If ya all remember, the pretty Mary Lou Retton who catapulted to international fame via women’s gymnastics at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Let me recap the final breathtaking moments of the story… As the nerves were tense, the competitors and the Olympic audience were quiet… the tiny gymnast prepared for her final vault. The 16-year-old was coming off of a serious knee injury into the final event and was trailing the favored Ekaterina Szabo of Romania by .05 points. Ekaterina Szabo who had experience, skill, variety and dared to take chances on the uneven bars and vault was up against the charming calm and accuracy of young Retton.
The world saw two of the best in their own ways go head to head. It all came down to a perfect 10 on the vault that would give Mary Lou Retton the gold medal. Her years of training and dreaming came down to this one final routine. She went down runway and nailed her vault, earning a perfect 10; becoming the first American woman to win an individual medal in Olympic gymnastics. In 1993, almost 10 years after her Olympic feats, an Associated Press national survey named her the “Most Popular Athlete in America.”
Going a little back in history I will talk about a bigger hero… The one who created the world interest in women gymnastic to make it as one of the two most anticipated meets at the Olympics (100 m sprint being the other). Nadia Elena Comaneci of Romanian; winner of five Olympic gold medals, and the first gymnast to be awarded a perfect score of 10 in an Olympic gymnastic event ever (Montreal 1976), is undoubtedly one of the best-known gymnasts in the world. At the age of 14, Comaneci became the star of the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.
During the team portion of the competition, her routine on the uneven bars was scored at a 10.0. It was the first time in modern Olympic gymnastics history that the score had ever been awarded. The scoreboards were not even equipped to display scores of 10.0—so Nadia’s perfect marks were reported on the boards as 1.00 instead. Nadia believed it was 1.0 and was very upset, but she soon realized her true score. She scored 6 more perfect 10’s that day, making it 7 in all. Nadia’s Olympic performance made her a national hero in Romania. The first Romanian gymnast to win the all-around title at the Olympics, she became the youngest Romanian to ever be awarded the Gold Medal of a Hero of the Socialist Party.
Nadia Comaneci changed gymnastics forever and she is the one looked up to throughout the world to this day.