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Jurnalul.ro Vechiul site Old site English Version Nadia Comăneci: One can achieve instant fame as an actor, or being born a princess, but to become an Olympic champion it takes a lot of work

Nadia Comăneci: One can achieve instant fame as an actor, or being born a princess, but to become an Olympic champion it takes a lot of work

18 Dec 2008   •   00:00
Nadia Comăneci: One can achieve instant fame as an actor, or being born a princess, but to become an Olympic champion it takes a lot of work

"Say It As It Is” Series of Interviews conducted by Marius Tuca

  • Marius Tucă: Going back to the book you wrote, you stated such simple and such true things at the same time. For instance: ”Dear friend, you may think this is all there is about fame and glory, but you are wrong. Winning is something extremely personal, so it may seem at times to not make sense. What was I supposed to understand at age 10 of this thing named glory? The only thought that stayed on was  <>, and after that, and after that again. My aim was to strengthen my body and soul to go beyond frustrations, fury, envy, so as to turn my body into a graceful instrument my mind would use unflinchingly with help from mental concentration and will.” "So, really, what was I to understand glory was, at age 10?”
Nadia Comăneci: I was not aware of these concepts when I was 10, I was not aware of them when I was 14. In fact, I was not aware of many things while I was performing as a gymnast. I became aware of them much later, after I quit the competition circuits.

  • Marius Tucă: That was when?
Nadia Comăneci: I officially retired in 1984. But the last competition I took part in was the Universiada in Bucharest, where I won five medals, in '81. But that came quite natural, since I was competing at home ...

  • Marius Tucă: And winning medals in Montreal came also natural, since you were in Montreal!
Nadia Comăneci: I wanted to compete in the Universiada organized in Bucharest, since I wanted to end my career with a competition at home. In fact, I wanted to end my career after the Moscow Olympiad.

  • Marius Tucă: You were turning then 20, and you still did not understand what fame and glory meant?
Nadia Comăneci: More or less. We were competing, and people were curious to find out things about gymnastics, about us. After the Montreal Olympics we took part in a competition in New Orleans. It was the first time when that hall was packed: 18,000 people came to see Nadia. So, that was my understanding of what fame and glory meant, for a very brief moment in time.

  • Marius Tucă: OK, but what about the 50,000 letters you received afterwards. What was that? I am not aware of any other sportsman or woman to have ever received that many letters after taking part in the Olympics.
Nadia Comăneci: Yeah, I had someone helping me with the mail, because I was unable to read them all.

  • Marius Tucă: And one would have needed years to read them all.
Nadia Comăneci: Yeah. What now, you found those letters too?

  • Marius Tucă: I found excerpts and they are great.
Nadia Comăneci: Most of them were marriage proposals.

  • Marius Tucă: And that was not part and parcel with your status of being famous?
Nadia Comăneci: Yeah. But that was really childish, as childish would have been to get married at 14.

  • Marius Tucă: Of course. But those letters don't they prove that ...
Nadia Comăneci: They prove that everybody was under the spell of television. Was şthe competition in Montrealţ not televised, they would not have known what I achieved there.

  • Marius Tucă: So, what did you make of those 50,000 letters? That all boys want to marry you? Did you not get how famous you were already in the world?
Nadia Comăneci: Well, it was kind of nice, wasn't it?

  • Marius Tucă: Naturally. Why are you peaking at my notes?
Nadia Comăneci: To see where you are getting!

  • Marius Tucă: I would like to read back to you parts from these letters. But first, tell me how you regarded these marriage proposals?
Nadia Comăneci: Funny.

  • Marius Tucă: And they were from all over the world, were they not?
Nadia Comăneci: Even now, when I go to various events and people ask for my autograph, they recall that moment in Montreal and tell me, in fact, tell my husband too: "You know, I had a crush on your wife!”. So it is all in the open.

  • Marius Tucă: Were you aware that you were so beautiful as to make so many people ask you to marry them?
Nadia Comăneci: No! It was what I did that made history and also the fact that most people were glued then to their television sets.

  • Marius Tucă: Nadia, but you were also beautiful. High level performance would not have warranted ...
Nadia Comăneci: No, they said I was cute, which is different from beautiful.

