Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I was about my son's age when, during the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Quebec, 14yo Romanian Nadia Comaneci made history by scoring the first perfect 10 ever (that's 10.0! The scoreboards weren't even set up to display it correctly!) in an Olympic gymnastics routine. Nadia went on to score six more perfect 10's and win seven gold medals during those Games. At that time, she was the youngest gymnast ever to compete. Nadia and her Romanian teammates inspired millions, gained fans worldwide, and raised the bar on gymnastics forever.

I always wondered what happened to Nadia after the Olympics. When I visited Romania a few years ago, the students I was meeting with sought common ground by asking if I knew of her, but she was actually before their time--they were not yet born in 1976. Recently, though, I came upon a fact-based TV movie about Nadia's life before, during, and after the Games, and found fresh inspiration. The movie is called simply Nadia, and I haven't checked other sources but it is at least available via Netflix.

Nadia was recruited by her coach, Bela Karolyi, at a young age, and shortly thereafter determined that she wanted to be a champion. Her coach was equally determined to make her one. They were both tough-minded and focused, which was a winning combination through the Olympics. Within weeks of their return to Romania, however, several factors led to the entire team being removed from Coach Bela and moved to the national gymnastics team in Bucharest (Romania's capital). In the midst of the turmoil that followed, it became clear that Nadia was completely dependent on Coach Bela. He had developed her into an incredible champion, but she had no understanding of why he demanded the sacrifices he did. In Bucharest Nadia struggled not only with her sudden and unexpected fame (by nature she was a quiet, shy, sober girl), but also with controlling her diet, training herself, relating to both old and new teammates, defining what a new personal best would be in gymnastics, and processing stressful family issues. In an amazing finale before her retirement, Nadia was reunited with her coach. They both worked hard to free her from dependence on him, and she made a great comeback at the World Games in Ft. Worth, Texas.

This fuller story of Nadia's life inspired me to acknowledge, again, my dependence on my Coach. Without Him, I am clueless. All He asks me to do is love, and yet without His guidance I am often baffled at how to do that. Nadia's story also breathed fresh energy into my desire to freely be the "champion" He created and sacrificed Himself for me to be.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.  --Ephesians 2:10

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