The 18-year-old dealt with death, injury, and a postponed Olympic dream. Now she’s this year’s all-around gymnastics champion.
“I felt I had done a good routine,” Comaneci said of the moment she finished on the uneven bars in the team competition, on the second day of the Montreal 1976 Games. “So, I didn’t care to watch the scoreboard because I thought I was going to get a 9.9 or something like that, which was good as a start. I was already thinking of the balance beam because once the score comes, the music comes on and then we had to march [to the next apparatus]. So I was putting that routine away and not paying attention to the scoreboard, until I heard the noise in the arena.” In one of the most celebrated technical lapses in history, the arena’s scoreboard struggled to deal with the diminutive Romanian’s brilliance. History recalls that OMEGA, the Olympic Games official timekeepers and scorers since 1932, had asked organisers before the 1976 Games whether the scoreboards needed updating to accommodate four digits. They were told it was not necessary.