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Nadia Comaneci is an Oklahoman, and now a Hall of Famer too

OKLAHOMA SPORTS HALL OF FAME — Former Olympic gymnast among the 2013 honorees in the sports shrine of her home state.
By Mike Baldwin Published: January 15, 2013

When Nadia Comaneci travels the world, she's often asked where she lives. When she responds, “Oklahoma,” it's usually followed by “Why?”

Comaneci tells her story of how she married two-time Olympic gold medalist Bart Conner. She explains the couple remains active mentoring gymnasts and promoting youth fitness awareness.

The Romanian gymnast best known for scoring the first perfect 10 in Olympic competition is proud Oklahoma has become her second home.

“I tell people, ‘Have you ever been to Oklahoma? There are a lot of nice people there that do wonderful things,'” Comaneci said. “I asked (Lee Allan Smith) how many years you have to live in Oklahoma to be a citizen of this state. He said, ‘Twenty.' I've been here 22 years, thank you very much.”

Comaneci was among seven members of the 2013 Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame class announced at a luncheon Tuesday at the Jim Thorpe Museum. Honorees will be inducted in August.

Other 2013 inductees include: college basketball coach Bill Self Jr.; Thunder team chairman Clay Bennett; Olympic wrestler Wayne Baughman; former OU quarterback Jimmy Harris; OSU two-sport All-American John Henry Ward; and 1930s NFL running back LeRoy “Ace” Gutowsky.

Comaneci and Baughman answered questions on stage at Tuesday's luncheon. Both competed in the 1976 Games in Montreal. Baughman said women's gymnastics was one of few events he attended.

And he nearly missed Comaneci's perfect 10 on the uneven bars.

“I always leave early so I won't get caught in the crowd,” Baughman said. “We stopped at the rail to watch her compete. We turned to go out and heard the crowd go crazy. That's when we found out she scored the first perfect 10.”

Comaneci's “10” actually showed 1.0 on the scoreboard because officials didn't anticipate anyone earning a perfect score.

“The scoreboard not being ready electronically was part of it,” Comaneci said. “There were a lot of other gymnasts that had 10s after that. Nellie Kim, an Olympic champion from the former Soviet Union, got a 10 right after me in '76 but nobody talks about that.”

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