Nadia Comaneci arrives to deliver inspirational talk

MANILA, Philippines – Nadia Comaneci, the first gymnast to score a perfect 10 in the Olympics and one of the most celebrated female athletes of all time, arrived in the Philippines for the first time Sunday night.

Comaneci is in town to give a motivational talk, together with celebrated Filipino bowler Paeng Nepomuceno, to employees of Procter and Gamble Philippines.

Clad in a black-and-white floral dress and wearing hoop earrings, Comaneci arrived aboard Cathay Pacific flight 903 and was greeted by P&G Philippines president and general manager James Lafferty, who had invited the sports star.

I love these, she said of the sampaguita garland Lafferty and P&G officials placed around her neck in welcome.

In a preview of her inspirational talk, Comaneci encouraged Filipino children and their parents to take up gymnastics. She said Asians, Filipinos in particular, had the potential to be great.

As long as you work hard, anything is possible, she said. When I started, I had no idea it would be this big, and people would consider me the greatest, she told reporters.

But Comaneci, who at 45 still cuts a striking figure, said the Philippines had a distinct advantage when it came to gymnastics, a sport that features lithe and agile bodies: The Philippines is known for pretty girls, isn’t it?

At the age of 14, Comaneci stunned the world when her routine on the uneven bars at the 1976 Montreal Olympics earned her a perfect score, the first ever in Olympic gymnastics history.

She went on to score six more perfect 10 on the way to winning the all-around, beams and bars titles.

As a result of her exploits, Comaneci became the face of the Montreal Olympics, appearing on the cover of Time, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated magazines all in the same week, and inspiring countless girls to take up the sport.