Fields: Sports Key Words/Phrases: gymnast, gymnastics
Comaneci, Nadia (1961- ), Romanian gymnast, a favorite of fans and the media at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montréal, Canada, where she won three gold medals and a bronze in individual competition and a silver team medal. Born in Onesti, Romania, Comaneci was noticed by renowned Romanian gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi (who later emigrated to the United States) when she was six years old. Karolyi recruited her for the Romanian junior gymnastics team, and in 1970 she won the national junior championship. Comaneci continued winning in her age group and collected other junior titles until she began senior competition in 1975, when she entered the European championship, winning the overall title and three individual events. In 1976 Comaneci came to North America for the first time and won several pre-Olympic titles while often earning perfect scores for her routines. At the Olympics she became the first gymnast to receive a perfect score from the judges, earning a 10.00 on the uneven bars. She led Romania to the silver medal in the team competition, behind the Soviet Union, and then took the individual gold medals on the uneven bars and the balance beam, while also winning the overall individual competition. She went on to compete in the 1980 Moscow Olympics (boycotted by Western nations), winning individual gold medals in the floor exercises and on the balance beam. In 1989 she defected from Romania to the United States.