With a total of seven perfect ten scores at Montreal 1976 Games, Olympic legend Nadia Comaneci set a world record for the most 10 scores at a single edition of the Olympic Games. She captured the hearts of the world and became the first gymnast in history to know what it's like to be perfect.
Before 1976, no male or female had ever received a perfect score in any Olympic gymnastics event. And then came Nadia Comaneci, all 4-foot-11, 86 pounds of her.
The 14-year-old Romanian dazzled the judges in Montreal to the point where they couldn't help but give her a perfect 10.
And they didn't stop there, for not only did Comaneci receive the first perfect score, she then proceeded to get six more! ABC Television set her performance to music, using a theme from a popular American soap opera, and the song was eventually renamed "Nadia's Theme".
Times magazine posted huge photo of Nadia in front cover page, "She's Perfect!" with a very small photo of the the first photo of Mars... 14 years old Nadia Comaneci became the only person shown in the cover page of Time, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated magainzes at the same time, not to mentioned millions of press and magazines covers around the world.
The record breaking moment came with Comaneci's performance on the uneven bars. However, the judging equipment was not equipped to display the four digits of a 10.00 score, so the scoreboard simply showed 1.00.
The crowd soon understood the meaning of the score when the announcer declared, "Ladies and gentleman, for the first time in Olympic history, Nadia Comaneci has received the score of a perfect ten," reported Septima Green in Top 10 Women Gymnasts.The perfect gymnast bitting the perfect machine!
Nadia Comaneci earned a total of seven perfect ten scores at those Olympic Games. She won three gold medals for the all-around competition, uneven bars, and balance beam. She also won a silver medal for the team competition and a bronze medal for the floor exercise.
Four of her seven perfect scores, including the first one, came on the uneven bars, which as you might imagine, was one of the three events Comaneci struck gold. But it was on the balance beam that she truly showed off her skill. The beam is considered one of the most difficult Olympic events, with gymnasts performing pirouettes and backflips on a beam measuring just four inches across. All Nadia did was record three more perfect scores and her second gold medal.
Comaneci became the first Romanian to win the all-around title and she was also the youngest all-around champion at 14 years old.
Once Comaneci broke the barrier, it became easier over the years. Then, after the 1992 Olympics, those 10s disappeared. Not one has been scored in major international competition since.
Bela Karolyi, maybe the most internationally famous coach and booster of the sport, believes that maybe a perfect 10 is really more than just a number. "It gives the flavour and spice to the sport that we need so much. Just the recognition of the performance," he said.
That moment almost surely won't be repeated this year, or anytime soon. The perfect 10 has slowly, perhaps sadly, filtered its way out of gymnastics, a victim of increased difficulty in events, tougher judging and, some critics say, maybe some hard-headedness and ignorance among those who run it.
"Actually, I think they thought there were too many 10 scores," said Karolyi who, along with her husband Bela, coached Comaneci and Retton during their perfect-10 moments.
Where perfection used to be something that could be sensed or felt, as well as seen, it is now something that must be measured according to the rules of the very strict, very long, very complex Code of Points to which each judge and gymnast must adhere.
In the past, gymnasts used to strive for a perfect 10; these days, they strive to develop a routine with a "start value" of 10, meaning it could conceivably earn a perfect score if it were done flawlessly.
U.S. champion Carly Patterson said no gymnast she knows ever goes out there thinking about scoring a 10 these days. "You'd have to be beyond perfect," she said.
In 1989, Nadia Comaneci defected from Romania and settled in North America. She has since married American Olympic gymnastic medallist Bart Conner.
Comaneci 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 the Vice-Chair of the Board Of Directors of the International Special Olympics and Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
In the world of gymnastics, Nadia Comaneci is the Honorary President of the Romanian Gymnastics Federation, the Honorary President of Romanian Olympic Committee, Ambassador of Sports of Romania and a member of the International Gymnastics Federation Foundation.
In 2006, Thirty years after Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci wowed Olympic judges at the Montreal Olympics, a tribute to that "Perfect 10" performance, made by "ShanFan" (Heather Gibson)-a US gymnastics fan, has been beamed toward the stars via the Deep Space Communications Network.
Deep Space general manager Jim Lewis said in the news release. "The way we see it, if there is someone out there receiving radio waves from this planet, Earth is getting some pretty bad press. Basically, they'd be seeing what we're seeing on the evening news: war, famine, strife and struggle. Perhaps now they will see there is also unmatched beauty and grace on our little green ball as well."
Nadia's husband for Sports Illustrated: "Everyone wants to remember her as this 14 -year-old, ponytailed little girl. She's not that anymore."
...But for those who saw her in '76, she always will be.