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Saturday, 23 September, 2000, 05:28 GMT 06:28 UK
Rider's legends: Nadia Comaneci
Nadia Comaneci
Nadia Comaneci on her way to three Montreal golds
Steve Rider
BBC Olympics presenter Steve Rider highlights some of the great Olympians from the pages of history.

Four years after Olga Korbut gave gymnastics a whole new standing in world sport, another legend was born out of the Olympic Games.

While Munich was enchanted by the young Byelorussian, Montreal in 1976 was enthralled by an even younger Romanian.

Nadia Comaneci, was 14, fearless and a phenomenon who left Canada with three golds a silver and a bronze.

But it was more than the medal tally for which Comaneci is revered.


In the team competition, on the uneven bars, she became the first gymnast in Olympic history to score a perfect `10`.

Nadia Comaneci
Comaneci: Youthful confidence
"I was not one for looking straight at the scoreboard after a routine but I remember this incredible noise," said Comaneci, recalling clearly the events of 24 years ago.

"Even then I was not sure what was happening because the scoreboard only had three digits and it was showing 1.00. It had no facility for a ten.

"For me it was the ultimate. You couldn't do better than that."

In total, Comaneci scored seven perfect scores at Montreal. Apart from taking gymnastics to a new level, the Romanian was also responsible for a switch to a four digit scoreboard in future competitions.


Comaneci, who had beaten her idol Lyudmila Turischeva in the European Championships in 1975, had expectations but not as high as the goals she achieved.

"When I left Romania I said I hoped for a medal and possibly a gold one," she said.

"I knew I had it in me to do a perfect routine but preparing for it in training and getting it absolutely right in front of 15,000 people are two quite different things."

Nadia Comaneci
Awarded last year for her achievements
Now 38, married and living in America, Comaneci thinks her tender age at Montreal actually gave her an advantage

"When I look back I think being so young helped because you don't know so much when you are a child.

"There isn't the fear - you get that when you are grown up.

"I also went to the Games unknown outside the gymnastics world so there was none of the pressure like the major athletes get these days leading up to a big competition."

The 10,000 people that greeted her when she arrived home in Romania made it perfectly clear she was no longer unknown.


I was not one for looking straight at the scoreboard after a routine but I remember this incredible noise
  Nadia Comaneci

"I remember saying in Montreal that I hoped my mother was watching. I didn't realise the whole country and whole world was watching too," she said.

Living in Communist Romania meant she could not profit commercially from her success but she carried on training and returned to Olympic competition four years later.


In Moscow she won two more golds but controversially missed out on retaining her All-Around title by 0.5 after the announcement of her decisive beam routine was held up for 28 minutes due to an argument among the judges.

She was at the centre of more politics when in 1989 she defected from Romania and went to live in Montreal before settling in the United States.

She married fellow Olympic champion Bart Conner and now lives in Oklahoma where she runs a gymnastics academy for more than 1000 students.

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See also:

17 Sep 00 |  BBC Team
Rider's legends: Anita Lonsbrough
18 Sep 00 |  BBC Team
Rider's legends: Sean Kerly
19 Sep 00 |  Fans Guide
Rider's legends: Lasse Viren
20 Sep 00 |  Fans Guide
Rider's legends: Chris Finnegan
21 Sep 00 |  BBC Team
Rider's legends: Mark Spitz
22 Sep 00 |  Fans Guide
Rider's legends: Adrian Moorhouse
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