Where were you when… Nadia Comaneci got the first ever perfect 10, 18 July 1976
In her own words, the gymnast recalls her record-breaking Olympic achievement – and her life’s swift return to normality
Nadia on the balance beam: she won three gold medals at the Montreal Olympics
I got into gymnastics because, like many kids, I had too much energy. I loved the gym – it was just like a playground. For my parents, it meant I wasn’t doing crazy things in our house in Romania, where I grew up.
I was only 14 years old when I went to Montreal to compete in the Olympics. I remember walking around the Olympic Village, among all these high-profile athletes I’d only ever seen before on television. When it came to the day of the competition, all I was hoping for was not to make any mistakes. I remember thinking, ‘I just have to do the same routines I do in training’. The only difference is there were a lot more people watching.
I was the last one competing on the uneven bars and, when I finished, I was more interested in getting to my next event than checking the scoreboard. I don’t usually look because I roughly know how many points I’ll get on the basis of how I performed – then, I thought I’d get a 9.9. I only looked because I heard all the noise in the arena. There was a lot of confusion at first because the board was showing a 1.0 – which wasn’t very good for the performance! My teammate was trying to tell me that there was something wrong with it, that it was supposed to be a 10, but the music started and I had to go to my next event – the beam.
I knew it was a big deal, but I hadn’t realised that no one had ever got a perfect 10 before me. I didn’t know I’d made history [Nadia received six more perfect 10s and won three gold medals]. It only sank in when I got back to Romania and there were 10,000 people at the airport. After that, my life went on as normal – going to the gym, to school. The only thing that changed was that people would point at me in the street and say, ‘This is the girl with a 10!’
Now I live in Oklahoma with my husband Bart [Conner, a former US Olympic gymnast], where we run a gymnastics academy. I still go back to Romania five or six times a year – I opened a gym for children there called GymNadia.
Also that month…
Elton John and Kiki Dee
- Fire destroyed the famous pier head at the end of the world’s longest pier in Southend, Essex.
- The UK heatwave peaked at 35.9C in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.
- David Steel was elected as the new leader of the Liberal Party.
- Elton John and Kiki Dee (right) reached number one in the charts with ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’.