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Letters to a Young Gymnast

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  602 ratings  ·  54 reviews
If there were such a thing as an "elder" stateswoman in women's gymnastics today, Nadia Comaneci would win that title as readily as she once won gold medals. Olga Korbut came before her, and many other medalists would follow, but none has ever been as dominant in winning the hearts of millions around the world. With grit and determination, Nadia Comaneci ushered in a new e ...more
Hardcover, 180 pages
Published December 25th 2003 by Basic Books (first published 2003)
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
For me, this sets the record straight. While this is an inspirational book, and is intended to be so, what I get from it is a better understanding of the story of two incredible people, Nadia and her famous coach Bela Karolyi. I cannot think of one without the other.

I only catch Nadia and Bela every four years when I watch the Summer Olympics. Their stories are intriguing and each has had their share of good and bad press. I love Bela's enthusiasm for the sport and his gymnasts and wonder at the
Aug 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Nadia Comaneci stole the world's hearts in the 1976 summer Olympic Games when she came out of nowhere to score the first ever perfect 10...and then six more. In Letters to a Young Gymnast, Comaneci writes as if she is replying to a pen pal's questions about her life. From her early childhood in the tiny village of Onesti, Romania climbing trees, to being spotted doing cartwheels by Bela Karolyi. To her intense training and sheltered life, to the Olympics (just another competition in her eyes), t ...more
Feb 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I love reading autobiographies. Nadia was my childhood idol, I spent many hours watching the movie of her life over and over. This was a great read, I walked away deeply moved learning the truth about her life. Reading the truth about her life was very sad and humbling. We often forget how much we have living in America.
Courtney Kirshe
Jan 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
The autobiography “Letters to a Young Gymnast” by Nadia Comaneci is the story of her life in the gymnastics world. I loved this book because I can sort of relate because I am a gymnast too. The part I can most relate to is the hard and grueling practices. But the part that helped me was how to get through things and I think that, that is the message she is trying to send throughout the book. Nadia’s life is very interesting. The part that I found the most fascinating is how she stumbled upon t ...more
May 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Nadia Comaneci was the first gymnast to ever receive a perfect 10 score in Olympic gymnastics in 1976 at the Olympics in Montreal, Canada. She was a fourteen year old elite Romain gymnast. She became famous because she caught the hearts and minds of the world through her daring and magnificent skills and routines. Once the 1976 Olympics was over Nadia had won seven perfect 10s, 3 gold medals, 1 silver, and one bronze. Then at the 1980 Moscow Olympics Nadia earned two more gold medals and two mor ...more
Mar 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Amazing, thought- provoking, inspiring!!! I loved every bit of it!!!
Maggie B.
May 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The book “Letters to a young gymnast” by Nadia Comaneci is such an inspiring and life-changing book. I learned about Nadia Comaneci for a project in school so my mom--who was a gymnast when she was little and was also inspired by Nadia--decided to get me this book for my birthday. She read it to me in 3rd grade and even at that age I loved the book, it taught me that if I work hard enough I can do anything. I kind of forgot I had the book and dug it up this year and decided to read it again. It ...more
Nov 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Letters to a Young Gymnast by Nadia Comaneci is a truly inspirational tale. Nadia started out in Onesti, Romania in a family that comped afford only the nessecities. She was doing club gymnastics at Flames when she was little. However, when Nada turned seven, her gymnastics was getting on expensive for her family you afford. She was told to find another, cheaper gym or quit. Little Nadia was refusing to quit but she couldn't find another gym. Just as she was about to give up hope, on a fateful d ...more
Aug 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: sports, gymnastics
With the recent gymnastics events from China, I became interested again in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal when Nadia Comaneci transformed the sport of women's gymnastics when she got 7 perfect "10's" for her events. Nadia was born in 1961, and I was interested to read about her life and what happened to her after she defected to the United States.

This book is very easy and quick read, but not terribly well written. It was good to remember the oppressive system under which she lived, and why defec

"People tend to think it is a catfight between gymnasts. What they don't understand is that everyone knows what their teammates are capable of doing in any event. It it not like you need to spy on them. Gymnasts accomplish the skills they perform in training. You cannot do more in a competition than you can in training... there are no big surprises... But the media like to play up rivalries and create heroes." (p101)

Ion Mihai Pacepa, former head of Romanian Intelligence (he was the highest ranki
Simon Zohhadi
Aug 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading Nadia Comaneci's autobiography. I would like to have given the book a higher rating; a perfect score would have fitted her perfect ten in the 1976 Montreal Olympics. I was 11 years old in 1976 and I was entranced by the 14 year old gymnast from Romania who won 3 Olympic Gold Medals and another 2 in 1980. She was probably the star of the Montreal Olympics. She became a global phenomenon but because of the restrictions imposed upon Nadia and all Romanians she was never able to en ...more
Mar 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Growing up watching the Olympics on TV, Nadia was a hero. It is interesting to see how she feels about her childhood, training, and how she was treated by her country and fans. As far as I could tell, Nadia wrote this book herself, not using someone else to transfer her memories to the written page. It was remarkably well written and poignant, even if English had been her first language (she learned English as an adult). Having recently read the autobiographies of American athletes, it is intere ...more
“Letters to a Young Gymnast - The Art of Mentoring” by Nadia Comaneci is an autobiography detailing her inspiring story from starting out as a young gymnast to the glory of not only winning Olympic Gold at the age of 14 but being the first gymnast in history to score a perfect 10! This is a lovely story of an extremely talented, determined, courageous and resilient athlete. It is a great read that I would recommend to gymnasts, parents of athletes, anyone interested in gymnastics and sports in g ...more
Jun 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Growing up my sister attended gymnastics class and watched a lot of gymnastics on TV. Since we were a one television household, I watched a lot as well.

