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Perfect 10 memories of Nadia Comaneci

Editor’s note: Tom Ecker of Cedar Rapids is an Olympic historian

By Tom Ecker, correspondent

I’ve been invited to a big party Saturday night at the V.I.P. Lounge of the Copacabana Palace Hotel in downtown Rio.

The invitation says the V.I.P. Lounge will be open exclusively for Visa card members and up to three guests. Since Visa is an official Olympic sponsor and is the only credit card accepted at Olympic venues, I wonder how exclusive the party will be.

Besides offering Brazilian-themed food and cocktails, there will be the opportunity to meet and talk with Nadia Comaneci, the Romanian gymnast who starred in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. You may remember Comaneci was the first gymnast in Olympic history to score a perfect 10. She went on to score six more 10s before the competition was over.

The perfect scores were so unexpected, the sophisticated state-of-the-art electronic scoreboard, which experts had said could do anything, could not register a score higher than 9.99. Comaneci’s 10.00 scores appeared as 1.00. When her first perfect 10 was flashed on the scoreboard as 1.00, Comaneci turned to her coach and said, “That’s not so good.”

After the competition was over, a journalist asked Comaneci if she planned to retire.

“I’m only 14,” she responded.

After winning two more gold medals and two silvers in the 1980 Games in Moscow, Comanci defected from Romania and ended up in the United States. She married U. S. gymnast Bart Conner in 1996 and became a U.S. citizen five years later.

She and her husband now travel the world, promoting their charities, healthy lifestyles and fitness. And of course meeting with me in the V.I.P Lounge of the Copacabana Hotel on Saturday night.

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