Gymnast Posts Perfect Mark

By Robin Herman

New York Times, March 28, 1976   A marvel of exactitude from the time she performed on the vaulting horse for a perfect mark of 10, 14-year-old Nadia Comaneci of Rumania lead the way yesterday in the qualifying round of the American Cup international gymnastics competition.

A crowd of 10,132 watched yesterday's performances.

The finals of the exhibition which drew 18 competitors from 12 nations to the opening round, will begin this afternoon at 1 o'clock at Madison Square Garden.  Points from yesterday's events do not carry over to today's competition.  No team scores are kept.

Kathy Howard, a replacement for Ann Carr of Philadelphia who twisted an ankle Thursday, made a surprise second-place finish in the qualifying round.  The third women's qualifier was petite Elena Davydova of the Soviet Union, another 14-year-old, with dancing blond pigtails that brushed broad shoulders.

Other women in today's finals are Reiko Yoshida of Japan, Zsuzsa Nagy of Hungary and Silvia Anjos of Brazil.

An 18-year-old newcomer from the Soviet Union, Vladimir Markelov, finished first in the men's qualifying round with consistent performances in all six events.  He scored 56.60 of a possible 60 points, edging Mitsuo Tsukahara of Japan, a 27-year-old master of sport.

Bart Conner of Chicago, who is also 18 years old, finished third.  Andrzej Szajna of Poland, the European champion in the floor exercise, also qualified.  Dan Grecu, world champion on the rings, had a top score of 9.75 with a controlled performance in which the rings barely turned as he flung himself into assorted handstands and crosses.  The sixth men's finalist was Imre Banrevi of Hungary.

The supremely confident Miss Comaneci, who is ranked first in the world among women gymnasts, finished on top in all four qualifying events -- vaulting, uneven parallel bars, balance beam and floor exercise.  She performed her routines with a joyless expression and afterwards received not a gesture of congratulation from her coach, Bela Karolyi.

Karolyi regards this competition as an Olympic warmup, a chance for Miss Comaneci to accustom herself to the rigors of travel, time change and to the atmosphere of North America, before the Montreal competition. 

Her perfect vault, a rarity in gymnastics, was a round-off from the horse into one-and-a-half somersaults in a pike position, with the hands on the legs.


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