Nadia Comaneci and her husband Bart Conner are one couple who have made a mark in the athletic world as gymnasts while pursuing their individual careers. Comaneci began gymnastics quite early; she recalls that as a young girl growing up in the small village of Onesti, Romania, she had so much energy jumping on the couch and every furniture in the house such that her mother decided to look for a place where could spend the energy and the perfect place she thought of was gymnastics classes; if that is not fate, I don’t know what else it is.
At the age of six, Béla Károlyi, a Romanian-American gymnastics coach spotted her and she would become one of the first students in his gymnastics school. Two years later, she took part in the Romanian National Championships for the first time and took the thirteenth position. The following year, she won the championship and became the youngest gymnast ever to win in the championship.
In 1975, thirteen-year-old Comaneci broke records at the European Championships held in Skien, Norway, by winning gold medals on every event she took part in except the floor exercise, where she took the silver medal. Although this was her first major international exposure, the United Press International named her their “Female Athlete of the Year”.
By the end of the 1976 Olympics, Comaneci could boast of 3 gold medals, 1 silver, 1 bronze, and 7 perfects 10s and in a single week, she graced the covers of Sports Illustrated, Newsweek and Time magazine.
Bart Conner’s career story is a bit different from that of his wife; his parents didn’t have to send him off somewhere to channel his energy as a child but he started off his career quite early too. He first got involved with gymnastics in his school’s gymnastics team at Niles West High School. He was a member of the U.S men’s gymnastics team that represented the nation at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games held in Los Angeles, California. That year, Conner left the tournament with two gold medals.
Below are other facts you should know about the retired gymnasts including how they met and what they are currently into.
6 Things to Know About Nadia Comaneci and Husband – Bart Conner
1. Age Difference
The age difference between the Olympic gold medalists is three years; Conner was born in Morton Grove, Illinois, U.S.A on the 28th of March 1958, and Nadia was born in the Romania city of Onești on the 12th day of November 1961. Comaneci began her career in Romania but had to defect to the U.S in 1989.
2. Their Meeting was Destined
Following the difficulty in her country under the repressive regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu, her coaches Béla and Marta Károlyi defected to the US during her 1981 US tour. Returning to Romania, she faced a more difficult situation as she was prevented from moving around freely. Thus, in 1989, just weeks before the fall of Ceausescu, Nadia, and six other gymnasts managed to find their way across the border of Hungary to Austria and finally to the U.S.
Nadia Comaneci recalled meeting Conner for the first time on a bus during her 1981 tour. After reuniting on a talk show in 1990, Conner reminded the Romania gymnast that they met for the first time at the Madison Square Garden in 1976 during the Montreal games. He also reminded her that he had kissed her on the cheek at the suggestion of a photographer and that the photo had appeared on the New York Times that year. He showed her a copy of the photo as a proof and to also refresh her memory.
A few months later, Nadia Comaneci invited Bart Conner to her 29th birthday party and afterward, they became very close friends. They eventually did take their friendship to the next level and after four years together, they got engaged.
3. Live Televised Wedding
Conner and Comăneci tied the knots on April 27, 1996, in a lavish two-day ceremony in Bucharest which had 1,500 guests in attendance and was televised live throughout Romania.
Nadia Comaneci revealed in an interview years later that her wedding ceremony was very emotional for her; not just because she saw her mom but getting to see an entire country she had left behind, she recalls that asides those who were on the guest list, there were 10,000 people on the street, people practically didn’t go to work that day. “It was emotional to see how people care about you”, she added.
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4. Comaneci and Conner are Proud Parents
The couple welcomed their son named Dylan Paul Conner on the 3rd of June 2006. Conner named his son Paul after his coach, longtime business partner, and friend Paul Ziert. Paul is a former gymnastics coach that worked with the University of Oklahoma. His team won the NCAA Men’s Gymnastics championship in 1977 and 1978.
5. Gymnastics Academy
Bart Conner and Nadia Comaneci run the Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy in Norman, Oklahoma. They are also involved with Perfect 10 Productions, Inc., Grips, and International Gymnast magazine.
They have equally done TV commentary; Conner has done mainstream TV coverage for ESPN, ABC, etc, he has also starred in two gymnastics movies, Peaceful Warrior and Stick It as himself.
6. Involvement with Special Olympics
The couple are in partnership with one of the world’s largest sports organization – The Special Olympics which are saddled with the responsibility of providing year-round training and competitions to over five million children and adults around the world with intellectual disabilities.