Perfect 10 for Nadia – July, 18 1976
Nadia Comaneci scored a perfect 10, competing on the uneven bars at the Montreal Olympics; July 18, 1976. A few months shy of her 15th birthday, barely five feet tall, and weighing in at 88 pounds (soaking wet); the tiny Roumanian gymnast in addition to memorizing the judges, stole the hearts of an international audience that numbered in the hundreds of millions.
However not everybody was so impressed. The Washington Post reported that:
Russian coach Larissa Latynina, upset at the prospect of Comaneci’s stealing the thunder from Soviet stars Ludmila Tourischeva and Olga Korbut, was critical of the judges decision. “I question the performance,” she said, shaking her head in disgust. “1 can see a 9.5, but it should not have been a 10. There Were some flaws. It was not perfect.” “I knew it would come out well and I was very glad,” Nadia said through an interpreter. The Russian’s Olga Korbut, darling of the 1972 Munich games, questioned Comanci’s perfect mark, first in modern Olympic history but Nadia’s 17th. “I question the 10.0 that was given because there were two flaws in the performance,” said Korbut, vying with Nadia for both meals and popularity.
Knowledgeable gymnastics fans were not the least bit surprised by Comaneci’s performance. At the 1975 European Championships, at Skien, Norway. she won four gold medals and a silver. She also introduced the world to a new dismount on the uneven parallel bars, which the International Gymnastics Federation officially named “The Comaneci Come Down”.
After Comaneci nailed her perfect 10, Omega showed a 1.00.
The Swiss company Omega has had responsibility for the timing and scoring of Olympic events since 1932. Before the 1976 Games they contacted the International Olympic Committee with a question about the scoreboards they were constructing for the gymnastics. Would it be better, they asked, to replace the traditional boards, which had room for three digits such as, say, 9.50, or 9.85, with one that could display four digits, such as 10.00?
“I was told, ‘a 10.00 is not possible,'” recalls Daniel Baumat, now the director of Swiss Timing, which like Omega is part of the Swatch Group. “So we only did three digits.”
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