Ever since the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, one name still remain synonymous with Olympic 10.0 perfection: Nadia Comaneci. The tiny 14-year-old Romanian scored the first perfect 10.o in Olympic gymnastics, and in Olympics history.
Her perfection on the compulsory uneven bars, on the balance beam, and the floor, transcended the sports of gymnastics– and the Olympic games itself.
Comaneci won five medals for Romania in Montreal; three were gold, one of which included the coveted award for the all-around. But the perfect 10 is the one everyone remembers.
Her coach, who has led the U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team for the last several decades, Bela Karolyi, told USA TODAY Sports:
“To be honest, we never thought it at the time. Later on, yes.
“Before the Olympic Games, we never even thought about medals or gold. Competing well? Yes. Doing it very, very well? Yes.
“But particularly to say she was going to be the perfect 10? No.”
Nadia didn’t realize at the time what she had accomplished. She said:
“I did what I used to do every day in the gym. It’s not like overnight I’d done something to surprise myself. It was a magic day, but it wasn’t a magic day because I did something I didn’t know I was going to do. I’d done those things in training.
“I am surprised because I didn’t know how much this would last. The more experienced I get, I treasure and I honor what I’ve done much more. You know what I mean? It becomes much more important, and I appreciate it because I understand from a different view what it takes to do that.”
The perfect 10 is no longer attainable, as the 10-point scale was not used in gymnastics after 2006.
But Nadia’s perfection remains one of the most treasured memories and feats in Olympic history. In 1999, Nadia was elected as an “Athlete of the Century,” and received a World Sports Award of the Century during a gala in Vienna, Austria.