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.- La increíble historia de Nadia Comăneci

Tras la sonrisa perenne de Nadia Comăneci se esconde una leyenda del deporte. En 1976 hizo historia al conseguir el primer «10 perfecto» en gimnasia en unos Juegos Olímpicos

"La fascinante historia de Nadia comenzó en 1961 en Oneste, su pueblo. Con apenas seis años, fue reclutada por Béla Károlyi. Las rutinas de su entrenador fueron polémicas por su alta exigencia, aunque ella discrepa: «Hacía mucho más de lo que me pedía. Cuando me decía que hiciera cinco rutinas en la barra, yo hacía siete». Pese a que llegó a sus primeros Juegos con grandes logros en su mochila, fue en Montreal donde su talento la convirtió en un mito
The Unbelievable Story of Nadia Comăneci
By Jessie V.
Article was originally published on our site
Tomado de My Daily Magazine
When it comes to Eastern European countries, it seems as though the men and women who live there have a knack for sports - and gymnastics, in particular. But out of all of Eastern Europe's proud athletic heritage, there isn't a more famous gymnast than the one and only Nadia Comăneci from Romania. The first gymnast to be awarded a perfect 10/10 score in the Olympics, Nadia boasts 5 separate Olympic Gold Medals - but her rise to fame is almost as exciting as her athletic achievements.

Let's take a look at this unique woman's story.

Beginning in Romania
Nadia was born in a Carpathian town called Onesti, in Romania. Back when she was a child, she says she was always hyperactive and full of energy, so her mother decided to enroll her in gymnastics classes. She thought that this will only make the little Nadia more tired, but it actually had the opposite effect. Nadia was so enthralled with the sport that she would practice, jumping, running around and moving about any chance she got. Her mother couldn't get her tired - but she made her fall in love with the sport.

Slowly Climbing
As soon as she started her first lesson, Nadia knew that she had found her life’s calling. The summersaults, a very difficult routine, and the exhausting practice sessions were things Nadia loved ever since she was in kindergarten. What started as a childhood infatuation ended up as dream come true, and Nadia knew, even at that young age, that she would be a gymnast for life.

It's rare to find your vocation so early on, so those who do are extremely lucky for the head start they've received.

Encounter with Bela Károlyi
When Nadia was little, she was doing cartwheels and all sorts of tricks with her friends. A strange twist of fate had the renowned Romanian gymnastics coach, Bela Károlyi, passing by. He and his wife were always looking to promote the sport and hone young, promising talents. The young Nadia, whose natural aptitude and physical abilities shone through even in her unrestrained playing with friends, fit the bill perfectly. Károlyi took notice immediately and the path for making sport history was set.

Not giving up
Bela and Nadia were training 3 hours a day, every day. Fortunately for her, Bela’s school was right near Nadia's house, so she didn’t have to commute a lot. He always encouraged her, even when things weren’t going so well. Nadia didn’t fare so well at her first amateur competitions, as she fell a lot - but Bela had faith in her, and as she continued to train, her form improved drastically, and she began to land gracefully and with ease.

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First competition
Nadia’s first competition was the Romanian National Junior Championships in 1969. Believe it or not, she was only seven years old when she competed. However, she only placed 13th. Despite her low ranking, the failure only seemed to motivate her more. Nadia went back to train harder than ever, and the next year, when she was just eight, she placed first, blowing away the competition and winning first place in the most spectacular fashion imaginable.

Senior eligibility
In 1975, Nadia turned 14 and was finally able to go to senior competitions. As soon as she was unleashed upon the senior competition world, she won five medals at the European Championships as well as the American tandem cup, but this was only a warm-up. Nadia had her eyes set on a bigger prize: she was aiming for the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

With explosive talent like hers, the whole world was holding its breath to see what she'd have in store at the highest arena of competition in the world.

The kiss with Bart
In March 1976, Comăneci competed in the inaugural edition of the American Cup at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. As the 14 year old Nadia was going to the podium to collect her silver, a photographer urged the blond American boy beside her to lean in for a kiss. Bart Conner, the 18-year-old American gymnast, happily obliged. And while this could have ended differently, the two athletes felt an immediate connection, which would only grow stronger from that moment on.

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The Road to Montreal

By July 1976, Nadia was ready and willing to dominate her first Olympic games ever. By this time, the international gymnastics community was starting to take notice of her, but despite her new-found recognition, nobody could predict what she would accomplish then. Not even Nadia could foresee how the competition would turn out, and despite her confidence in herself, she was still quite anxious and wary of the events to come. But when the events finally started, it was clear to all that something exceptional was taking place.

