Forty-five years ago, Nadia Comăneci made Olympics history. At only 14 years old, Comăneci became the first person to score a perfect 10 in gymnastics at the Olympics. The incredible milestone happened at the 1976 Montréal games, and it was really just the start of an illustrious Olympic career to come. Comăneci went on to get six more perfect 10s in Montréal and win three gold medals. Four years later, at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the Romanian gymnast got two perfect 10s and won two more gold medals, bringing her grand total to five. She also has three Olympics silver medals and one bronze.
Comăneci is definitely an Olympic legend, and now, she’s excited about the 2021 games starting up. While she’s getting ready to watch a new generation of gymnasts achieve their Olympics dreams, let’s take a look at where Comăneci is today.
When Comăneci scored her first perfect 10 on the uneven bars at the 1976 Olympics, it was so unexpected that the scoreboard did not even have a way of properly indicating it. For so long the top scores had been 9-point-something that the scoreboard only could show three digits (ex. 9.95). So, when Comăneci received a 10, the score had to be shown as 1.00.
But, while it was unlikely for any gymnast to be given a perfect 10, Comăneci earned six more during those games, and Soviet gymnast Nellie Kim also received two. “Nobody told me that a perfect 10 was never scored in Olympic history, so I just went to do what I was meant to do and whatever I trained to do,” Comăneci said in an interview with CBC Sports in 2017.
Today, the perfect 10 no longer exists due to the scoring in Olympics gymnastics changing altogether in 2006.
Comăneci’s life changed in two huge ways in the ’80s. She retired from gymnastics in 1984 at the age of 22 with a special ceremony and exhibition routines. “I regret that from now on I will never know the excitement of competition,” she said at the time, according to the New York Times. “I’m sorry I will never compete again.”
Five years later, Comăneci made another big decision by defecting to the United States prior to Romania’s revolution.
After she moved to the United States, Comăneci reunited with Bart Conner, a gymnast who had been on the U.S. Olympic team in 1984 and had won two gold medals himself. Conner and Comăneci had previously met in 1976, when he won the men’s title and she won the women’s at the American Cup. They even took a photo in which Conner kissed her cheek. “The photographer said, ‘Oh, she’s adorable. Give her a kiss on the cheek, it’d make a nice picture,'” Conner later said on Oprah: Where Are They Now? (via People).
After becoming friends first, Comăneci and Conner started dating, and in 1996 they got married in Bucharest. (Comăneci was allowed to go back to Romania, which was no longer communist.) Conner and Comăneci welcomed a son, Dylan, in 2006.
Comăneci and Conner co-own the Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy in Oklahoma where they live. They also own International Gymnast magazine, Perfect 10 Productions, and Grips, Etc., a gymnastics supply company, according to their website. In Romania, Comăneci started the Nadia Comăneci Foundation and the Nadia Comăneci Children’s Clinic, which provides healthcare for children in need. Comăneci wrote her memoir, Letters to a Young Gymnast, in 2004.
In addition to all of that, the now 59-year-old gymnast has also worked as an analyst and commentator for several gymnastics competitions, including the Olympics. One look at her Instagram shows just how excited she is for this year’s games.