By Luan Peszek
USA Gymnastics caught up with USA Gymnastics National Team Coordinator Martha Karolyi to get her thoughts and comments on 2012 Olympic All-around Champion Gabrielle Douglas and her coach Liang Qiao, better known as Chow from Chow’s Gymnastics and Dance in West Des Moines, Iowa. Chow has produced two consecutive Olympic champions — Shawn Johnson was the balance beam champion in 2008 and Douglas was the all-around champion in 2012. We wanted to discover Chow’s and Gabby’s secret to success.
USA Gymnastics: Chow has had two consecutive Olympic champions in the last two Olympic Games. What do you think is so special about Chow?
Martha: In my eyes he is one of the most excellent coaches in the world. He has a few very important qualities like technical knowledge. Without that, there is no way to teach world-class gymnasts. But, just knowing how to teach skills is not sufficient to produce champions. He is also an extremely mature person on how he deals with his athletes. He knows when to push and when to back off and how to handle stressful situations. He knows when to take over the responsibilities from his gymnasts’ shoulders. And he makes sure his gymnasts feel secure in the moment they have to perform.
USA Gymnastics: What makes Gabby special?
Martha: Gabby has always been an extremely talented child, even beginning with the TOPs progam. She definitely flourished under Chow’s tutelage. She had good physical abilities and excellent basic training and Chow was able to take it to the next level.
I praise Gabby for changing her working style and behavior under the guidance of her new coach and being able to stay focused and pay attention to everyday details in order to be successful when the moment came. I just really want to praise Gabby – what a great transformation she went through and how she became a gymnast who was able to focus on the task she had to accomplish.
USA Gymnastics: Were you surprised when Gabby became the Olympic al-around champion?
Martha: I knew that Gabby was one of the strongest gymnasts in the world – just look at the start values and the quality of her execution. The question was, could Gabby put the mental sturdiness behind her and perform at the moment she had to. I was hoping for it, but you can never be certain. We did all we could to raise her confidence level and that is how she was able to perform that way. So I was not surprised.
USA Gymnastics: What makes Chow excel as a coach?
Martha: Chow has the whole package. Chow has it all – technical knowledge, consistency in training, everyday expectation, understanding the gymnast, treating his gymnast right, building confidence – all of these things he does right. That is why he is always able to come up with world-class gymnasts and they can perform in key moments. He is already raising the next generation and soon we will have his new talent in the camps. He has two to three little girls who will be the right age at the next Olympic Games. We are hoping for another prodigy.