Norman, Oklahoma and Onesti, Romania have little in common. One is a small town off the I-35 Interstate highway in the middle of flat, wind-swept Oklahoma. The other nestles in the foothills of Romania’s Carpathian mountains. They are connected by an unlikely medium, and that is the most famous gymnast in history: Nadia Comaneci.
At the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Nadia scored the first perfect 10 ever awarded in Olympic competition. Then she got the second. Then the third. Over the course of the next few days, she would log seven unbeatable scores, a feat considered so inconceivable that the scoreboards had not been designed to accommodate it and at first, lacking sufficient digits, flashed up 1.0. She won three gold medals along the way, plus a silver and a bronze. And she did it all at the age of 14.
Onesti is where she started life, where she was born on November 12 1961, the daughter of a car mechanic who never owned a car. Norman is where one finds her today, working in modern gymnastics alongside her husband, another Olympic gold medallist, Bart Conner. But how she got from one to the other is a remarkable story, and it involves considerably more than gymnastics.
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