Stejarel Olaru, Alistair Ian Blyth
Nadia Comaneci is the Romanian child prodigy and global gymnastics star who ultimately fled her homeland and the brutal oppression of a communist regime. At the age of just 14, Nadia became the first gymnast to be awarded a perfect score of 10.0 at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games and went on to collect three gold medals in performances which influenced the sport for generations to come, cementing Nadia’s place as a sporting legend.
However, as the communist authorities in Romania sought an iron grip over its highest-profile athletes, Nadia and her trainers were subjected to surveillance from the Securitate, the Romanian secret police. Drawing on 25,000 secret police archive pages, countless secret service intelligence documents, and numerous wiretap recordings, this book tells the compelling story of Nadia’s life and career using unique insights from the communist dictatorship which monitored her.
Nadia Comaneci and the Secret Police explores Nadia’s complex and combustible relationship with her sometimes abusive coaches, Béla and Marta Károlyi, figures who would later become embroiled in the USA Gymnastics scandal. The book addresses Nadia’s mental struggles and 1978 suicide attempt, and her remarkable resurgence to gold at the Moscow Olympics in 1980. It explores the impact of Nadia’s subsequent withdrawal from international activity and reflects on burning questions surrounding the heart-stopping, border-hopping defection to the United States that she successfully undertook in November 1989. Was the defection organised by CIA agents? Was it arranged on the orders of President George Bush himself? Or was Nadia aided and abetted by some of the very Securitate officers who were meant to be watching the communist world’s most lauded sporting icon? What is revealed is a thrilling tale of endurance and escape, in which one of the world’s greatest gymnasts risked everything for freedom.