In the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics, Nadia Comăneci made history.

The Elusive 10
As they perform their routines, gymnasts are rated from 1 to 10 - but no gymnast had ever received a perfect ten in the Olympic Games. No gymnast, that is, until Nadia arrived. As Nadia executed her first gymnastic routine, people were stunned. The judges were slack jawed and the audience went crazy. Nadia's execution was simply flawless, and the judges had no choice but to grant her a historic perfect ten. But that wasn't enough for Nadia -during that competition, she would go on to rack up six more perfect tens.

Getting a Theme Song
After her stunning performance at the Olympics, Nadia's worldwide popularity soared.

When sports reporter Robert Riger presented a series of slow-motion montages of Nadia on the television program ABC's Wide World Of Sports, he played them with the theme "Cotton's Dream from the film Bless the Beasts and the Children. The segment was aired over and over, and the piece came to be known as "Nadia's Theme." The song became a top-10 single in the fall of 1976, and was officially renamed "Nadia's Theme" by its composers.

An Explosion of Popularity
Nadia took the gymnastics world by storm. She was named the BBC's "Overseas Sports Personality and the Female Athlete of the Year" in 1976 and her photo was ever featured on the cover of "Time" magazine - a big, big honor.

Back home, Nadia was made a national hero, and the Romanian government showered her with gifts and honors.

It seemed like the world was her oyster, but all good things must come to an end. Soon, things would begin to unravel.

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Things Started Going Downhill
From the public perspective, Nadia was living the perfect life. Behind the scenes, however, everything started falling apart. Her parents were fighting a lot and in the midst of getting a divorce, and the public attention was getting to her. No child wants their parents to split up, especially not when the whole world is watching. On top of all that, she had to stop training with her beloved trainer Bela, and was urged to find a new coach. It was tough.

Suicide Attempt
At 15, Nadia was feeling trapped and controlled. The pressures of training, international media attention and government involvement with her life were getting to her - and that, on top of being a teenager, made her feel like she just couldn’t take it any more. In an act of desperation, she tried to take her own life - but fortunately, the attempt was a futile one. Following the traumatic event, Romanian officials once again assigned her to Bela for training, and a modicum of normality was restored.

Puberty Hits
As puberty hit, the Romanian government urged Nadia to take a break from the sport, since gymnasts are generally better performers when they’re small. She stopped training and decided to eat everything in sight. In a short span of time she grew several inches taller and a stone heavier - but later that year, and regardless of her size, she went back to competing - and also went back to winning medals for her country. Nadia was unbeatable, puberty or not.

An Assumed Affair
The press is always enamored with athletes and success, and because of this – they like to make up stories. One such made-up story was that Nadia was having an affair with Nicu Ceaușescu, the son of the Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu. Her image was slowly deteriorating because of the rumors, which made it seem like she was using her prefessional achievements to get closer to power.

Of course, these rumors were entirely false. Nadia was not having an affair.

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Downhill yet again
With all the fuss and the drama going on, it’s no wonder that the Moscow Olympics of 1980 didn’t go as planned. Sure, she won four medals - two gold and two silver -but there were serious problems with the scoring. Bela Károlyi, Nadia's coach, was furious with the judges, feeling they had not scored her fairly - and his argument with them was captured on live TV. The Romanian authorities felt this did not project well on to them, and his life, upon returning to Romania, would become very difficult.

Nadia was an international phenomenon, and she was the person to beat in the Olympics. The Russians wanted their gymnasts to win so bad that they brought soldiers to the stands specifically in order to heckle and distract the other countries’ competitors, and when Nadia was up, they were constantly yelling "Fall, Nadia, fall!".

But Nadia's cool professionalism persevered, and not only did she not fall - she went on to win medals in the competition against these unreasonable - and unsporting - odds.

Fixed Scores
Bela's fighting over the competition's scores made everyone believe that the Olympics were becoming a political event, in direct opposition to what it should be. The Olympic's neutrality are at the very core of the international event's values and mission statement, and political tampering was a very serious accusation.

The coach said he had seen many instances of Russian judges fixing the scores and results for their gymnasts - and those kinds of accusations were not taken lightly by the Russians… or by Romania's communist regime.

