Olympic legends: Nadia Comaneci – The Perfect 10

Montreal 1976 will always be known for the perfect 10 turned in by the 14-year-old Romanian Nadia Comaneci in the team part of the gymnastics competition for the first time.

Nadia Comaneci goes through the balance bar routine that won her a perfect 10 score at the 1980 Moscow Summer Games.

The world was quite unprepared, to say the least, for the arrival of Nadia Comaneci at the Olympic stage. What could a manmade scoreboard do under such circumstances but blink? Montreal 1976 will always be known for this faux pas as well as the perfect 10 turned in by the 14-year-old Romanian gymnast in the team part of the competition for the first time.

In a sport where places are determined by fractions, none had thought that the scoreboard would require to display four digits to show a 10.00, and in the end what the poor Comaneci saw as she came off with her dismount was 1.00. Either way, it was a big mistake, as the action did promise a big score and it was only the official announcement that brought an end to the drama of several minutes. Naturally, all hell broke loose as it was made known that Comaneci had achieved perfection in the history of the sport for the first time ever.

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And, once she proved it to be achievable, she couldn’t stop doing it again and again. The Romanian in fact had a card of six 10s during the Olympic Games, helping her in the process to three gold medals (all-around, beam and uneven bars), a silver (team) and a bronze (floor), besides instant international superstardom.

Tacked down as a long-term prospect by Belo Karolyi in 1967 when she was just six, Comaneci underwent a strict training regime under the future Romanian chief coach, taking part in her first national junior championships two years later. It was not a dream start to her career, but she was crowned champion the very next year. In 1972, she got to the international stage for the first time while retaining her top position in the nationals through the next two years.

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Comaneci gained eligibility to compete at the senior level in 1975, and making her debut in America for the first time on her maiden tour abroad, she left an indelible mark behind as she left her audience spellbound with a double backward salto dismount off the uneven bars. Blessed with exceptional skill, balance and impressive technique, Comaneci suffered much due to an injury before she rebounded to gain two more golds at Moscow 1980. This came off the beam and on the floor, after she fell behind narrowly in the all-around, settling for silver, by a 0.1-point margin.

A great amount of analysis has been on the techniques applied by Comaneci, who retired in 1984, to find what led her to her perfect scores. These studies real how she was innovative in her approach and was so technical once in action. Comaneci is credited as the first gymnast to perform an aerial walkover and an aerial cartwheel backspring on the beam, besides introducing the double twist dismount and a double back salto on the floor. All this by the tender age of 14. Unbelievable, yet true!