  • Marius Tucă: Your fame is still intact. You are still invited at events with may celebrities. How is this world you are a part of now?
Nadia Comăneci: I like being along people who did something important, at one point in their lives. That is because it takes a lot of work to achieve fame. What surprised me most was that an Olympic champion is a person praised by all celebrities. I believe this is so because one cannot turn into an Olympic champion over night. One can achieve instant fame as an actor, or being born a princess, but to become an Olympic champion it takes a lot of work, and I think this is what people understood. And I greatly appreciate the fact that people bow to the body of work that you put into your performance, even though you are not competing anymore.

  • Marius Tucă: And you feel that in all meetings you have this appreciation?
Nadia Comăneci: All the time. And there are a lot of events I take part in, along sports legends and Hollywood and music stars.

  • Marius Tucă: So, there is respect and mutual recognition in this type of relationship...
Nadia Comăneci: There is respect for people in sports, but mostly for those that become Olympic champions.

  • Marius Tucă: And how is this world? Is it interesting? Do you like meeting and talking to these people?
Nadia Comăneci: I like meeting sportsmen and women who are now competing and find out from them how is it like now. Most people, after the Olympics in Beijing, asked us about this newest experience, since NBC did a fantastic job at broadcasting the Olympics and most people watched the gymnastics and the swimming competitions.

  • Marius Tucă: Do you have friends in this world of celebrities?
Nadia Comăneci: Yes, but I do not abuse them. I mean that having the phone number of this or that celebrity does not mean that I call them every other day. When I travel to Los Angeles, for instance, I call friends in the film industry, to let them know we are there, taking part in an event, but we never abuse having known them at one point or another. At the end of the day, everybody is so busy working and minding their own business.

  • Marius Tucă: You travel a lot lately. When I called you, you were in Oklahoma, but then you went to Los Angeles, after that to Frankfurt, and now you are in Bucharest. You seem like living more in planes than at home.
Nadia Comăneci: This is true. I believe in the past six weeks I have been only five days at home. And from here I leave for New York, where I have half a day of meeting with the press; afterwards I have a meeting in Laureus; then I go to Oklahoma for two days; then I leave for Gran Rapids, where we do a gymnastics and skating show – a special TV program for the NBC – after which I leave for Chicago, and then for Los Angeles. And all that by the end of the year.

  • Marius Tucă: OK. so this is your schedule for the next two weeks. Give me some landmarks of your work in the past six weeks.
Nadia Comăneci: I started in Chicago, with shooting for a commercial in which many sports legends take part, like Ali, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Michael Phelbs, Mia Hamm – who is a female soccer player just retired; the commercial will air in December, but is in fact made for the Superbowl, which happens in late January or early February. I cannot say for what company we did the commercial, since this is still a secret.

  • Marius Tucă: How many cities do you visit in one year?
Nadia Comăneci: I go in two or three cities every week, while I am in the United States.

  • Marius Tucă: All right. And how about Europe and the rest of the world?
Nadia Comăneci: Last time I came to Europe and Romania was 12 days ago, when a new company opening its business here invited me to speak on "Performing beyond expectation.” So, it was speaking about going beyond your own limits.

  • Marius Tucă: What do you like most of all these things? To travel, give speeches, organize gymnastics shows?
Nadia Comăneci: I like them all. Each one of these is different, the people are different, the topics are too, and they all stimulate you and you always learn something new. We all tend to believe at some point that we got it, we know things, if not "it all.” But this is not so, and is nice to always find out new things. The toughest part is traveling, since one cannot beam oneself from one place to another, and one has to fly.

  • Marius Tucă: Did you get used with these long flights, 10-hour long?
Nadia Comăneci: A 10-hour long flight is really nothing. Last time I traveled it took me 20 hours: Oklahoma to Washington, Washington to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Bucharest.

  • Marius Tucă: How can you stand that? Given that you fly so frequently? If I would have to fly for 20 hours it is very likely I will stay at home for the next 20 years.
Nadia Comăneci: Well, it is a matter of self discipline. You tell yourself to sleep, you tell yourself to stay awake the next day, since people expect you to function properly, irrespective of your 20-hour long flight.

  • Marius Tucă: So, your self-discipline sand self-control stayed the same.
Nadia Comăneci: It stayed, yes.

  • Marius Tucă: Did you always have it, or was it something you taught yourself to achieve?
Nadia Comăneci: I believe I taught myself.

  • Marius Tucă: Or you already had it and took it to perfection through education?
Nadia Comăneci: Yes, one can say that too.