August 5, 2016

We hope you find inspiration in the Olympics this summer.

With the Summer Olympics getting underway in Rio, 
I can’t help but have fond memories of the Montreal games in 1976 when a tiny Romanian gymnast named Nadia Comaneci captivated the world with her athleticism and grace.

I sat on the floor in my grandmother’s living room, eyes glued to the very large console television that dominated the room. In awe, I watched Nadia astound the crowd with perfect score after perfect score. It was a feat so unheard of, the scoreboard initially reflected 1.00, not 10.00! She went on to post seven perfect 10s and take home three gold medals, a silver and a bronze.

She was 14 and an incredibly strong and graceful athlete. I was 13, a bit pudgy and awkward. But in my mind, I could be Nadia.

The rest of the summer, my next-door neighbor Patti and I played “Olympics” every evening in front of our houses. Patti was a bit older and a fan of the Soviet Union’s Olga Korbut, whose debut at the 1972 Olympics created a media whirl around both the young Russian and the sport of women’s gymnastics. So Patti was Olga, I was Nadia.

The street curb, no higher than a few inches, was our balance beam. The mosquitoes and lightning bugs, our audience. We would skip and leap across the curb, toes pointed tightly, arching our backs with our arms stretched over and behind our heads as we jumped off the curb — in our imaginations “sticking the landing” just as Nadia had done time and again in Montreal.

I don’t recall whether in the “Kingsport Tennessee Olympics,” the gold medal went to Nadia or Olga. But this year, I plan to reach out to Patti on Facebook and see if her Olympic memories are as magical as mine. I also hope that my young nieces and children of friends and co-workers are watching the games and finding their own inspiration.

Cynthia Floyd Manley is content strategist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and has more than 20 years’ experience writing about health, medicine and medical research.


Is your family watching the Rio Olympics together? What events captivate and inspire your children most?