For a few days every four to six weeks, elite gymnast Jordyn Wieber and other members of the U.S. women's national team travel to Huntsville, Texas, north of Houston, to train at the Karolyi Ranch.
Located in the middle of the Sam Houston Forest, the 2,000-acre ranch is owned and operated by Bela and Martha Karolyi. It has served as a training site for USA Gymnastics since 2001 -- the year Martha Karolyi was named women's national team coordinator.
The camps allow for gymnasts such as Wieber a chance to train and bond with teammates while being evaluated at the same time. But the training camps aren't just for the athletes; their personal coaches participate as well.
John Geddert, who trains Wieber with his wife, Kathryn, at Twistars USA in Dimondale, calls the Karolyi Ranch a win-win situation because "it keeps you on your toes."
"Any camp serves the purpose of, basically, just raising the standards, and you know what's out there," he said. "There's nothing more motivating than going, 'OK, here's all my competition in the same little fishbowl, and here we are, all swimming for the same food. There's a little faster swimmer over there -- I better step it up.'
"And then of course, there's Martha's expectations. I can't say enough about the expectations of the program. Perfection is expected, and that's what she delivers in those training camps."
Free Press sports writer Jo-Ann Barnas caught up by phone last month with Martha Karolyi, 69, and asked her about Wieber's progress since winning the world all-around title last October. Here are excerpts of the conversation:
QUESTION: How's Jordyn Wieber looking? How have the camps been for her?
ANSWER: "We had an excellent camp earlier in the year (in January). I actually was wondering how being the world champion would affect Jordyn. Sometimes, girls have the feeling that (once they) get there, now they can take it a little easier. Well, it did not happen to Jordyn, very fortunately. She was in good shape, and I could tell that she had been working on upgrading her routines and perfecting some of the skills that were not of the extremely highest level. As I see, she can be competing in a very good condition at American Cup and be a contender for Olympic trials."