She was a hero. Her talent made her the ‘gymnast 10’ while being spied on by the dictator Ceausescu and subjected to humiliating training.
Nadia Comaneci, a petite girl of just 40 kilos and 14 years old, dressed in a white jersey, red bow and ponytail, appears on stage at the Montreal Forum. It’s July 18, 1976. After an immaculate 30-second exercise on uneven bars, the board lights up a puzzling score: 1.00. The astonished public protests while a judge cries. Confusion reigns … until everything is cleared up. The marker is not set to give a two-digit note before the decimals, since until then the maximum score never exceeded 9.95. But Nadia did. The 1.00 was actually a 10.00, the first in women’s gymnastics.
After that insurmountable note, Comaneci would repeat another two 10 and two golds individually and on the balance beam plus a bronze on the floor and a silver on the team. His movements were perfect; his double back mortal, spectacular; its elasticity and subtlety, charming. His look was sad, but he always smiled.
Four years would elapse until the next Games. I welcomed them Moscow in 1980 with the USSR as the only superpower, absent the United States due to boycott. The Romanian girl with a fragile figure who had fallen in love with the world in Montreal had grown, gained height, weight. The Soviets longed to see Nadia dethroned. ANDn his first exercise, the asymmetrical parallels, he suffered a clumsy fall to the ground. The public was hostile; the judges, too. Her detractors already smelled the blood and quickly discredited her.
But just a day later On the balance beam, the Romanian silenced all criticism: gold and 10 on the balance beam. And even more: gold and 10 on the ground. It would close its passage through the ‘inhospitable’ Moscow city with paths silver as a team and individually. And, up to here, an apparent history of glory and successes wrote its last chapter. Nadia would hang up the leotard and the world forgot about that prodigious gymnast … until the night of November 27, 1989. Guided by a sheep herder, she walks across the border from Romania to Hungary. From there it reaches Austria, where ask for asylum at the United States embassy. Days later he would travel to American soil to be free. The fairy tale vanished and a harsh reality came to light: while the world admired her, the communist regime of her country and the Securitate, the political police of the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, spied on her and controlled her for fear that she would desert.
After the tens and medals, the humiliation and physical punishment to which her coach Bela Karolyi and his wife Marta subjected her were also uncovered.: hitting when she made a mistake in the exercises, slapping her when she gained a few grams, whole days without eating … The price she paid to become the ‘perfect gymnast’ was high, very high.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.