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OLYMPIC COACH PROFILE; M?rtha K?rolyi – Gymnastics (USA)

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 02:  Gabrielle Douglas of the United States celebrates winning the gold medal with team coordinator Martha Karolyi after the Artistic Gymnastics Women's Individual All-Around final on Day 6 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at North Greenwich Arena on August 2, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)


M?rtha K?rolyi??is a Hungarian-Romanian gymnastics coach and the national team coordinator for?USA Gymnastics. She and her husband,?B?la, are ethnic Hungarians from Transylvania, Romania, and trained athletes in Romania, but defected to the United States in 1981. B?la and M?rtha K?rolyi have trained nine Olympic champions, fifteen world champions, sixteen European medalists and many U.S. national champions, including?Mary Lou Retton,?Betty Okino,?Kerri Strug,?Teodora Ungureanu,?Phoebe Mills,?Nadia Com?neci,??Kim Zmeskal, and?Dominique Moceanu.

Romania’s famed centralized training program has its roots in the 1950s; the K?rolyis helped develop the program further in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They established a boarding school in?One?ti, training young girls specially chosen for their athletic potential. One of the first students at the K?rolyis’ school was six-year-old?Nadia Com?neci, who lived near One?ti and commuted from home.

While B?la became a highly visible figure in Romanian gymnastics, accompanying the team to major competitions and often clashing with officials in the sport, M?rtha remained in the background, coaching and choreographing routines for some of the team’s gymnasts.

In 1981, the K?rolyis, along with fellow Hungarian-Romanian team choreographer G?za Pozs?r, defected during a gymnastics tour in the United States. They were granted asylum and settled in?Oklahoma. The couple’s daughter, Andrea, joined them later.


1980s and 1990s

After their defection, the K?rolyis established a gym in?Houston,?Texas. B?la’s status as “Nadia’s coach” quickly attracted gymnasts to the club, and by the late 1980s, the K?rolyi gym had become the preeminent training facility in the United States. By 1990, K?rolyi gymnasts were so dominant at national United States meets that journalists dubbed the top cluster of athletes the “K?rolyi six-pack.” At the 1991 World Championships, every single gymnast on the American squad was either a K?rolyi athlete or trained by a former K?rolyi club coach.

M?rtha K?rolyi has avoided most of the controversy and accusations of abusive coaching that have trailed her husband, opting for a quieter, less abrasive approach. In the K?rolyi coaching team, B?la was often known as the “motivator,” while M?rtha was the “technician,” applying her gymnastics savvy to help her athletes learn and perfect their technique, mechanics, and form. B?la accompanied the gymnasts to meets and was a highly visible presence to both the gymnastics community and the media; M?rtha remained in the background.

In 1996, M?rtha was chosen as the head coach of the U.S. women’s team for the?1996 Olympics.




U.S. National Team Coordinator

After the 1996 Olympics, the K?rolyis retired from coaching. However, three years later, B?la returned to the public eye when he was named the national team coordinator for the U.S. women’s gymnastics team. His approach was protested and resisted by both the national-team gymnasts and their coaches, who, by the?2000 Olympics, were so frustrated and unhappy that they spoke about the situation publicly.

In 2001, on the recommendation of the U.S. national team coaches, the position was handed over to Martha.??While she maintained some aspects of B?la’s original program, her approach has been different, and generally more acceptable to the gymnasts and their coaches. It has also yielded impressive competitive results: Between 2001 and 2008, American women have won a combined total of forty-four medals in World Championship and Olympic competition.

As coordinator, M?rtha oversees all aspects of the women’s national team. Among her duties are selecting athletes for competitions, determining apparatus lineups at the meets, and making recommendations about skills and routine compositions. The K?rolyis’ daughter, Andrea, is the nutritionist for the team.

At the?2012 Olympics, after?Aly Raisman?was given a score of 14.966 in the?balance beam final, which put her a tenth of a point behind?C?t?lina Ponor?of Romania, K?rolyi requested a video review. As a result of the review, Raisman was awarded an additional tenth of a point for difficulty, allowing her to win the bronze medal on a tie breaker.


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In November 2008,?Emilia Eberle, a Romanian national team member during the K?rolyi coaching era, gave an interview to?KCRA-TV?in?Sacramento, California, claiming that while she was on the team, both B?la and M?rtha regularly beat her and her teammates for mistakes they made in practice or competition. “In one word, I can say it was brutal,” she told KCRA.?Other Romanian team members, including?Ecaterina Szabo?and?Rodica Dunca, as well as G?za Pozs?r, the Romanian team choreographer who defected with the K?rolyis, have made similar charges of physical abuse. When asked in 2008 to comment on the allegations, B?la K?rolyi said: “I ignore it. I’m not even commenting. These people are really trash.”

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