Milking Nadia for Money
In 1981, the struggling communist government of Romania realized that Nadia could make them a lot of money. Because of that, they organized the Nadia tour, "Nadia '81", where she toured around the United States like a rock star. Nadia was world famous and people were lining up to see the gymnastic wonder-girl. The tour was a success and the government earned $250,000 from it, but Nadia herself only got $1,000 for her efforts. While $1,000 were not a small sum by Romanian standards back then, it still felt exploitative.

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Bela Karolyi Defects
Because he had made waves at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Bela’s life was in danger. The Romanian government started to send people to follow him around and monitor his every movement. Because of this, he and another two members of the "Nadia '81" tour decided to defect to the US, rather than return to their homeland when the tour ended.

Bela tried to ask Nadia if she would like to defect with them too, but Nadia wasn't interested: she still wanted to go home to Romania.

While Nadia chose not to defect, even when she had the chance, following Bela's defection the Romanian government stopped trusting her. They sought to stop a defection from happening with Nadia, too and therefore, decided to ban her from visiting Western countries. They tapped her phone, read her mail and assigned government agents to follow her around. The poor girl was trapped in her home country, and her already difficult life was made much harder with the government's increased involvement.

An Escape Plan
As Nadia's life became more difficult, she realized that while she didn't originally want to leave Romania, it was becoming unsafe for her to stay. She got in touch with a man named Constantin Panait - a Romanian national who had managed to escape Romania, swim across the Danube and end up, somehow, in Florida. Panait promised to smuggle Nadia out of the country and to get her to America safely. Nadia got her priorities straight and chose to take her chances with Constantin.

Not telling her family
Nadia knew that she couldn’t tell her parents, as they would be against her defecting. The only people she informed were her younger brother and his wife. They encouraged her to find a better life and fight for herself, and Nadia resolved to go through with the plan.

She got in touch with Constantin and the two got busy making plans and orchestrating her escape.

While Nadia had her doubts about Constantin, her brother did some checking and told her he was the real deal.

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Nadia reached the Hungarian border in the middle of an ice cold European winter. The Hungarian border police recognized the famous gymnast right away, but instead of arresting her, the brought her a blanket and arranged for her transport to the Austrian embassy. From there, it was only a short while until she found herself in Vienna. There, she was able to meet with Panait, and the two were provided with a pair of flight tickets to New York City.

When she landed in America, not everyone was ecstatic about her arrival. Long gone were the days when she was a cute 15 year old gymnastics star. This time around, she was a grown woman in high heels, with rumors and controversy behind her. PEople assumed she was having an affair with Constantin, who was a married man, and Nadia's response to questions about it, due to lack of fluency in English, was a cold "so what."

She didn’t receive a warm welcome - but at least she wasn’t rejected.

Nadia was thankful for Constantin Panait and his help, but she had no idea he was isolating her from people trying to reach out for her. Many of her Romanian friends in the US were trying to contact her, including Bela Karolyi, her beloved former coach, as well as Bart Conner - the young American gymnast she had met all those years ago.

They had heard of her arrival in the press, but when they reached out to Panait to try and get in touch with her, he simply didn't relay their messages.

Trying to Make Contact
Bart Connor did some research and realized Nadia had not been in touch with anyone she knew in the States since her arrival. He found this fishy, and when he got wind of an interview she was supposed to give on the Pat Sajak show, he got in touch with the producer and flew over to Los Angeles at the last moment, taking a helicopter directly to the studio, to meet her on air as a surprise guest, fearing he wouldn't get a chance to speak to her in person.

Not Who he Seemed to be
Panait was actually holding Nadia captive and controlling her life. They were staying in motels and hotels, with Nadia being reluctant to comment on her relationship with the married man. At first, he seemed to act like a friend, but he was actually leeching off of her and ruining her life.

Nadia, on her end, thought that letting Panait be "her manager," as he put it, was a fair price to pay for his help in getting her out of Romania.

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Alexandru Stefu, a gymnastics coach who was a good friend of Nadia had decided to help her. He lured Constantin and Nadia into a meeting, and after enough prompting and help, Nadia eventually accused Constantin of mistreating her. Panait quickly realized he was in trouble so he stole her car and money and escaped from the country. Finally, she was free.

Years later, Nadia said she didn't foster and hard feelings towards the man, and that he had helped her get out of Romania and into America, which was what was really important.

