In 1976, I was almost three years old, but I remember her absolutely. Standing there in stunning glory, so poised and so magnificent. PERFECT 10. NadiaComăneci was my first girl heroine, inspiring my belief in the power of girls to change the world.

Nadia was just fourteen that summer when she won three gold medals in the Olympics — the first gymnast ever, let alone from Romania. I was never much of a gymnast, but her humility, grace, and seemingly magical performance inspired my romantic character. I saw triumph of will, not sheer driving competition. When Nadia won again in 1980, I was better able to digest the magnitude of her repeated greatness, reinforcing in my mind that girls can do things no one expects of them, more than once. Nadia was not only an inspiration for the sport, but my first inkling of political awareness as well. The revelations of cold wars and iron curtains were beginning to breach my consciousness.

Maybe it was some sort of cosmic connection. Her dark eyes full of pride and pain were imprinted on my toddler brain, and I would see these eyes again, in the mirror and on other girls around — the intelligence and grace to make something from seemingly little through hard work, sacrifice and fortitude. While the Olympics have not held my attention for decades, if I catch a glimpse of girls’ gymnastics, I am a child again and feel myself swell with tears.

-Ashley E. Remer

For more information, check out Nadia’s fan page.

Visit us tomorrow to find out about a heroine who was made a saint.

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