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Montreal 1976 - Key Moments

Nadia Comaneci: the fairy of Montreal

Standing 1.53m tall and weighing only 40kg, a young girl with pigtails cast a spell over 500 million television viewers during the Montreal Games. This particular Romanian would go on to leave her name imprinted on the annals of Olympic history - Nadia Comaneci.

Despite being only 14 years old, the little dark-haired girl with dark serious eyes already had a solid experience of gymnastics, having trained hard for at least three hours every day since the age of six. Awarded three gold medals and one silver at the European Championships only a few months before the Games, her strength and control made her one of the definite candidates for success in Montreal in the presence of the previously "untouchable" Soviet stars of the floor and apparatus.

Seven tens

During the competition, Comaneci went on to enchant the public, and more so, the panel. The judges made Olympic history by awarding seven perfect "10's" for her performance - a maximum score that had never before been given.

On the uneven bars, her performance was enthralling, ending with a potentially-dangerous dismount consisting of a backward somersault with a half turn. She was given 20 out of 20 - a first perfect score for this apparatus.

Yet if dangerous manoeuvres had the crowd on the edge of their seats, her team certainly did not notice. Romanian team officials were so confident of her performances that they did not bother to look at the scoreboard. Comaneci even managed to send the computer haywire since it had not been programmed to display such scores. After her performance on the bars, Comaneci recomposed herself to prepare for a more difficult event, the balance beam. Only 10cm wide, Comaneci gave the impression that she was going for a stroll. Defying the laws of gravity, she received a score of 19.95.

Soviets in tears

The two remaining pieces of apparatus proved less favourable, but at this stage it mattered little. Fourth place in the vault, the first event of the day, and a bronze in the floor exercises to finish off were enough to hand her the overall competition title. Her total score of 79.275 out of a possible 80 left her with an impressive margin.

Due to her performance, her opponents were left to fight for the remaining medals. The Soviet Nelli Kim, despite two "10's" and second place overall, was beaten, as well as her compatriot, Ludmila Turischeva, who had to settle for the bronze. Both Soviet competitors were unable to hide their disappointment and tears were inevitably shed following the competition.

As if by magic, the young gymnast, originally from Moldavia, gave a whole new dimension to the world of women's gymnastics in receiving seven separate perfect "10" scores.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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