Nadia Comăneci

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Nadia Comăneci : biography

November 12, 1961 –

Comăneci came in 13th in her first Romanian National Championships in 1969, at the age of just 8. Béla Károlyi thought this was unlucky and gave her a doll to remind her never to place 13th again—she did not. A year later, in 1970, she began competing as a member of her hometown team and became the youngest gymnast ever to win the Romanian Nationals. In 1971, she participated in her first international competition, a dual junior meet between Romania and Yugoslavia, winning her first all-around title and contributing to the team gold. For the next few years, she competed as a junior in numerous national contests in Romania and additional dual meets with countries such as Hungary, Italy and Poland. Gymn-Forum At the age of 11, in 1973, she won the all-around gold, as well as the vault and uneven bars titles, at the Junior Friendship Tournament (Druzhba), an important international meet for junior gymnasts.Letters to a Young Gymnast. Comăneci, Nadia. 2004, Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-01276-0 pg. 27–28

Comăneci’s first major international success came at the age of 13, when she nearly swept the 1975 European Championships in Skien, Norway, winning the all-around and gold medals on every event but the floor exercise, in which she placed second. She continued to enjoy success in other meets in 1975, winning the all-around at the "Champions All" competition and placing first in the all-around, vault, beam, and bars at the Romanian National Championships. In the pre-Olympic test event in Montreal, Comăneci won the all-around and the balance beam golds, as well as silvers in the vault, floor, and bars behind accomplished Soviet gymnast Nellie Kim, who would prove to be one of her greatest rivals over the next five years.

In March 1976, Comăneci competed in the inaugural edition of the American Cup at Madison Square Garden in New York. She received rare scores of 10, which signified a perfect routine without any deductions, on vault in both the preliminary and final rounds of competition and won the all-around. Robin Herman, New York Times, March 28, 1976. Comăneci also received 10s in other meets in 1976, including the Chunichi Cup competition in Japan, where she posted perfect marks on the vault and uneven bars.

The international community took note of Comăneci: she was named the United Press International’s "Female Athlete of the Year" for 1975.

Special skills

Comăneci was known for her clean technique, innovative and difficult original skills, and her stoic, cool demeanor in competition. George Chesterson, The Independent, April 11, 2004 Anita Verschoth, Sports Illustrated, April 12, 1976 Time, August 2, 1976

On the uneven bars, Comăneci performed her own release move, a kip to immediate straddled front salto. The skill is named after her in the women’s Code of Points, where it is currently rated an "E" (i.e., high-difficulty) element. Also named after her is the "Comăneci dismount", an underswing half turn into a back salto.

On the balance beam, Comăneci was the first gymnast to successfully perform an aerial walkover and an aerial cartwheel-back handspring flight series. She is also credited as being the first gymnast to perform a double-twist dismount.

Comăneci’s skills on the floor exercise included a tucked double back salto and a double twist.

In the early part of her career, Comăneci’s competitive vault was a piked Tsukahara (a half-turn pre-flight followed by a piked back salto). Later she vaulted a tucked Cuervo (handspring half turn into tucked back salto).

Early life

Nadia Comăneci was born in Onești, Romania, as the daughter of Gheorghe and Ștefania-Alexandrina Comăneci.

Young Athlete, August 1978Letters to a Young Gymnast. Comăneci, Nadia. 2004, Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-01276-0 pg. 4 Her mother was inspired to call her Nadia by a Russian film she watched while pregnant, whose heroine was called Nadya, the diminutive version of the Russian name Nadezhda, which means "hope". Comăneci also has a brother four years younger than her, named Adrian.Letters to a Young Gymnast. Comăneci, Nadia. 2004, Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-01276-0 pg. 5