Her first memory of meeting Conner was when they were on a bus together during the 1981 tour. After her defection, they were reunited on a talk show, and he reminded her that their first meeting had actually been at a 1976 meet in Madison Square Garden. At the suggestion of a photographer, he had given her a kiss on the cheek, and the photo ran in the New York Times. He showed her the picture to refresh her memory. Comaneci remembers saying: “It was a little blond guy, but not necessarily him. But the entire American team was a bunch of little blond guys.”
Their 1996 wedding was a lavish, two-day affair in Bucharest with 1,500 guests, televised live.
“Over the course of 30 years, the people and culture had been virtually destroyed, and my wedding was a chance for everyone to fall in love with Romania again,” Comaneci said.
Their son, Dylan, was born 10 years later. Not surprisingly, he loves the gym, said Comaneci, who frequently admonishes her son to be careful. “I’m super-protective,” she said with a laugh, adding that she now understands how worried her mother used to be about her.
At 48, Comaneci maintains her beauty and health through sleep, exercise and Botox injections. She is a spokeswoman for Allergan, the manufacturer of Botox, and its Expressions of Kindness campaign, which contributes $25 to charity for every act of kindness participants describe on the company’s website.
“You’re looking for little tweaking things that make you feel better,” Comaneci said. “But you still have to do some work for the other parts of your body.”
She works on those other parts of the body during a half-hour workout daily: 20 minutes of cardio exercises, followed by light stretching and light weights.
While Conner and Comaneci devote their time to several charities, including the Muscular Dystrophy Association, they are especially devoted to the Special Olympics. Both serve on the board. “It’s a part of our family right now,” said Comaneci.
Comaneci travels the world, Dylan frequently at her side, for commercial appearances and charity work. Last December, they shot a commercial together in Poland. Every few months, they travel to Romania so Dylan can visit his grandparents and she can see how things are going at the new Nadia Comaneci Children’s Clinic in Bucharest.
At home in Norman, she is content with the simple routines of her life with her husband and son. “I’m not a dreamer for, you know, I want to go to the moon someday. I accomplished something when I was young which was much more than I expected to,” Comaneci said. “My results were much bigger than I ever dreamed about it.”
Kitty Bennett is a news researcher and writer based in St. Petersburg, Fla.