Womens Artistic (Romania)
Last update: 27/01/2012

COMANECI Nadia Romania
Discipline: Womens Artistic
Last update: 27/01/2012 Print
Status: Retired
Licence No.: 00000669
Date of birth: 12/11/1961 Age: 54
Gender: Female
Height: Weight:
Place of birth: ONESTI () Missing

Hometown: NORMAN (USA)
Marital status: Married
Children: 0 boys
0 girls
Occupation: Coach
Languages Spoken: R - E - F
Start Discipline (year): 1966
First Int. Competition (year): 1981
National Team Since (year): 1972
Current Club: Deva
Head coach: Marta Karoly (ROU)
Assistant coach: Bela Karoly (ROU)
Choreographer: Marta Karoly (ROU)

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Creation date: 1999-08-27
More about COMANECI Nadia:
(from Olympic Review, July 2004)

"In her case it was impossible!
We always started out with 10 and deducted marks for each mistake. We watched her routine almost open-mouthed. We were searching for a mistake, but there weren't any.

With Nadia, we ought to have started from 10 and added marks for every perfect move." the American judge Jackie Fie later revealed.

And if she was unable to believe her eyes, the electronic scoreboard coped even less well! It almost short- circuited because it was't programmed to display a score of 10, and on that evening of miracles it had to show seven times in the final of the asymmetric parallel bars. Seven tens, the first in the history of gymnastics, giving a total of 79.275 out of a possible 80 in the individual combined exercices, proving the perfection of the most flexible athlete of all time.

That flawlessness was celebrate a few days later on the covers of the Time magazine, wich waxed lyrical about the fourteen-year-old Romanian Olympic champion under the headline "She's perfect" and Newsweek, wich proclaimed " A Star is Born".

The story began eight years earlier.

Her parents, engineer Gheorghe Comaneci and Stefania-Alexandra, an office worker, separated when Nadia was very young. Her mother introduced her to Bela Karolyi, a veteran Hungarian handball player, who was destined to become the most famous Pygmalion in the history of sport (although in fact, Nadias true mentor was the wife of her trainer, Marta Karolyi). " I never had to push her.

I would tell her to do the same move twenty times and she would do it thirty. Uncomplaining, without a word," relates Bela Karolyi, who was the guardian of a unique treasure.

Her name began to be heard with increasing frequency in 1975, when she walked away from the European Championships at Skien in Norway with three gold medals and one silver, having dethroned the Soviet superstar gymnasts. The experts hat thought that Nelli Kim, Olga Korbut and Lyudmila Turshcheva were invincible. Far from it! At the Montreal Olympic Games, where the finances plummeted into the red, the favourites in gymnastics were left red-faced too, as a little girl, who by rights should still have been playing with her dolls,showed them to be mere mortals.

Suddendly, in one evening, the name of Comaneci became universally known as a symbol of harmony, elegance, grace and perfection, making previous standarts of excellence look commomplace. On the evening that her third gold medal was hung around her neck, a journalist asked her what she desired most of all. " to go home", she answered, completely naturally. A little later, she was asked if she was thinking of retiring after her triumph."Retiring?But I'm not even fourteen years old yet!" she retorted, as her mind came up with her wildest fantasy, a temptation that had been tormenting her for months: a chocolate!

Returning to Bucharest, Nicolae Ceausescu lavished her with rewards. He made her a Hero of Socialist Labour, bestowing the country's highest prize on her. The honorary events and awards were unending, and a monthly salary of 150 dollars completed her happiness.

She was too young to understand what it all meant and too inocent to have any inkling of the miseries that she would later endure.

Four years later, Nadia was a woman.At 18 years old, she was 10 centimetres taller; with a few surplus kilograms and less strength than she had had as a spirited younster in Montreal. She was less full of fire than in 1976, but remained perfect, even if this time she fell from the uneven parallel bars ten seconds before the close of a legendary programme. Two weeks before the Games began in what was, for the usurper of Soviet rule in gymnastics, the unwelcoming city of Moscow, Elena Muchina, her customary opponent, who had been selected by the hosts to beat Comaneci - broke her spine and was paralysed for life. The legendary showdown never took place, and Nadia left Moscow with two golds and two silvers, essentially having brought down the curtain of her career.

The epilogue came in the following year , at the 1981 World University Games, when the first clouds of misery had started to appear in a life that up to then had been bright and glamorous. The director's son, Nicu, began to turn his unwelcome attentions to her and the more Nadia refused to submit to his desires, the more violent Ceausescu became, because until then, no woman had ever turned him down. " My life was hell.

The victory in Montreal was a very distant recollection, and I never look at the video of the Games, because it makes me cry", she later revealed. The proof? In 1984 she joined her country's team at the Los Angeles Olympic Games, where she was constantly shadowed by the Romanian secret police. She thought of following the example of her Pygmalion, Karolyi, who had defected to the USA in 1981, but thought better of it.

She was later banned from leaving her country. Five years later - during which time, as she later revealed, she contemplated suicide - she finally resolved to leave.

On 28th November 1989, with the help of Constantine Panait, she and six of her fellow countrymen left at night, boarded a train, and walked six hours in the rain until they arrived at Szeged in southern Hungary. From there, they went to Vienna, and with the intervention of the American embassy, Nadia and Panait travelled to the USA, where they were granted political asylum.

A new life began in the land of opportunity, but this too was an ordeal. From Ceausescu's prey she became the hostage of Panait, who had left behind his wife and four children in Romania and was now putting into action his plan to exploit Comaneci shamelessly, signing over to him all the profits she made from her gymnastics display. "I put up with him because I was afraid that if I didn't he would send me back to Romania," she said, wich was her greatest fear. some friends, including Bela Karolyi and two-times Olympic champion at Los Angeles, Bart Conner, realised what Panait was up to, and laid a trap for him, enlistening the help of Alexander Stefu, a Romanian American football trainer, who invited him and Comaneci to Montreal to discuss a contract. Comaneci admitted her suffering and Panait took the car, together with 100,000 dollars, and disappeared.

The dragon had been slain and life smiled on her once more. In 1994 she returned to Romania after five years, where she met with adulation. A school was named after her, and she received awards from the country's President, Ion Iliescu and the Orthodox Patriarch Theoktistos, who admitted that " Her presence brought more people to the Church than I had never seen befor in my life." On 27th April 1996, Nadia married Bart Conner in Bucharest and visited her country again, donating a sum of 100,000 dollars to support the gymnastics team for the Atlanta Olympic Games.

Free of the ghosts of the past, she lives in the glory of her legend, and is able to watch the video of the magical night in Montreal without fear. Together with her husband, she teaches gymnastics at their own academy in Norman, Oklahoma. They travel the world, advertising Kodak, Swatch and Coca Cola, and doing charitable work, and from time to time Nadia adds to her collection with honorary awards, the most prestigious being that given to her and Carl Lewis when they were named the top athletes of the twentieth century.

In the end, as in all fairy-tales, she lived happily ever after.
Category Rank-F Score-F Rank-Q Score-Q Year Place Level
Vault 1 19.700 1979 TOKYO 4th Artistic Gymnastics World Cup Final
Balance Beam 2 19.600 1979 TOKYO 4th Artistic Gymnastics World Cup Final
Floor Exercise 1 20.000 1979 TOKYO 4th Artistic Gymnastics World Cup Final