sábado, 13 de abril de 2013



Nadia Comaneci in a recent photograph. Her full-fledged sporting blossoming during the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games marked a turning point in the evolution of Women´s Artistic Gymnastics.

Sunday July 18th, 1976. Second day of the Montreal 1976 Olympic Games.

Competition of uneven bars in Women´s Artistic Gymnastics held at the Montreal Forum Indoor Arena.

The Soviet squad is top favourite and has within its ranks three extraordinary gymnasts: the great Olga Korbut (gold medallist in floor and balance beam in Munich 1972), Ludmilla Tourisheva (individual all-around gold medallist in Munich 1972) and Nellie Kim (the gymnast featuring more physical strength of all the participants and who had won the floor exercise competition during the European Championships held in Skien,  Norway), ruled by the highly experienced coach Larisa Latynina (nine gold medals, five silver medals and four bronze medals in the Olympic Games of Melbourne 1956, Roma 1960 and Tokyo 1964, along with nine golden medals, four silver medals, and one bronze medal in the World Championships of Rome 1954, Moscow 1958, Prague 1962 and Dortmund 1966).

In the memory of the spectators is very present the final of uneven bars disputed four years before in Munich 1972 Olympic Games between Karin Janz (East Germany) and Olga Korbut (URSS), in which the gymnast born in Minsk, boasting a unique acrobatic style, made her unforgettable Standing Back Flip Regrasping the Bar, without forgetting her first Backward Aerial Somersault in history at the end of her routine on balance beam, immediately followed by a forward aerial somersault with which she finished her exercise.

Suddenly, four years later, it´s the turn of a 14 years old girl belonging to the Romanian team, called Nadia Comaneci, who one year and two months before, in May 1975, has won five golden medals and a further silver one during the European Championships of Women´s Artistic Gymnastics held in Skien (Norway).

The Romanian gymnast approaches the uneven bars, walking with great elegance.

The spellbound has just begun.

A dead silence holds a sway over the Montreal Forum Indoor Arena and Nadia Comaneci starts her exercise, with her movements (some of them featuring extreme level of difficulty, specially her genuine Kip to Immediate Straddle Front Salto and her Underswing Half Turn Into a Back Salto) boasting a speed, amplitude and accuracy unknown hitherto, enhanced by the incomparable style and unique harmony and balance with which she carries out everything she does, in such a way that it seems as if she were stately flying on the apparatus.

Her hallmark performance is flawless and errorless, at a lightning pace and with maximum coordination.

The 18,000 people overcrowding the sports center express deafeningly their elation and amazement on the stands.

Bela Karolyi, who has been Nadia Comaneci´s coach since she was seven years old, appears exultant with joy and hugs the Fairy of Montreal, who comes back to the Montreal Forum Indoor Arena floor and greets the ecstatic spectators eagerly awaiting for the mark.

The huge rivalry among Renald Knysh (Olga Korbut´s coach), Vladislav Rastorotsky (Ludmilla Tourisheva´s coach) and Karolyi himself has resulted in a walloping technical improvement, together with a substantial innovation of movements which has brought about the extraordinary exercise that Nadia Comaneci has just accomplished in her uneven bars routine.

It´s the most important moment in the History of the Women´s Artistic Gymnastics.

But the mark doesn´t arrive and the delay stirs up a growing impatience in the crowd.

One of the judges of competition, apparently fidgety, approaches Daniel  Baumat, Director of Omega (manufacturer of the highly accurate electronic scoreboards showing both the winners in the different contests and their times or marks), who is by the floor of the Montreal Forum Indoor Arena..

This competition judge, representing the rest of the jury, tells Baumat that it is necessary to give a 10, but he explains that the maximum mark inscribable in the electronic scoreboards is 9.95 (to get a 10 was deemed impossible), so it isn´t feasible to register a 10.00, because the limit is three digit. 

Suddenly, after a lot of seconds of harrowing wait, a 1.00 figure appears in the electronic scoreboard.

Stress increases even more, together with the bewilderment and abashment beginning to seize upon everybody attending the event.

Nadia Comaneci´s exercise on the uneven bars can´t deserve such a low mark.

The thousands of spectators start to noisily show their disagreement, and the situation makes necessary to announce quickly through the speakers that the mark is a 10, the first in the history of women´s artistic gymnastics. 

