I don't run away from a challenge because I am afraid. Instead, I run toward it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your feet.”
Number of medals
0 Olympic medals
0 Olympic Games
Nadia COMANECI biography
Nadia Comaneci achieved perfection at the age of 14. The Romanian gymnast scored a “perfect 10” on the uneven bars in the team part of the gymnastics at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games, and even the scoreboard didn’t know what to do: it wasn’t able to display the four digits needed to show a row of 10.00s, because nobody had even conceived that it was possible.
Once it was proved achievable, though, she couldn’t stop doing it: Comaneci got six more perfect tens as she swept to three gold medals (all around, uneven bars and balance beam) and international superstardom.
She didn’t let the fact that the only way is down from there to affect her, either. Blessed with exceptional skill, balance and a clean technique, she added two more gold medals to her Montreal one at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow (balance beam and floor), and won two World Championship golds (1978 in the balance beam and 1979 in the Team) and numerous European titles.
She was as innovative as she was technical, once in action. On the beam, she was the first gymnast to perform an aerial walkover and an aerial cartwheel-back handspring flight series. She also debuted the double twist dismount – and the double back salto on the floor. Her willingness to put creativity and ambition alongside technical excellence continues to influence the likes of Simone Biles.
But things got tough after Moscow. While she did attend the Los Angeles 1984 games as a judge, she was severely restricted from leaving Romania, and found life tough after she retired from her sport. In 1989 she defected to the USA, working as a coach, businesswoman and model – and even appearing on The Apprentice. “I don’t run away from a challenge because I am afraid,” she has said about her extraordinary life. “Instead, I run toward it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your feet.”
She is still deeply involved in sports: Comaneci serves as the honorary president of the Romanian Gymnastics Federation, the honorary president of the Romanian Olympic Committee, and is a member of the International Gymnastics Federation Foundation.