Nadia was before our time but she will forever be a figurehead in competitive gymnastics. Nadia writes this autobiographical book like she is responding to a young gymnast asking her questions. It's a questionable tactic, but it gives Nadia's voice a chance to shine through.

It's a sad book. Her storytelling of her perfect 10's were anti-climatic
Nov 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Letters to a Young Gymnast by Nadia Comaneci, is a 180 pg. autobiography about her achievements, and her hard work. It started off with her being a young girl in Romania, and starting to take gymnastics. A gymnastics school found her, an wanted her to join the school. This book really shows how she evolves during her years as a gymnast. She was the first gymnasts to receive a perfect 10 at the Olympics. Through out the book, it talks about all the competitions she has gone to, the people she has ...more
Feb 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sports
It is an autobiography of Nadia Comaneci. Written in the form of letters to a young and upcoming gymnast, it offers a glimpse into the life of one of the most popular olympic stars. Her penury post olympics and restricted freedom in the then communist Romania and her defection to USA through Hungary and Austria makes for a moving narrative. She also intersperses her narrative with her most famous gymnastic routines.
Jul 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
I remember when 14 year old Nadia Comaneci scored the first perfect "10" in gymnastics at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, and repeated this feat 6 more times. Only 13 years old, there was no way I could have understood how being a young girl in Romania was any different than being a young girl in Canada. This is a very interesting read about her young life of training, her success as a gymnast and her defection to America.
Oct 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely lovely book. I felt as though I was with Nadia through the events she described in this book. As a parent whose (8yo) daughter has just gotten involved in competitive gymnastics, taking me completely by surprise, this book helped to reassure me. Nadia often gives the kind of advice that I would want my daughter to hear (the importance of eating enough, for a quick example) and she will be receiving a copy of this book for Christmas this year.
Charli Brown
Dec 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It was an amazing book. Nadia is my hero. I thought the writing was actually quite good, especially considering English wasn't her first language. I really admire her for so many things, but above all, her courage to defect. Some day, I want to do some of the skills she did, but for now, the Comaneci salto seems impossible!
Aug 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Nadia Comaneci is a remarkable woman who enjoys her craft. She does a beautiful job conveying what it meant to be an elite gymnast in Communist Romania. There are many articles and stories around about her life as a gymnast and later harrowing defection to the United States plus her marriage to Bart Conner, with a many mistakes. This small easy to read book is the truth in Nadia's own words.
May 22, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A fascinating account of the life of a famous gymnast. While I knew some about Nadia's life growing up, I really had no clue what happened after her gymnastics career ended. It was interesting to hear in her own words how she ended up where she is today. While some of the writing was a bit clunky. It was a fairly easy and quick read.
Bea Elwood
Mar 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindred-spirits
I had no idea. I watched clips of the Olympic competition on television a few years ago and remembered parts of an interview with Comaneci which made me interested in reading this book but I was really impressed with her story. Honestly told and reflective this is something I would recommend.
Jun 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, sports, gymnastics
Really interesting, though the format was a little unusual for me - the constant use of Friend throughout was jarring rather than intimate. I remembered the name though not anything else about her, and really enjoyed reading this book, and am glad she is happy.
Aug 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Although it almost feels like she's attacking the reader at times, Comaneci's autobiography answers questions about her life through the 1990s consistently and well enough while coming across as like a cathartic release process for the author at the same time.
Aug 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
If your really interested in Nadia Comeneci, I would definitely recommend this book. She tells you her whole ordeal of living in a communist country while trying to become a gymnast. I really enjoyed the book and the movie. Also it was a quick read.
Sep 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: my2012reads
I loved my gymnastics as girl. I had a Bart Conners poster in my room in the 80's. Scenes from Nadia the movie will forever be etched in my mind. And so I wanted to love this book....but the writing style was awkward and uncomfortable.
John Rapp
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Interesting and surprisingly deep. Covers her early life in Romania, her gymnastics career, her relationship with the Karolyis, life in Ceaușescus Romania, her defection, and her marriage to Bart Connor.
Michael Yundt
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book. I grew up admiring her for many reasons, and reading her words was like sitting with her over coffee as she told of her life. From a young child to an adult she is a remarkable woman and an inspiration to all.
Luiza Oroian
Clearly targeted at American audience.
As Romanian I find this book incomplete and vague or maybe dishonest in regards to some of the facts. I wouldn’t call it a biography, more like a PR stunt for the American public.
Mar 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
got this for a book report a while back, but i didn't use it, as it was too short. but it is a very interesting book detailing just how insanely hard she had to work.
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“Romanians have a saying, 'Not every dog has a bagel on its tail.' It means that not all streets are paved with gold. When I began my career, I just wanted to do cartwheels.” 11 likes
“Friend, no one ever accomplishes your dreams for you, regardless of tears, fits, or any other means of manipulation. They can give you ideas and direction, but in the end, you have to do it alone. You must figure out your own destination and the best route to get there because no one else knows the way.” 7 likes
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