The audience burst into applause lasting several minutes, forcing Nadia Comaneci to come back to the floor different times to greet, something that would happen again during the following days of competition, in which the great Romanian gymnast performed highly successfully, achieving three golden medals: Global Olympic Champion (beating Nellie Kim and Ludmilla Tourisheva), Olympic Champion in Uneven Bars (beating her fellow countrywoman Teodora Ungureanu and the Hungarian Márta Egervári), Olympic Champion in Balance Beam (beating Olga Korbut and Teodora Ungureanu with a further wonderful exercise), Olympic Silver Medal in Teams Competition) and Bronze Medalist in Exercise on Floor (where Nellie Kim excelled – making the first Double Back Salto in the history of women´s artistic gymnastics- and Ludmilla Tourisheva finished in second place).

She also attained a total of seven 10, appearing among others on the covers of TIMENewsweek and Sports Illustrated magazines.

Nadia Comaneci on the cover of August 2, 1976 number of Sports Illustrated magazine, which  echoed the outstanding success of the great Romanian gymnast during Montreal Olympic Games in which she racked up five medals (three golden ones, a silver one and a further bronze one).

Nadia Comaneci on the cover of Newsweek magazine of August 2, 1976.

Four years later, during the Moscow 1980 Olympic Games, Nadia Comaneci won two golden medals ( Olympic Champion in Balance Beam and Olympic Champion in Floor) and was Silver Medalist in the Individual All-Around Competition and Silver Medalist in the Team Competition), after very tough battles against Elena Davydova (URSS), Maxi Gnauck (DDR, who had a remarkable performance in uneven bars, winning the gold medal and with whom she shared the second place in the all-around competition, with the same points), Natalia Shaposhnikova (URSSS, who would win the gold medal in vault), and Nellie Kim (who had a stunning performance, developing her great strength and managed to equal Nadia Comaneci in points).

The results reached by Nadia Comaneci in Moscow 1980 were exceedingly praiseworthy, because after her resounding victories and tens in Montreal 1976, Elena Davydova, Natalia Shaposhnikova and Nellie Kim (who had already been at first-string level in Montreal 1976 with two 10s in the finals of floor and vault - defeating in the latter one Ludmilla Tourisheva and Carola Dombeck with an impressive full twisted Tsukahara – ) made a superintensive training between early November 1976 and mid July 1980 with the top priority aim of striving after beating Nadia Comaneci, who in spite of it, managed to compete at a very high level, attaining a total of four medals (two golden and two silver), with the icing on the cake of a superb performance on July 25, 1980 in the balance beam exercise, where she beat both Davydova and Shaposhnikova after  tremendous fight.

37 years have elapsed since Montreal 1976 Olympic Games in which Nadia Comaneci enthralled the world with her dazzling performances marking the most significant turning point in the History of Women´s Artistic Gymnastics, that reached with her its highest peaks of popularity, as well as having been along with Olga Korbut the most influential gymnast in the evolution of this sport hitherto.

After her retirement from competition in 1981 and her participation as a member of the Romanian Federation of Women´s Artistic Gymnastics between 1984 (attending to Los Angeles 84 Olympic Games) and 1989, Nadia Comaneci marched in the latter year to Montreal (Canada), where she lived for some seasons, until in 1994 she established a friendship with the United States gymnast Bart Conner (Gold Medallist in Parallel Bars during the World Championships 1979 held in Forth Worth and Olympic Champion in Parallel Bars and Global Competition in Los Angeles 84), getting married to him two years later, on April 27, 1996 in Bucarest, and becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States on June 29, 2001.

In 1999, Nadia Comaneci was the first athlete to be invited to speak at the United Nations, and has financed with wherewithal of her own the building and working of the Nadia Comaneci Clinic for Children since nineties, its goal being to provide medical treatment and social support at very low cost to Romanian needed children.

She´s likewise Honorary President of the Romanian Athletics Federation, Honorary President of the Romanian Olympic Committee and Member of the Foundation of the International Gymnastics Federation.

Nadia Comaneci was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1993. Six years later, she would be chosen both by ABC News and Ladies Home Journal magazine as one of the 100 Most Important Women in XX Century.

She has been awarded twice (in 1984 and 2004) the Olympic Order, maximum prize bestowed by the International Olympic Committee, having also been included within the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1993.

Nadia Comaneci lives currently in Oklahoma City (United States) and directs together with her husband Bart Conner and the producer Paul Ziert the Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy and the TV company Perfect Ten Productions INC.

She is also the happy mother of Dylan Paul Conner, her seven years old son, born on June 3, 2006.

© Text and Indicated Photo: José Manuel Serrano Esparza.