In 1976 the concept of perfection in sport was brought into focus during the Montreal Olympics. 4 years previously Olga Korbut had charmed the world with her ability. This time around it was the 14 year old Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci in the spotlight. She had received the ultimate perfect score of 10 in previous competitions but no competitor had ever done this in the Olympics. The scoreboard manufacturer inquired if 4 digits would be needed and were told that this would not be necessary. Nadia’s score appeared as 1.00 to the initial confusion of the crowd. She went on to score 6 more perfect scores and won 3 gold medals. Gymnastics has always been popular in the USA and Comaneci was the sensation of the Games. Personally I feel that the ability of these teenage muscle girls is admirable but my favourite gymnast of this era remains the Russian Nellie Kim who was older (though only 19 in 1976) more feminine and more graceful so gets a photo here.
The USA boxing team of 1976 is regarded as the strongest team sent by that country to the Olympics. They won 5 gold medals and 4 of these winners progressed to professional world titles. The Spinks brothers, Leon & Michael, had high profile careers but it was Ray Leonard (nicknamed “Sugar”) who caught the eye the most.He became World Champion in 1979 stopping future Hall of Famer Wilfred Benitez. In 1980 he returned to the Montreal Olympic stadium and lost his title to Roberto Duran. He avenged this loss and regained the title just 5 months later in the famous “No Mas” fight. Leonard was the most famous fighter of his generation. In the early 80s I worked in a small warehouse with a young guy who did not seem in the mood on one particular day. I asked if there was a problem and he said that Sugar Ray was appearing at a nearby gym. He really would rather be there than at work. I told him to keep quiet and clear off for a couple of hours, I would cover for him. He was surprised and pleased that I would do that for him. I did not have to make the tea for about 6 weeks !
The 400m and the 800m were both won by a powerful Cuban, Alberto Juantorena. He was the first man to do such a double at these championships. A wonderful natural runner he had only seriously run the longer distance for a year. He set a new world record in this event. Alberto is remembered as a great athlete and for a remark made by the indomitable British commentator, David Coleman who said “Juantorena opens his legs and shows his class !” Oo-er.