“Unfortunately, any good stuff has to end,” says Martha Karolyi, the coordinator for the USA Gymnastics Women’s national team. After many years of both coaching and coordinating, and leading many, many gymnasts to the gold and silver medals, she and her husband Béla (whom she succeeded in her role) are leaving the sport behind.
The Karolyis began their careers in their birthplace of Romania, where they trained the elite of Romania’s gymnasts. They defected to the United States in 1981 and were granted asylum. Within ten years, Martha and her husband were at the top of the gymnastics training food chain in the United States, with every single United States gymnast at the ’91 World Championships trained under she and her husband, or at their gym. The team took the team all-around gold medal, and three gymnasts independently won medals as well – one bronze, one silver, and one gold.
After the ’91 Olympics, the Karolyis retired from coaching entirely, but Béla was named the Women’s Team coordinator until after the 2000 Olympics when Martha took up the mantle. She oversaw all aspects of the team’s training, and her approach to coordinating was described as much more agreeable than her husband’s, and it certainly created results. The team brought home several dozen medals over the next Olympic competitions.
Despite the controversy that the Karolyis’ training methods stirred up among gymnasts, no recent history of Olympic-level women’s gymnastics would be complete without discussion of the Karolyis’ contribution and monumental impact, and as the sport bids them adieu, we’ll be very curious to see who comes next in the role of team coordinator, and if they’ll be able to meet the bar set by the Karolyi dynasty. With Béla and Martha’s decades of experience and the know-how to constantly stay at the top, we imagine there are few individuals that can bring the same fire to the Women’s Gymnastics national team.