Differences between the balance beam routines of Simone Biles and Nadia Comaneci, parallels between two eras

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While Nadia Comaneci was considered the greatest gymnast of her time, Simone Biles holds this title today. Both have advanced the sport by leaps and bounds. Comaneci was the first Olympic gymnast to receive perfect tens. Meanwhile, Biles is the most decorated gymnast with 32 world medals. They changed women’s gymnastics forever. And while it’s not entirely fair to compare them, given that they hail from two distinct eras in the sport, it certainly gives food for thought.

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There are stark distinctions between the routines performed by the two. Where Comaneci paints a picture of balance and precision, Biles is a dominating force with his power, precision and amplitude.

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Nadia Comaneci: The Goddess of Montreal

In 1976, Nadia Comaneci, just 14 years old, performed her uneven bars routine with more elegance and precision than any other. 46 years have passed since her monumental performance at the Montreal Olympics, earning her the nickname “Goddess of Montreal.” It was so unprecedented that the dashboard was not even equipped to display all four digits. The highest it went up to 9.99.

At the time, it was a completely different era of gymnastics than the one we know today. The rules and difficulty level of the routines were nowhere near what we see Biles and his contemporaries perform.

In 2006, the FIG changed its Code of Points. Now, there is no perfect, consistent score. Instead, judges award points based on difficulty and artistic merit, with only execution scores carrying a cap.

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Simone Biles: The pinnacle of modern gymnastics

Simone Biles commands the highest difficulty level. So much so that there are four skills named after him because no one else has ever tried them. She has nineteen world championship titles to her name, four gold medals, and is the undisputed goat of modern gymnastics. His routines are not only superior in terms of difficulty but also in choreography.

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What is interesting to observe are the marked differences between the highest routines of the two eras. Fans often debate which of the two, Comaneci or Biles, would win, if both entered the same competition on their best terms. Unfortunately, the day will never come when we can see this happen in reality.

USA’s Simone Biles during the Women’s Balance Beam Final at Ariake Gymnastics Center on day eleven of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Japan. Picture date: Tuesday, August 3, 2021. (Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)

Without a doubt, both athletes left a legacy in women’s sport and are an inspiration to countless young girls.

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