.
In 1993, Nadia was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.
In April 1996, Comaneci and Conner married. She remains active in the gymnastics community as a contributing editor to International Gymnast Magazine .
On June 29, 2001, Nadia officially became an American citizen.
However, she will always be known as the tiny little girl who amazed the world with her skill and grace as a 14-year old in 1976.