For instance, Bruce Jenner was already an accomplished decathlete by 1974, but his national profile was negligible before the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal where he became a national hero in the United States by setting a new world record in the decathlon while winning the gold medal in the event.
Jenner is certainly a standout example of this phenomenon, but so, too, was another competitor at the same Montreal Olympics - 14-year-old Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci. The young gymnast made modern Olympic history by becoming the first competitor to ever score a perfect 10 for a gymnastics routine (she scored her first 10 for her performance on the uneven bars during the team competition). Famously, the scoreboard only had room for three digits, so instead of 10.00 they read 1.00.
Comaneci went on to score six more perfect tens as she collected a gold medal for the balance beam, the uneven bars and all-around performance. She also collected a silver medal along with the Romanian team as well as a bronze medal for her floor competition.
In gymnastics, the floor competition is a roughly 90-second routine that mixes gymnastics with elements of dance. Each gymnast performs to specialized music that they choreograph their routine to. Although Comaneci's floor routine "only" won her a bronze (she later won a gold in floor at the 1980 Moscow Olympics), it became the symbol of Comaneci around the world as slow motion replays of her floor were broadcast all over the world. They became associated with a particular song, a song that became so popular that it was actually renamed after her. The question is, though, did Comaneci actually perform her routine to the song that would become re-titled "Nadia's Theme"?
The answer is no. The song that would become "Nadia's Theme" was written by Barry De Vorzon and Perry Botkin, Jr. They composed the song for the 1971 film, Bless the Beasts and Children, about a group of teenage boys at a summer camp in the west who conspire to free a captured herd of bison. De Vorzon and Botkin Jr. did the music for the film, and one of the pieces of music they did was titled "Cotton's Dream." They also had a version of the song with lyrics on the album, titled"Lost," performed by Renee Armand ("Lost" had a different arrangement of the song's melody).
A couple of years later, Botkin Jr. rearranged the instrumental version of the song to serve as the theme song for a brand-new television soap opera called The Young and the Restless. The theme song debuted with the show in March of 1973. Nearly forty years later, the song continues to serve as the theme song for the show.
As the world became enraptured with Comaneci during the 1976 Olympics, Robert Riger used the song for a montage of Comaneci's floor exercise that aired on the popular sports program,ABC's"Wide World of Sports" (Com¿neci was shown in slow motion). Propelled by Comaneci's stardom, the song was released as a single (now re-titled by De Vorzon as "Nadia's Theme") and hit the Top 40 on the Billboard Chart on October 2, 1976. It peaked at #8, spending sixteen weeks in the Top 40.
It naturally has become closely associated with Comaneci. Comaneci's famed coach, Bela Karolyi, was asked an excellent question about the song by Dave Hollander for Hollander's 2006 book, 52 Weeks: Interviews with Champions!:
"Hollander: Do you ever kick back at home and listen to "Nadia’s Theme" on the stereo?
Karolyi: The whole thing is amazing to me - the older I'm getting and how I'm looking back in the history, and whole picture gets nicer and nicer. My wife told me, 'Bela, it's just like love. The first love is always the nicest.' Maybe it's never the prettiest girl in the world, but it's the one you remember the most and she gets prettier every year. Gosh, it is really truly one thing when I play Nadia's Theme the whole story just rolls in front of my eyes. That's a gorgeous feeling."
Classic. Anyhow, as noted above, the song became associated with Com¿neci only after Robert Riger decided to use it on "Wide World of Sports." Comaneci never actually did her floor routine to the song. She performed to an instrumental medley of "Yes Sir, That's My Baby" and "Jump in the Line."
The legend is...
Thanks to Dave Hollander and Bela Karolyi for the interview quotes!
And thanks to Joel Whitburn's The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits for the chart information about "Nadia's Theme."
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