They say nobody is perfect. Try telling that to legendary Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci.
Nadia Comaneci’s name and legacy is forever engraved in Olympic gymnastics history because of her dominance at the 1976 Montreal Olympics (and beyond), but what happened to her since she scored that first perfect 10?
Nadia Comaneci’s Perfect 10
Comaneci grew up in Romania, and when she was all of 6 years old she was found by now-disgraced gymnastics trainer Bela Karolyi. It was on the success of Comaneci that Karolyi was able to make his name. When she was still a young 13-year-old gymnast, Comaneci had her first serious competitive appearance at the 1975 European Womens’ Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Norway.
This was not a juniors competition, mind you. Comaneci was competing against the best female gymnasts Europe had to offer, and the Romanian dominated. She took home gold medals in the uneven bars, the vault, the balance beam and the individual all-around events. Comaneci did have to settle for silver in the floor exercise, though.
In March 1976, a few months before the Olympic Games, Comaneci participated in the first-ever American Cup, which took place at the legendary Madison Square Garden in New York. During the preliminary stage of the vault she received a perfect score of 10 and then did the same thing in the final round of the individual all-around, which she naturally won. Perfect tens were considered extremely rare at the time and had never occurred at the Olympics.
The 14-year-old arrived for the 1976 Summer Olympics as a favorite among those in the know, but many Olympians are unknowns to the masses until they make a splash during the event. Oh, did Comaneci ever make a splash.
During the team competition, Comaneci was on the uneven bars for the Romanian team. She received yet-another perfect 10. The difference here, though, was that she was the first gymnast to do this at the Olympics. In fact, the makers of the scoreboard didn’t think it was possible for an Olympic gymnast to score a 10, so the score was presented as “1.00.”
While Romania only ended up with silver in the team competition, Comaneci scored six more perfect tens and took home golds in the balance beam, uneven bars and the all-around. She was the first Romanian to win an Olympic all-around gold and also the youngest gymnast to be named all-around Olympic champion. Since gymnasts have to be 16 now, that is a record that won’t be broken.
Comaneci replaced Olga Korbut as the face of women’s gymnastics at the 1976 Olympics, and that would remain the case in 1980 when she headed to Moscow. While the United States boycotted the Moscow games, the Soviet Union had a formidable gymnastics team. Nevertheless, Comaneci managed to take home four more Olympic medals, two golds and two silvers.
Unfortunately for Comaneci, in 1981 Bela and Marta Karolyi defected from communist Romania to the United States. Fearing she would defect as well, Comaneci was basically not allowed to leave the country any longer. She was not allowed to participate in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, and her retirement ceremony was held in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, that same year.
Nadia Comaneci Husband
In 1989, Comaneci was finally able to defect from Romania, sneaking into Hungary and eventually getting on a plane to the United States.
Once there, she moved to Oklahoma to help her friend American gymnast Bart Conner—who won two gold medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games—with his gymnastics school. A few years later, the two were engaged. They returned to Romania in 1996—now no longer a communist country—for their wedding. They had a son together named Dylan Paul Conner, who was born in 2006.
Nadia Comaneci Now
Nadia Comaneci is 59 now, but she doesn’t look it.
She and her husband now own the Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy together, and they also both commentated on the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Comaneci is still one of the faces of gymnastics, and she has appeared in advertisements alongside the likes of Simone Biles. The former gymnast has also done work with the Special Olympics and opened a children’s clinic in her native Romania as well.
In July 2021, Comaneci celebrated the 45th anniversary of her iconic perfect 10 by donning a similar leotard and leaping through the air behind a 1976 Olympic Edition GMC pick-up truck. It’s safe to say she’s still got it.
As long as she wants, Comaneci will be able to keep popping up during Olympic years to discuss gymnastics and her career. She defined perfection when it comes to the Olympics, and she did it at a time where even scoreboard manufacturers didn’t think it was possible.