Paul Ziert Takes her in
Since she was out of money, she needed a place to stay. After her friend Alexandru Stefu passed away in a snorkelling accident, she had to find a way to make ends meet. Thankfully, Paul Ziert, Bart Conner’s gymnastics coach, offered to take her in. She was to reside in Norman, Oklahoma.

Nadia moved in with Ziert and his family, and eventually ended up hiring him as her personal manager. It was at this time that Bart and Nadia started to truly become close.

Ziert gave Nadia Bart Conner's phone number, and the two slowly started talking more and more over the phone in the next year or so. As the culmination of their friendship, he offered Nadia to come and help him open and run a gymnastics school. Nadia was honored by the offer from her friend, and agreed. The two's relationship blossomed and grew, and it seemed as if Nadia had finally found her place.

A Love Rekindled once again
Bart and Nadia shared a kiss on the cheek all those years back. They seemed inseparable whenever they met and after all that time, they started dating seriously. It all culminated in 1994, in Amsterdam, where Bart finally mustered the courage to go and propose to the love of his life.

Nadia, of course, said "yes." She and Bart would get married, and, after the fall of the Romanian dictatorship, they decided they would do it in her home town of Bucharest.

Everything was as it should
Since Romania was communist no more, people wanted Nadia to return. The new government was a liberal one and they viewed her as a national hero. They even let her use the House of Parliament for her wedding with Bart. People from all over the country arrived to honor the greatest Romanian athlete ever, and 10,000 people attended the wedding - which was televised. People took days off work to attend, and Nadia felt like Romania was, once again, truly her country.

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Feeling sorry
Nadia felt bad about leaving Romania. During the live television broadcast of her wedding, she said that she always loved the Romanian people and that her problems were with the government, not them. The love was mutual, as they never forgot about her accomplishments and patriotism, and Nadia is still considered, to this day, one of the country's most beloved, honored and respected personalities. While Romania doesn't have royalty, Nadia is as close to Romanian royalty is can be.

The Academy
Today, Nadia and Bart have founded the Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy. Despite it being in Norman, Oklahoma, thousands upon thousands of potential students apply to join every year, to get a chance to be trained by these world class athletes. When they don't run the academy, Bart and Nadia tour the world, giving talks, lectures and training seminars, and are heavily sponsored. Everyone in the gymnastics world wants them to endorse their products and represent them commercially.

BFF with Katie Holmes
In 2015, Katie Holmes and Nadia were seen together, laughing and chatting like they were old friends. They developed a bond when Katie decided to direct a short film about Nadia’s success at the 1976 Olympics. It may seem weird, but the two seem like a perfect match.

Katie Holmes is a big admirer of Nadia's, and had decided to tell her unique life story in a way that everyone could relate to and understand. Nadia was only happy to help.

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Eternal Princess
"Eternal Princess" - that was the title of Katie Holmes’ directorial debut. It may not have been a smash hit, but it really allowed Katie to get to know the legendary gymnast. Nadia used her experience and perseverance through difficult experiences to tell the world the story of never giving up. Many people could use this story as motivation, and Holmes' telling of it is extremely motivational and inspiring. In addition to the professional relationship the two have formed, they have become close friends.

Professional athletic training can be very tough, especially when it starts out at a very young age. Still, there's a difference between a strict training regiment and abuse.

In 1995, the world was shaken to its core when news got out that an 11 year old Romanian gymnast was beaten to death by her coach. When the coach was suspiciously apprehended after months, he said that Nadia was also beaten by her coach, Bela. Both Bela and Nadia denied these lies.

No Pictures
Western journalists found the entire case eerie, so they decided to dig deeper and to find out what really happened. There were no photos of the young girl, as the government confiscated them all. One theory proposed that the Romanian government wanted to reclaim their lost status in the sport and to bring up a new Nadia Comaneci to take the world by storm, so they encouraged the coach to use violence as a means of achieving perfection.

Bela’s Outlook on Things
The legendary coach said that things like that happen all the time in Romania. Even though the country isn’t a dictatorship any more, the secret police are very powerful and can make you disappear. That, along with the overwhelming will to succeed in sports is a recipe for disaster. The kids end up suffering, and Romania, as a nation, loses.

These are only some of the reasons Nadia and Bela chose to defect all those years ago, and while Romania has changed since, coming back is still difficult.

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In 2006 Nadia and Bart Welcomed their son, Dylan, into the world. Nadia considers him the centre of her life. The little man always spends time with his mom and dad. They both loves showing pictures of him to everyone. And while Dylan is still young - everyone wants to know if he, too, will end up having a career as an athlete.

