Indianapolis, Ind. – Bela Karolyi, from Houston, Texas has been named National Team Coordinator for the women’s program, USA Gymnastics announced today. Karolyi, 57, will design the overall training program and oversee the preparation of the team heading into the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
“Bela’s wealth of knowledge and experience will be invaluable as we prepare our team for Sydney,” said Bob Colarossi, President of USA Gymnastics. “Bela has successfully guided dozens of Olympic and World Champions and his credibility in the international gymnastics community remains unmatched. In his new role, Bela will keep the women’s team on track in its push toward excellence.”
Karolyi will be responsible for establishing the overall training program for the women’s national team. He will also be available as an advisor to the individual coaches of the national team athletes. Karolyi will direct the team’s final preparation for the 2000 Olympic Games, and play an integral role in the final composition of the Olympic Team. Karolyi will not be named as Olympic Coach, a title reserved for one of the personal coaches selected to the staff.
“This is a special opportunity for me to continue supporting American gymnasts,” added Karolyi. “This role suits me best since my retirement from training individual gymnasts. I take great pride in the results of the U.S. team and look forward to contributing to everyone’s success.”
Karolyi has remained active in gymnastics following his decision to retire after the U.S. women won the team gold at the 1996 Olympics. Karolyi manages grass-roots gymnastics camps and clinics at his 500-acre ranch near Houston, Texas.
Karolyi has been a member of the U.S. Olympic coaching staff at four Olympic Games (1984, 1988, 1992, and 1996). He became well known as the coach of 1976 Olympic Champion, Nadia Comaneci, who scored the sport’s first “perfect 10”. Since emigrating to the U.S. from Romania in 1981, Karolyi and his wife Martha have coached notable gymnasts including Mary Lou Retton, Kerri Strug, Kim Zmeskal, Betty Okino, Dianne Durham, Julianne McNamara, Phoebe Mills, Kristie Phillips and Dominique Moceanu. Together, Karolyi’s coaching efforts have produced 28 Olympians, nine Olympic Champions, 15 World Champions, and six U.S. national champions (Phillips, Mills, Durham, Retton, Zmeskal, Moceanu).
Bela Karolyi was born September 13, 1942, in Cluj, Romania. He has become the world’s most successful coach in the history of the sport of gymnastics. His coaching efforts have produced 28 Olympians, nine Olympic Champions, 15 World Champions, 12 European medallists and six U.S. National Champions in 30 years of coaching gymnastics in both his native Romania and the United States. Among his most accomplished gymnasts are Nadia Comaneci, Mary Lou Retton, Julianne McNamara, Phoebe Mills, Kim Zmeskal, Betty Okino, Kerri Strug and Dominique Moceanu.
Bela and his wife, Martha, defected to the United States during an exhibition tour in 1981. He worked menial jobs to support them at first, but within one year they were coaching gymnastics once again in Oklahoma. Shortly thereafter, Bela was approached by a group of businessmen with an offer to coach at a private gym in Houston. When the group faced financial difficulties in October of 1982, Karolyi convinced them to sell the gym to him. He then built the gym into a cornerstone of the American gymnastics movement.
The results speak for themselves. In 1991, he led the U.S. team to a silver medal finish at the World Championships, the first team medal the U.S. women had ever won in World Championships competition. His gymnast, Kim Zmeskal, also won the all-around title, again the first time a U.S. athlete had ever won a World Championships all-around title. The following year, Bela led the charge to the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, where the United States captured its first medal in eight years. The team bronze medal was also the first time since 1948 that the U.S. had won an Olympic team medal in a non-boycotted Olympics.
After the 1992 Olympic Games, Karolyi announced his retirement from elite level coaching, but still maintained his gym and summer camp. In 1994, Zmeskal asked Bela to assist in her comeback attempt for the 1996 Olympic Games; he could not refuse, announcing his return to the elite coaching ranks. That same year he co-authored his life story in a book titled Feel No Fear.
In addition to Zmeskal, Karolyi coached Dominique Moceanu and Kerri Strug, who went on the win the team gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Along the way, Moceanu became the youngest athlete to win the U.S. National Championships at the age of 13, and claimed a silver medal on the balance beam at the 1995 World Championships. In 1996, Strug won the McDonald’s American Cup, earning Bela his 11th champion in the prestigious event.
Once again retired from elite coaching, Bela and Martha train over 600 gymnasts with the help of six assistant coaches. In addition to Karolyi’s World of Gymnastics, they own a 500-acre ranch outside of Houston which is used as a summer training camp. They have one daughter, Andrea, who is 26 years old.