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Updated: July 11, 2012 03:46 IST

Comaneci, the gymnast par excellence

K. Keerthivasan
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Nadia Comaneci
AP Nadia Comaneci

LEGENDS Nadia didn’t have a trouble-free life as her storied gymnastics career shows us

Extremely suave and quick-witted, Nadia Comaneci is enjoying all the media attention in the run-up to the London Olympics.

The 50-year-old appears on television, newspapers and magazines granting interviews and giving details about several businesses she operates with her husband Bart Conner and their partner Paul Ziert.

Nadia didn’t have a trouble-free life as her storied gymnastics career shows us.

Picked up by coaches Bela and Marta Karolyi in the Communist-run Romania as a six-year-old, Comaneci was made to train nearly eight hours everyday at a gymnastics school managed by the Karolyis in Onesti.

Daughter of an auto mechanic father Gheorghe Comaneci and homemaker mother Stefania, Nadia overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to become one of the most outstanding and celebrated gymnasts in the world.

Comaneci stunned the audience in the 1976 Montreal Olympics when she became the first gymnast to score a perfect 10 and the youngest-ever (14 years & 252 days) all-around champion.

Awe-inspiring feat

She scored an awe-inspiring seven 10s and went on to win three gold, one silver and one bronze in Montreal. That the scoreboard not tuned to a ‘10’ flashed a ‘1.00’ after Comaneci's brilliant symphony on the uneven bars is now part of folklore.

In Moscow four years later, Comaneci defended her title on the balance beam and tied with Nellie Kim for the gold medal in the floor exercise.

After her retirement in 1981, Comaneci continued to provide her services to the Romanian Gymnastics Federation.

But once the Romanian Government started to spy on her activities, even restricting her overseas travel, Comaneci decided to take charge of her life.

In the year 1989, before the Romanian revolution, Comaneci defected with a small group in a journey that took her through Hungary, Austria, and finally, to the United States where she met and later married Conner, who is also an American Olympic gymnast.

In an apt tribute, The Hindu on July 23, 1976 wrote: “What the Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut began in Munich (Olympics) four years ago, Nadia Comaneci has completed in Montreal — turning gymnastics into one of the most crowd appealing events of the Olympics.”

Comaneci, a mother of six-year-old Dylan Paul, holds a dual citizenship of Romania and USA.

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