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Perfect 10: Olympic gymnast Nadia Comaneci achieves the impossible

An Olympic-themed assembly to encourage students to avoid imposing limits on what they can achieve (SEAL theme: Self-awareness).

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


An Olympic-themed assembly to encourage students to avoid imposing limits on what they can achieve (SEAL theme: Self-awareness).

Preparation and materials

  • Choose two readers (simple costume, such as hard hats and clip boards, would benefit the presentation).
  • Jesus Christ’s words that his disciples will do greater things than he did are in John 14.12.


  1. Leader  A huge amount of technical equipment is required if an international sporting event is to be successful. Sound, lighting, measuring and recording facilities must be available for the benefit of the competitors, the officials and the spectators. Each piece of equipment must be fit for its purpose. Wrong decisions can have embarrassing consequences, as was seen at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
  2. (Enter readers)

    Reader 1  So this is the Gymnastics arena. It’s a large space. It’s important that the scoreboards should be the right size. There should be enough space on them to display the marks of each competitor. What sort of scores are we talking about?

    Reader 2  Looking at the results from previous Olympics and World Championships, we’re talking about scores up to 9 point 9 something.

    Reader 1  So how many digits do we need to allow for? These Swiss manufacturers who are making the scoreboards want us to be absolutely precise.

    Reader 2  I reckon we can get away with three digits and a decimal point. More than that would be perfection.

    Reader 1  Well, we’re never going to get perfection, are we?
  3.  Leader  The planners had failed to take account of a 14-year-old gymnast named Nadia Comaneci. During the team part of the competition, when performing a routine on the uneven bars, she achieved perfection. The judges awarded her a mark of 10.00 and the scorers went into a panic. How could they show this score on the display board? They had no space for an additional digit. In the end, the score was displayed as 1.00.

    The crowd erupted and the planners hid their faces in embarrassment. They were to go through that embarrassment six further times during that competition as Comaneci proved that perfection was possible.

    The problem arose from the fact that officials had placed a limit on what the competitors could achieve. A perfect 10 had never been scored so they assumed it never would be scored.
  4. Achievements are important. Your time in school is measured in terms of what you achieve, largely in exam results, but we do have other measures, too.

    Each of you is encouraged to set yourself a target, and staff also have to make predictions about what they think you will score.
  5. There are two ways to look at a target. One is to see it as the furthest we might be able to go. If we reach the target, we stop there and celebrate our success. If we fall short, then we can at least say we got near to the target.

    However, a second way to look at a target is as a destination on a longer journey. We hit the target and go through it with the momentum we’ve gained. That’s what happened with Nadia Comaneci. She performed to her previous potential and just kept on going until she reached her perfect 10. She reckoned she could have been even better, if that’s possible!
  6. Jesus was never one for placing limits on what might be achievable. He talked about living life in its most fulfilling sense. He said his followers would achieve even more than he was ever able to do. In their relationships and help for one another, he encouraged them to aim for the perfect 10, and beyond.

    To me that suggests that the opportunities for us are limitless. The only limits are those that we place on ourselves or that others place on us.

Time for reflection

So what are your targets? What are the predictions made for you? Think of these as your personal scoreboard.

What do you think are the limits to your possible achievements and how might these be recorded?

What effect might your targets and predictions have on you?

Let’s take notice of targets, aim for them and then accelerate right through them.

Dear Lord,
thank you that we are each unique in our potential.
May we, with your help, not merely achieve that potential but go beyond it,
and surprise not just others but also ourselves.


‘Higher and higher’ by Jackie Wilson

Publication date: July 2012   (Vol.14 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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