50-15 – Bart Conner and Nadia Comeneci

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Many of these begin with ‘when I was a kid’ or a teenager or in college, but so many of the things that I rmember are from those times. Sometimes they stand out because of the people I was with or I’m reminded of them because of a recent event or circumstance.

When I was in high school, I had a huge crush on Bart Conner. I loved watching all of the gymnasts – male and female – compete both at the world championship level and at the Olympic level. I was a big fan of the Olympics and u sed their subject for several papers and speeches throughout high school and college. I was a fan.

For a long time I followed the careers of Kurt Thomas – up until his retirement to coach, and Bart Conner. They seemed ot always finish one or two, but for the life of me, I can’t remember who finished where.

I got ahold of Bart’s address in college – the University of Oklahoma at Norman and sent fan letters, letters of congratulations and the like. He returned with a postcard and a Christmas card. The Christmas card is long lost. I have a photocopy of it from my friend, Susan who joined me on the Christmas card writing.

Many years later, after we’d moved to the upstate New York area, I saw an advertisement that Bart Conner and his wife, Nadia Comeneci would be signing autographs in the local mall.

How could I pass up this opportunity, not only to meet my crush and hero, Bart Conner while making a fool of myself reminiscing about our high school correspondence, but to meet Nadia Comeneci, the most famous international gymnast in the world. During the 1976 Montreal Games and at 14, she became the first gymnast to score a perfect 10 at an Olympic Games.

It was beyond thrillling.

If it occurred today, I would easily ask for a photo, but back then, about eighteen or so years ago, I felt I was intruding despite them being there for their fans in the first place. I was so intimidated with stereotypical jelly legs and stammering voice, but they were both kind and lovely, and someday I will find that autographed picture.

Meeting your heroes can be either a blessing or a curse. I’ve been lucky that in all my instances of meeting celebrities and sports figures, I’ve been very lucky that I have not been let down. It is a testament to their seriousness as role models in their fields.

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