A perfect ten: Everybody has heard the phrase. Usually, it refers to something that an individual would regard as ideal under any circumstances. The perfect score, the perfect setting, the perfect presentation … everything about a perfect ten would be … just that … perfect. There is one moment in Olympic sports history that many will always remember as “The” perfect ten.
Nadia Elena Comaneci was born on November 12th, 1961 in Onesti, Romania. During the period in which she was growing up, the Europeans dominated the Gymnastics events at the Olympics, so it was no surprize when she took up the sport. What would be a surprize would be how well she competed.
Like most gymnasts, her introduction to the sport started at a very young age. She started participating in gymnastics around the age of six. She participated in her first National Competition at the age of nine. While she fell a number of times during her performances, it was a valuable lesson for her and she gained a whole new perspective and began working even harder to attain even higher goals she had set for herself.
After becoming eligible to compete at the more senior levels in the European Championships, she won the Best All-Around Category in her first competition there. Shortly afterward, she competed in the first ever American Cup Competition where she scored two perfect tens for her performances on the Vault and on the Floor.
She went on to score a number of medals in gymnastics with her Romanian teammates throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas. She managed to accumulate a very impressive nineteen perfect scores in her competitions leading up to her participation in the Olympic Games.
Her gymnastic history includes a grand repertoire of events. She continually excelled and outdid most of her competition. She became well known for her ability to perform on the balance beam, the bars and even for her floor competitions.
She has been considered by most of the experts in the field of Gymnastics as the best Gymnast ever in the history of the sport. She proved herself capable of competing with a combination of grace, agility, and style that is still unmatched by any other performer’s record. In 1975 she won the title of “Best All-Around Athlete” at the pre-Olympic trials and competition. She went on that same year to become the “Athlete of the Year”, in an honor bestowed upon her by the Associated Press.
In perhaps what can only be described as her “defining moment”, she competed in the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. Here she virtually stunned the world by accomplishing what had heretofore been considered something that was impossible to do. Never before had an Olympic gymnast scored a perfect ten. Nadia Comaneci scored a perfect ten with an incredible performance on the Bars. She went on in her career to repeat this feat an astounding six more times at the Olympic Competitions.
During her first Olympic showing she completed the games with an impressive handful of medals that included three Gold medals, one Silver medal, and one Bronze medal. As a direct result of her accomplishments, she became the youngest person in history to receive the honor of becoming a “Hero Of Socialist Labor”. This is perhaps the highest honor that can be bestowed upon anybody in the (former) Soviet Union.
While she competed in the 1980 Olympics held in Moscow, she was unable to repeat her stunning performances that she had accomplished at the 1976 Olympic Games. Still, she did manage a very respectable finishing with two Gold medals and two Silver medals. These included a (sometimes) disputed tie for the Gold medal with Nellie Kim on the Floor Exercises.
She managed to place second in the Overall category. She took second best overall, losing to Yelena Davydova. While some people also dispute this fact, Nadia Comaneci herself explains in her autobiography that “Yelena just performed better that day”.
Nadia Comaneci has inspired many young, up and coming gymnasts and continues to support and train gymnasts from her home in Oklahoma. While she may never accomplish what she did in the 1980 Olympic Games, this will always be considered “The” perfect ten in Olympic History.
1976 Montreal Olympic Games – Gold (3), Silver, Bronze
1980 Moscow Olympic Games – Gold (2), Silver (2)
1978 World Championships – Gold, Silver (2)
1979 World Championships – Gold
1975 European Championships – Gold (4), Silver
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