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Bart Conner, Nadia Comaneci's Sports and Health Festival kicks off Friday

BY RJ YOUNG, For The Oklahoman Published: February 9, 2012
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Bart Conner was concerned about the state of Oklahoma's health and wellness. As a former Olympic gold medalist and world class gymnast, he felt compelled to help make Oklahoma fitter and stronger.

Talking about the merits of physical fitness and living a healthful lifestyle wasn't enough for Conner and his wife, three-time Olympic gold medalist Nadia Comaneci.

“I wanted to try to change the game a little bit,” Conner said. “I wanted to provide a little motivation for people to make healthier choices. I want to help rebrand Oklahoma as a place that cares about health and fitness.”

The couple envisioned carnival atmosphere involving family, health, sports and fun. They called it the Bart & Nadia Sports & Health Festival, which begins at 7 p.m. Friday in the Cox Convention Center with the Perfect 10 Challenge.

The challenge is one of the marquee events and newest addition to the festival. It features three women's collegiate gymnastics teams competing against each other: Iowa State, Southeast Missouri State and the No. 6 Sooners.

Sooners coach K.J. Kindler coached Iowa State for 14 years — including six as head coach — prior to her arrival at Oklahoma. She admitted the transition from Ames, Iowa, to Norman was difficult six years ago but less so now.

“In more recent years, it was more emotional for me because there were athletes that I recruited and coach that were on the team,” Kindler said. “It made it very difficult. But I've been able to separate myself from it a lot more.”

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BART & NADIA SPORTS & HEALTH FESTIVAL

* When: Friday-Sunday

* Where: Cox Convention Center

EVENTS

Perfect 10 Challenge

* When: 7 p.m., Friday, Cox Arena

* What: Women's collegiate competition featuring the No. 5 University of Oklahoma team, Iowa State and Southeast Missouri State.

* Admission: Adults are $10, children 12 and under are $5 per day, children 2 and under are free, university students with ID are $5.

Nadia Comaneci International Invitational

* When: 8 a.m., Friday-Sunday, Cox Arena

* What: Two gymnastics competitions for females of all ages. International competition (7 p.m., Saturday) features international elite gymnasts from the U.S., Romania, Great Britain and more.

* Admission: Adults are $10, children 12 and under are $5 per day, children 2 and under are free.

Bart Conner Invitational

* When: 5:30 p.m., Friday; 8:30 a.m., Saturday, Cox Center Exhibit Hall 1

* What: Gymnastics competition for males of all ages.

* Admission: Adults are $10, children 12 and under are $5 per day, children 2 and under are free.

2012 London Paralympic Games powerlifting qualifier

* When: 10 a.m., Saturday, Cox Center Exhibit Hall 2

* What: Lifters will try to qualify for the Paralympic Games in London. Athletes will bench press three lifts in hopes of setting marks that would put them in the top 20 in the world.

* Admission: Free

Oklahoma Indoor Archery state championship

* When: 9 a.m., Saturday-Sunday, Cox Center Expo 2

* What: Archers of all ages from Oklahoma will compete for the chance to be named Oklahoma State Champion.

* Admission: Free

RUNderground

* When: 12 p.m., Saturday, Cox Center

* What: A fun-run 5K in the Oklahoma City Underground. The race starts in the Cox Center on the first floor and participants run two laps through The Underground.

* Admission: Free

FREE ACTIVITIES

Health screenings and immunizations

* When: 9 a.m., Saturday

* What: Dental and physical fitness screenings will be available at booths inside the convention center for children. The Oklahoma Caring Van will provide free immunizations to children 18 years old and younger from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

World champion rope jumping exhibition

* When: 3 p.m., Saturday

* What: World champion rope jumper Peter Nestler will perform a demonstration. Nestler performs at 350 schools each year, while teaching kids about the benefits of a disciplined healthful lifestyle.

Shoot hoops with the Thunder Girls

* When: 9 a.m., Saturday

* What: Kids can shoot baskets at an inflatable pop-a-shot and on a sport-court with the Oklahoma City Thunder Girls.

Sooner junior activities

* When: 9 a.m., Saturday

* What: Fans can meet the Sooners' pom and cheer squads and have their picture taken with Boomer and Sooner while learning about fitness, nutrition and academics. Kids may try on Sooners football helmets and jerseys.

Fitness challenge

* When: 9 a.m., Saturday

* What: Children can compete in 10 activities and earn a Bart & Nadia Sports & Health Festival gold medal. Events include the OKC Thunder basketball challenge, OKC Baron hockey challenge and Chesapeake Energy Archery challenge.

Shoot the puck with the Barons

* When: 9 a.m., Saturday

* What: The Oklahoma City Barons Ice Girls will root on kids as they try to slap a puck into a dryer Saturday.

Teach me how to tumble

* When: 9 a.m., Saturday

* What: Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy staff will teach children about gymnastics disciplines, including tumbling, vaulting and parallel bars.

Row your boat

* When: 9 a.m., Saturday

* What: Attendants can simulate kayaking or rowing in a machine and watch the Indoor Kayak Championships in the convention center.

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