The Unbelievable Story of Nadia Comăneci
When it comes to Eastern European countries, it seems as though the men and women who live there have a knack for sports – and gymnastics, in particular. But out of all of Eastern Europe’s proud athletic heritage, there isn’t a more famous gymnast than the one and only Nadia Comăneci from Romania. The first gymnast to be awarded a perfect 10/10 score in the Olympics, Nadia boasts 5 separate Olympic Gold Medals – but her rise to fame is almost as exciting as her athletic achievements.
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Let’s take a look at this unique woman’s story.
Beginning in Romania
Nadia was born in a Carpathian town called Onesti, in Romania. Back when she was a child, she says she was always hyperactive and full of energy, so her mother decided to enroll her in gymnastics classes. She thought that this will only make the little Nadia more tired, but it actually had the opposite effect. Nadia was so enthralled with the sport that she would practice, jumping, running around and moving about any chance she got. Her mother couldn’t get her tired – but she made her fall in love with the sport.
As soon as she started her first lesson, Nadia knew that she had found her life’s calling. The summersaults, a very difficult routine, and the exhausting practice sessions were things Nadia loved ever since she was in kindergarten. What started as a childhood infatuation ended up as dream come true, and Nadia knew, even at that young age, that she would be a gymnast for life.
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It’s rare to find your vocation so early on, so those who do are extremely lucky for the head start they’ve received.
Encounter with Bela Károlyi
When Nadia was little, she was doing cartwheels and all sorts of tricks with her friends. A strange twist of fate had the renowned Romanian gymnastics coach, Bela Károlyi, passing by. He and his wife were always looking to promote the sport and hone young, promising talents. The young Nadia, whose natural aptitude and physical abilities shone through even in her unrestrained playing with friends, fit the bill perfectly. Károlyi took notice immediately and the path for making sport history was set.null
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Not giving up
Bela and Nadia were training 3 hours a day, every day. Fortunately for her, Bela’s school was right near Nadia’s house, so she didn’t have to commute a lot. He always encouraged her, even when things weren’t going so well. Nadia didn’t fare so well at her first amateur competitions, as she fell a lot – but Bela had faith in her, and as she continued to train, her form improved drastically, and she began to land gracefully and with ease.null
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Nadia’s first competition was the Romanian National Junior Championships in 1969. Believe it or not, she was only seven years old when she competed. However, she only placed 13th. Despite her low ranking, the failure only seemed to motivate her more. Nadia went back to train harder than ever, and the next year, when she was just eight, she placed first, blowing away the competition and winning first place in the most spectacular fashion imaginable.null
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In 1975, Nadia turned 14 and was finally able to go to senior competitions. As soon as she was unleashed upon the senior competition world, she won five medals at the European Championships as well as the American tandem cup, but this was only a warm-up. Nadia had her eyes set on a bigger prize: she was aiming for the 1976 Montreal Olympics.null
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With explosive talent like hers, the whole world was holding its breath to see what she’d have in store at the highest arena of competition in the world.