Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci scored the first ever perfect 10 in Olympic history on the uneven bars at the Summer Games in Montreal.
The International Federation of Gymnastics introduced a code of points to regulate scores in 1949. This allowed judges to determine a competitor’s overall score by taking into account such factors as the difficulty of the routine alongside deductions for poor form, execution, steps or other technical mistakes such as falls.
It had long been believed that a ‘perfect 10’ – a top score with no deductions – was impossible to achieve. Despite this, Czech gymnast Věra Čáslavská scored perfect 10s at the 1967 European Championships. It still seemed such an unlikely outcome, however, that the International Olympic Committee ordered a scoreboard for the Montreal Games that could only show up to 9.99.
This was a massive oversight. On 18 July, Nadia Comăneci achieved a score of 10.00 on the uneven bars. Unable to show this on the scoreboard, confusion resulted after a score of 1.00 was displayed. The announcer was consequently forced to inform the crowd and competitors that the 14 year-old Romanian gymnast had in fact achieved a perfect 10.
Comăneci achieved a further three 10s on the uneven bars and another three 10s on the balance beam in the 1976 Games. She won the gold medal for both the individual all-around competition and the balance beam, in addition to a silver and bronze for the team all-around and floor exercise. She still holds the record for being the youngest Olympic gymnastics all-around gold medallist, because current rules now require competitors to turn 16 in the same calendar year as the competition.