"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."On this day in 1976, Nadia Comaneci was the first female gymnast to be awarded a perfect 10 in an olympic event. Her story was something I grew up with just knowing. I was six that year, and probably watched the Olympics, although I don't really have any clear memories of it.
Rewatching the video now, I'm struck by her grace, her poise, her calm confidence. While I have never been a gymnast myself, I have always admired the sheer athleticism required.
Throughout the 1976 Olympic, Nadia earned seven perfect 10 scores, and her opponent Nellie Kim earned two.
Although retired from competing, she has remained active in the world of gymnastics. While she was living in Romania, she worked with their national junior gymnastics program. Romania at this time was run by an oppressive regime, and there were many defections during the 80s. Nadia was closely guarded, and it wasn't until the late-80s that she was able to escape. She made her way to the U.S. and then to Canada. There was some drama around her relationship with the man who helped her escape, and some concerns that he was controlling and possibly abusing her. With the help of her former coach, the infamous Bela Károlyi, she was able to get away from him.
In 1996, she married American gymnast Bart Conner, and the couple now has a son. Since the fall of communism, she has returned to Romania several times, and has set up several charity organizations, as well as taking a leadership role in the national gymnastics program.
In the U.S., she was invited to be a speaker at the U.N., and is the current president of the Special Olympics. In the past, she has been hired as a color commentator for gymnastic events, and I sincerely hope she is invited to the 2012 Olympics in London next month."I believe that you should gravitate to people who are doing productive and positive things with their lives."