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Opinion: Nadia Comaneci has 'perfect' way to celebrate 45th anniversary of first 10.0

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Nadia Comaneci is celebrating the 45th anniversary of her perfect 10 in style.

On Sunday, Comaneci posted a photo of herself wearing a replica of the leotard she wore in 1976, alongside a vintage, red-and-white GMC pickup truck that was one of only about 600 produced for the Montreal Olympics. The hood ornament features the Montreal logo, which is also stitched into the front seat and painted on the tailgate and side panel.

Another photo shows Comaneci sitting in the front seat, her gold medal draped over the stitched Montreal logo.

“It’s almost half a century old, which is hard to believe,” Comaneci told USA TODAY Sports. “It doesn’t feel like it’s been such a long time. it doesn’t feel like it’s been 45 years.

“The more years go by, the more I appreciate what I’ve done,” she said. “I would have had a totally different life if I didn’t do that. So I am just grateful from all the angles, for everything that happened.”

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Comaneci was just 14 when she became forever synonymous with perfection. It didn’t matter that others – herself included – had scored 10s in other competitions. The one Comaneci earned July 18, 1976, for her compulsory uneven bars routine, was the first in Olympic history, elevating that number – and Comaneci – to mythic status.

Everyone knows there is no such thing as perfection; even the design of the scoreboards at the Montreal Olympics seemed to acknowledge that, having only enough room to show a single digit and two decimal places. Yet somehow this somber, dark-haired Romanian girl had managed to achieve it.

Not just one time, either. Comaneci would duplicate that perfect 10 six more times in Montreal, where she won five medals, three of them gold.

The world was captivated by Comaneci. She graced the covers of Time, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated in the same week. The theme song from "The Young and the Restless" soap opera was renamed "Nadia’s Theme" because it was used as background music for a montage of her performances. Little girls everywhere begged their parents for gymnastics lessons.

“It’s not like somebody came to me and said, 'If you score a 10, you’re going to make history,’” Comaneci said. “I wouldn’t have thought differently. You go for the best you can, and hope that that’s going to give you the best score.

“It didn’t sink in, until much later,” she said. “When I went back to Romania and saw 10,000 people at the airport, I realized I had done much more than I thought I had done.”

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Comaneci is humbled that so many people were inspired by what she did, and that it continues to resonate all these years later. When she realized the 45th anniversary of that first 10 would occur five days before the start of the delayed Tokyo Olympics, she decided to have some fun with it.

She had a replica made of her white leotard that featured red, yellow and blue stripes – the colors of the Romanian flag – on each side and the emblem of the then-communist country on the chest.

Then, about a month ago, Comaneci's husband Bart Conner got a phone call from Norbert Collette, who lives in Manitoba, Canada.

On July 18, 1976, Nadia Comaneci earned a perfect 10 for her compulsory uneven bars routine, the first in Olympic history.
On July 18, 1976, Nadia Comaneci earned a perfect 10 for her compulsory uneven bars routine, the first in Olympic history.

“He said, 'I know the anniversary of the 10 is coming. I have a very good piece my father bought and I couldn’t think of anyone better to present it to than you. I can’t think of any other person who is more representative of those Olympics,’” Comaneci recalled.

The piece was that Olympic-themed pickup truck.

Carmakers will sometimes make special, Olympic-edition vehicles to appeal to patriotic consumers. In 1976, General Motors made a limited number of GMC pickups and Chevrolet Malibus featuring red-and-white paint schemes – the colors of the Canadian flag – with the Montreal Games logo on the side, front seat and hood ornament.

In addition to being a double Olympic gold medalist at the 1984 Olympics, Conner is a vintage car enthusiast. He bought the truck immediately, and had it shipped to Norman, Oklahoma, where the couple lives.

“When Bart found out about this car, because he knows its story and is limited, he said, 'Oh, we’ve got to have this,’” Comaneci said.

“It’s really, really cool,” she said.

You might even say, perfect.

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nadia Comaneci gets a 10 for 45th anniversary celebration