Nadia Comaneci racked up airline miles last week, appearing at the Laureus World Sports Awards in Shanghai last Wednesday and the Tribeca Film Festival in New York on Friday, as she is the subject of a documentary.
The nine-time Romanian Olympic gymnastics medalist and first woman to score a perfect 10 at the Olympics discussed the sport today with OlympicTalk at the debut of her film, “Eternal Princess,” directed by Katie Holmes.
OlympicTalk: What’s changed with Romanian gymnastics, recently falling behind the U.S. and Russia?
Comaneci: It’s always the four big powers. The place has shifted, because the U.S. right now is dominating the world of gymnastics. But, you know, it’s always the U.S., China, Romania and Russia. When you think about it, in the United States, there are about four million kids who do gymnastics. In Romania, I think we have a total of 500 in the entire country. So, it’s a big base here [in the U.S.]. And 2,500 clubs to do gymnastics. That’s a lot to choose from.
OlympicTalk: What do you think of Simone Biles?
Comaneci: I don’t think anybody can top her right now, because she’s really, really, really good. It just has to do with how healthy she will stay, because it’s one more year until the Olympics. That’s still a long time.
OlympicTalk: Mary Lou Retton said Biles “may be the most talented gymnast” she’s ever seen. Do you agree?
Comaneci: I think she’s the best tumbler and [performing] more difficult gymnastics than we’ve seen. With how much ease she does the vault and the floor, and the difficulty she does there, it’s almost equal with what the guys are doing right now.
Editor’s Note: Biles does a Yurchenko with 2 1/2 twists on vault (an Amanar, which other women do). The most difficult version of that vault being done by a man is the Yurchenko with three twists. On floor, Biles opens with a double layout with a full twist. The hardest version of this skill from the men is the double layout with a double twist, which has been done by many men and for a while, according to USA Gymnastics.
OlympicTalk: Can [Romanian World all-around silver medalist] Larisa Iordache challenge Biles?
Comaneci: I think she can challenge her, because she’s good enough on four events. It’s the same thing, she needs to [stay] healthy to be able to compete.
OlympicTalk: When was the last time you were in Deva [the gymnastics capital of Romania]?
Comaneci: I was there a few years ago. It’s changed, but it’s still the mecca of preparation there. That’s where the gymnasts come from.
OlympicTalk: If you could change one rule in gymnastics, what would it be?
Comaneci: I would bring back the [perfect] 10 [scoring system].
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