But even if he chooses a very different life path from his parents, he will still receive all the love and support they can provide.

Today, Nadia and Bart have expanded their business plans. In addition to their gymnastics school, they sell gymnastics merchandise and equipment. Their company makes and sells every possible piece of gymnastics equipment, from crash pads and grip tape to bars. The products aren’t cheap, as they are considered to be premium quality in the gymnastics world and are highly sought after by professionals.

Nadia and Bart are apparently not just amazing athletes, but amazing business people, as well!

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Arnold is a big fan
Katie Holmes isn't Nadia's only Hollywood friend.

Currently, Nadia and Bart are residing in Los Angeles. One day, out of the blue, she saw Arnold Schwarzenegger training at her gym. But while she, obviously, knew who the actor and former governor of the state was, it was actually Arnie who approached her first and said that he was a big fan. He even asked her to be his personal trainer for the day and gladly shared praise on social media.

Her production company
Nadia decided she wants to help young gymnasts be seen around the world. Therefore, she started the Perfect 10 Productions company. With it, she is in charge of bringing all the crucial gymnastics events to the public. She often works with ESPN, Fox and many other big broadcasters, making sure gymnastics events are broadcasted professionally and that gymnasts receive their time in the spotlight to shine and be seen, just like she had been, all those years ago.

A cool $10 million
Today, Nadia is worth around $10 million dollars.

No, she didn’t manage to get all that money overnight. She worked hard with Bart, her husband, in developing their academy, equipment sales, and production company. As a result of all that hard work, Nadia is able to bask in her success and live out the rest of her life in peace and prosperity. After all, considering everything she’s been through, we definitely think she deserves it.

The Mentality
When people cite Nadia’s accomplishments, they all think that talent is the main reason for that. Every time, Nadia denies this notion. She says that it’s her mentality that allowed her to reach the realm of gymnastics super-stardom. She hated to lose so much that she decided to never let it happen.

And while we can understand and respect the fact that she doesn't like to lose - despite what she says, we think it does require at least some sort of talent to win a series of perfect 10s in the Olympics!

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Nobody will ever beat her
Despite her being a sensation of getting the first perfect ten, people still expect someone to beat her. However, due to some rule changes in scoring and grading the athletes’ routines, it is seemingly impossible for anyone to receive a pure 10 at th
But if Nadia's story proves anything, records are made to be broken, and we can only hope that the person who breaks her record will come from her and Bart's school!

New elements
An element is a name for a move in gymnastics. Nadia is renowned for creating so many different new elements in the sport, that experts still study videos of her routines in order to make young competitors capture some of her glory. She is simply one of a kind.

Sports are shaped over time by their participants, and athletes are constantly trying to push the bar and break previous records - but Nadia's influence over her field is truly one of a kind.

It’s a way of life
Many people think that athletes can’t wait to let go after their career. But in Nadia's case, that's simply not true. Nadia wasn't participating in the sport lifestyle just so she could get it over with - for her, that was always the way she had wanted to live. Nowadays, she never eats processed food and watches her calorie intake religiously. Her health is extremely important to her. In one interview, she said that she hasn’t eaten French fries in over 25 years!

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Still in shape
Even today, Nadia always works out at least once a day. She says this keeps her mind fresh and allows her to focus on the tasks at hand. Unlike before, when she trained up to 8 hours every day, she now prefers high-intensity workouts that last about 30 minutes. At the age of 56, it’s more than impressive, and she is still in better shape than many people half her age!

Perhaps this intense approach to training is what has allowed her to succeed in the business world as well.

Salata de Vinete
So what does a health and sports professional who really cares about her body and what she eats make at home?

Nadia’s favorite dish, called Salata de Vinete, is super healthy and originates in her home land of Romania. It’s basically a mixture of roasted and pureed eggplants and onions, along with many different spices. A classic balkan dish, it is both healthy and provides a taste of home, and Nadia prepares it for her, her husband and her child from time to time.

Using her voice for good
When the gymnastics world championships were held in Montreal in 2017, the organization asked Nadia to be a spokesperson for the event. The symbolic gesture is nothing short of amazing, as the legendary Nadia scored the only perfect ten back in 1976 in Montreal. Nadia, of course, accepted the offer and was happy to go back to the place where it all started. Who would have thought that so many decades later, that young gymnast would be able to return?

Article was originally published on our site

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