Nadia Comaneci, of Romania, became Montreal’s sweetheart in 1976 when she won three gold medals, one silver and a bronze during the Olympic Games.
She won gold for uneven bars, artistic individual all-around and the balance beam; she won silver for artistic team all-round and bronze for floor exercise.
But Comaneci is also known for something else: she is the first woman to score a perfect 10 in the history of Olympic gymnastics.
Comaneci, who was just 14-years-old at the time, recorded her first perfect 10 on July 18, 1976 for her performance on the uneven bars.
She went on to record six other perfect scores during the Montreal Olympics.
It’s been 40 years since she dominated the floor, and on Thursday she returned to Montreal to commemorate her achievements.
“It feels like it’s been in a different lifetime for me, when I watch me when I was 14,” Comaneci said.
“I didn’t understand what happened at the time because I was too young.”
“As the time goes by, I treasure what happened more and more.”
Comaneci wasn’t done with Montreal after the Olympics: she returned to live in the city in 1989 after fleeing Romania on the eve of its revolution.
“I had a lot of friends, and it’s a big Romanian community here and I felt absolutely like home and I feel that when I come back,” she said.
Comaneci married gymnast and Olympic gold medalist Bart Conner in 1996.
The couple has a son named Dylan.
“At the time, I was doing gymnastics shows and exhibitions and I invited her to do some shows just to see if we could help her get back on her feet financially,” Conner said.
“When she left Romania, she left everything. It was during the time of communism. So we started becoming friends in 1989-1990.”
“I lived in Oklahoma and I had a gymnastics school and I said, ‘why don’t you come to Oklahoma?’ She came in September of 1991 and we’ve been together 25 years and married 20.”
The two now live in Oklahoma, where they operate a successful gymnastics academy with over 1,500 students.
When asked about the issue of doping in Olympic sports in light of the recent Russian track and field doping scandal, Comaneci said she does not recall widespread doping for the Montreal Games (she was just 14-years-old at the time).
“Even if there was something around, I couldn’t think about anything else except the balance on uneven bars,” she said.
Comaneci avoided commenting on the current Russian doping scandal, but Conner took a stronger stance.
“The entire Olympic brand is in jeopardy if they are not doing a very forceful job of trying to at least suppress – or keep out of the competition – athletes who choose to cheat,” he said.
Comaneci and her family will be heading to Rio for the Games in August.