Exactly 40 years since she performed the first ‘Perfect 10’, Laureus Academy Member Nadia Comaneci has reflected on her historic Olympic success and looked ahead to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Comaneci, speaking in her role as a founding member of the Laureus World Sports Academy, admitted that she still has vivid memories of the sights and sounds of that historic day in Montreal in 1976.
“I vividly can feel the time when I was walking in the arena and the noise,” said Comaneci. “I can sense all of that. I can feel who was doing the floor routine when I was doing the balance beam. I remember all those moments even now.”
The Romanian Olympic legend, who is hugely supportive of the work Laureus Sport for Good does to improve the lives of young people through sport, recalled her stand-out highlight from her Perfect 10 performance 40 years ago.
“It's probably the uneven bars, because that's where I got the first 10. There are maybe two pictures that define those Games. One is the dismount on uneven bars, like the bird, and the floor exercise.”
Although she had just achieved Olympic greatness, Comaneci was full of youthful innocence at the 1976 Olympic Games. She made history, but in her mind she was just doing what she had done in training.
“I was just hoping to not mess up on beam or on bars,” recalled Comaneci. “I came back from the Olympics, and when I got out of the plane, there were 10,000 people at the airport, and I didn't know why they came because I didn't think I had done anything different than I had done in the gym.”
Comaneci, who runs a gymnastics academy in Oklahoma with her husband Bart Conner, still practises the sport she achieved so much in today. Comaneci said:
“I practise when nobody is in the gym. I go through the movement of my compulsory routines. I flip a little cartwheel, something safe that's close to the ground. It's all in there, the technique, everything is there. I have to kick a handstand every day, wherever I am."
Comaneci believes the United States will be the team to beat in the gymnastic competition at Rio 2016. The gymnastics legend, who will be in Rio for the Games, said:
“Right now in women's gymnastics, United States is No. 1. It's a big difference in their programme. They have probably about four million kids who do gymnastics every year. So that's a big mass of kids compared to a lot of other countries; the numbers are a lot smaller.”
In her role as a Laureus Academy Member, Comaneci has invested a huge amount of her time and effort into supporting the work of Laureus Sport for Good. She is also an Ambassador for the Laureus-supported Special Olympics movement, and believes in the power sport can have to empower and instil hope in young people.
“I am interested in everything that Laureus does, but I have to confess my real passion is for Special Olympics, the organisation which works with people with intellectual disabilities to create a world of inclusion, where every single person is accepted and welcomed.
“I am always overwhelmed by the love and the passion of the children that I meet through Laureus and Special Olympics. Sport has totally changed their lives and given them so much more to live for. That’s what Laureus means to me and why I am so passionate about doing what I can to help."