Sport History: Nadia Comăneci
By Alexandra Wade - January 1, 2022

The Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci was truly a one-of-a-kind athlete. Comăneci created sports history through both her achievement of being the youngest athlete to ever win a gold medal at the Olympic games as well as her sport-defining victory of being the first athlete to ever score a perfect 10 in an Olympic gymnastics competition.

Nadia Comăneci was born in Onesti, Romania on November 12, 1961. Comăneci began gymnastics training at the remarkable age of six. Only two years later Comăneci was competing internationally. The gymnast’s first major international competition, the Olympics, came when she was but ten years old. Her momentous career saw her becoming the youngest gymnast ever to win a gold medal at the Olympics.

Comăneci was known for her elegant style and balletic grace on the beam, which she would perform en pointe. She won three more Olympic gold medals at the 1976 Olympics, along with two silver and one bronze medal. At these games, she scored seven perfect 10s in front of international judges. Her score was so startling that it led the governing body of the sport to institute a rule that no gymnast should be allowed to score higher than a perfect 10. Comăneci went on to compete at the 1980 Olympics where she won two more gold medals, but she was unable to compete in 1984 due to an injury.

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Comăneci is also an author, writing “Comăneci: A Gymnast’s Life”, published in 1987, followed by “My Story” in 1993. In 1999 Comăneci was awarded the Olympic Order and in 2003 she received a Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime contributions to American culture. In December 2007 Nadia announced her return to competitive gymnastics as a judge for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Her enthusiasm for gymnastics and her contributions to the sport have made Nadia Comăneci one of the most recognized Olympians in history.