SARATOGA SPRINGS — Five-time Olympic gold medalist Nadia Comaneci visited the Saratoga Regional YMCA, Wilton Branch to mentor the Saratoga Springs High School gymnastics team. Comaneci was in the region to announce her role as an honorary captain to the inaugural Aurora Games. The introductory event will take place on August 20 in Albany.
Comaneci was greeted by a chorus of cheers coming from the Saratoga Springs High School gymnastics team. She shared with the bright-eyed boys and girls her ongoing passion and gratitude of the sport that made her who she is today both personally and professionally.
“Not too many women’s sports were available in the late sixties. My life shaped because of that,” said Comaneci. “In a way, I don’t think anything else helps you with discipline and responsibilities as sports does.”
Among the Saratoga High School gymnasts was 16-year old Ava Dallas, who holds the sectional record in vault. Dallas, who has never trained with a notable Olympian before today—let alone her idol, demonstrated her vault routine for Comaneci. “I was probably more nervous than at a meet,” said Dallas.
Deb Smarrow, who has coached the Saratoga High School gymnastics team for 13 seasons helped organize this memorable event. Comaneci is the most notable gymnast to speak to these eager gymnasts and coach.
“She’s an idol of mine,” said Smarrow. “I watched her in the ‘76 Olympics when I was six years old.”
The Saratoga High School gymnastics team is striving for their 13th consecutive title. “To have this kind of inspiration before we go into our sectional play in February is unbelievable,” expressed Smarrow.
As a token of gratitude, Comaneci was awarded honorary Saratoga High School varsity letters by Coach Smarrow and her team.
“I’m hoping that the biggest take away is inspiration and validation of their passion,” said Smarrow. “And that they’re not wasting their time, and that this does lead somewhere else. And that it leads to bigger things.”
Comaneci would like to keep the spirit of gymnastics alive and reminded the team to “Keep doing what you love, gymnastics is fun!"