Nadia Comăneci

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Nadia Comăneci : biography

November 12, 1961 –

Nadia Elena Comăneci ( born November 12, 1961) is a Romanian gymnast, winner of three Olympic gold medals at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal and the first female gymnast to be awarded a perfect score of 10 in an Olympic gymnastic event. She also won two gold medals at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. She is one of the best-known gymnasts in the world.

In 2000 Comăneci was named as one of the athletes of the century by the Laureus World Sports Academy. 

In popular culture

  • Nadia is a 1984 made-for-television biopic of Nadia Comăneci.
  • In the ABC drama series Lost, the character Mikhail owns a cat called Nadia, named after Comăneci.
  • Comăneci appeared in an episode of The Simpsons in a small guest role.


In 1981 Comăneci participated in a gymnastics exhibition tour in the United States.. Ira Berkow, New York Times, March 6, 1981 During the tour, her coaches, Béla and Marta Károlyi, along with the Romanian team choreographer Géza Pozsár, defected.Little Girls in Pretty Boxes. Ryan, Joan. 1995, Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-47790-2 pg. 201 Upon her return to Romania, Comăneci’s actions were strictly monitored. She was granted leave to attend the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles but was supervised for the entire trip. Aside from that journey, and a few select trips to Moscow and Cuba, Comăneci was forbidden to leave the country for any reason." "Life…" she wrote in her autobiography, "took on a new bleakness".Letters to a Young Gymnast. Comăneci, Nadia. 2004, Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-01276-0 pg. 121

In Romania, between 1984 and 1989, Comăneci was a member of the Romanian Gymnastics Federation and helped coach the Romanian junior gymnasts. In November 1989, a few weeks before the revolution, she defected with a group of other young Romanians. Her overland journey took her through Hungary, Austria, and finally, to the United States.Letters to a Young Gymnast. Comăneci, Nadia. 2004, Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-01276-0 pg. 137–148 Her initial arrival in the United States generated some negative press, focusing on her penchant for heavy makeup and flashy clothes, and the fact that her constant companion Constantin Panait (a Romanian exile who arranged her escape from Romania and initially exercised considerable control over her as her self-appointed business manager) was a married father of four.

With the help of her former coach Béla Károlyi and his friend Alexandru Stefu, a Romanian rugby coach, Comăneci was able to make a break with Panait and settle in Montreal. She successfully distanced herself from the image problems of her initial arrival from Romania. Comăneci spent most of her time touring and promoting lines of gymnastics apparel and aerobic equipment. She also dabbled in modeling, appearing in advertisements for wedding dresses and Jockey underwear.

While she was living in Montreal, former American gymnast Bart Conner, whom she had met for the first time in 1976 at the American Cup, contacted her and invited her to live in Oklahoma. They became engaged in 1994. Together with Conner, she returned to Romania for the first time since her defection (and since the fall of Communism and Ceaușescu’s death), and the couple were married in Bucharest on April 27, 1996. The ceremony was broadcast live in Romania, and the reception was held in the former presidential palace. Cincinnati Post, April 6, 1996

On June 29, 2001, Comăneci became a naturalized citizen of the United States. She has also retained her Romanian passport, making her a dual citizen.

Early gymnastics career

Comăneci began gymnastics in kindergarten with a local team called Flacăra ("The Flame"), with coaches Duncan and Munteanu. Barbara Fisher and Jennifer Isbister, 2003, Gymnastics Greats.comLetters to a Young Gymnast. Comăneci, Nadia. 2004, Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-01276-0 pg. At age 6 she was chosen to attend Béla Károlyi’s experimental gymnastics school after Karolyi spotted her and a friend turning cartwheels in a schoolyard.Letters to a Young Gymnast. Comăneci, Nadia. 2004, Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-01276-0 pg. 17–19Deford, Frank. . Sports Illustrated. August 2, 1976. Karolyi was looking for gymnasts he could train from a young age and saw the two girls during recess. When recess ended the girls ran inside. Karolyi went around the classrooms trying to find the girls, with no luck. So, he asked, "Who likes gymnastics?" and the girls popped up saying, "Us, us!" Karolyi said one of the girls became a very promising ballerina. The other was Comăneci. She was training with Károlyi by the time she was 7 years old, in 1968. She was one of the first students at the gymnastics school established in Onești by Béla and his wife, Marta. Unlike many of the other students at the Károlyi school, Comăneci was able to commute from home for many years because she lived in the area.Letters to a Young Gymnast. Comăneci, Nadia. 2004, Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-01276-0 pg. 19