The first female gymnast to be awarded a perfect score of 10 in an Olympic gymnastic event, Romanian Nadia Comăneci is turning 55 today.
She was born in the small town of Onesti, Bacau county on November 12, 1961.
At the age of six Nadia was chosen to attend Bela Karolyi’s experimental gymnastics school after the famous coach had spotted her and a friend turning cartwheels in a schoolyard. Comăneci became one of the stars of the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal when she was only 14.
During the team compulsory portion of the competition on July 18, her routine on the uneven bars was awarded a perfect ten. It was the first time in modern Olympic gymnastics history that the score had ever been awarded.
This year on July 18, four decades since this premiere in the history of gymnastics were celebrated.
Over the course of the Olympics, Comăneci would earn six additional tens, en route to capturing the all-around, beam, and bars titles, and a bronze medal on the floor exercise. The Romanian team also placed second in the team competition, capturing silver.
Comăneci was the first Romanian gymnast to win the Olympic all-around title. She also holds the record for being the youngest Olympic gymnastics all-around champion ever.
On the night of November 27, 1989, a few weeks before thee Romanian Revolution, she defected with a group of other young Romanians. Her overland journey took her through Hungary, Austria, and finally, to the United States.
In December 2003, Comăneci’s book “Letters to a Young Gymnast” was published, a combination of a mentoring book and a memoir.
Comăneci is active in many charities and international organizations. In 1999 she became the first athlete to be invited to speak at the United Nations to launch the Year 2000 International Year of Volunteers. She is currently on the International Board Of Directors for Special Olympics and Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. She has also personally funded the construction and operation of the Nadia Comăneci Children’s Clinic, a clinic in Bucharest that provides low-cost and free medical and social support to Romanian children.
In 2003 the Romanian government appointed her as an Honorary Consul General of Romania to the United States to deal with bilateral relations.
In the world of gymnastics, Comăneci is the Honorary President of the Romanian Gymnastics Federation, the Honorary President of Romanian Olympic Committee, Sports Ambassador of Romania, and a member of the International Gymnastics Federation Foundation.
Comăneci received the Olympic Order, the highest award given by the International Olympic Committee, in 1984 and 2004. She is the only person to have received this honour twice, and was also the youngest recipient. She has also been inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.
Nadia is married to American gymnast Bart Conner and they have a son, Dylan Paul, born in June 2006.