Béla Károlyi bigraphy, stories - Gymnastics coach

Béla Károlyi : biography

September 13, 1942 -

Béla Károlyi ( born September 13, 1942) is a Romanian gymnastics coach of Hungarian ethnicity. He was born in what was then Kolozsvár, Hungary, now Cluj-Napoca, Romania.Cf. Northern Transylvania and Cluj-Napoca articles for precise history and further citations

Károlyi and his wife, Márta, also of Hungarian origin, emigrated to the United States in 1981 and both have dual citizenships for Romania and the United States. The Károlyis have coached both Romanian and United States Olympic teams to medal-winning success.

Among the gymnasts Béla and Márta Károlyi have trained are Nadia Comăneci, Svetlana Boginskaya, Mary Lou Retton, Betty Okino, Teodora Ungureanu, Kim Zmeskal, Kristie Phillips, Dominique Moceanu, and Kerri Strug, whom he is famous for carrying to the podium after she injured her ankle on the gold medal-winning vault in the team competition at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. In total, Károlyi has coached nine Olympic champions, fifteen world champions, sixteen European medalists and six U.S. national champions.


Béla Károlyi was in the episode "At the Edge of the Worlds", in the ABC Family show Make It or Break It. He portrayed Coach Sasha Belov's father.


At the 1991 World Championships, four of the six athletes on the U.S. women's team—Kim Zmeskal, Betty Okino, Hilary Grivich and Kerri Strug—were trained by Károlyi; the other two, Shannon Miller and Michelle Campi, were trained by ex-Károlyi club coaches. The situation was almost repeated at the 1992 Olympics, where Károlyi was head coach and five members of the seven-gymnast squad (six competitors; one alternate) were either trained by him or one of his protégés.

Károlyi mostly acted as a personal coach for his athletes Dominique Moceanu and Kerri Strug at the 1996 Olympics, but still managed to draw the spotlight. Károlyi's motivational speech to Strug when she was struggling with an injury ("Shake it off! You can do it!") was broadcast on television and was widely viewed. After Strug's successful final vault, Károlyi carried her to the podium to accept her gold medal. The moment was photographed and widely distributed, and became one of the most enduring memories of the 1996 Olympics.Weinberg, Rick. ESPN.

Károlyi retired from coaching after the 1996 Olympics. He and Márta still have a ranch and gymnastics camp in New Waverly, Texas. The following year, in 1997, Béla Károlyi was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.


Following the success of the "Magnificent Seven" at the 1996 Olympics, USA Gymnastics experienced a lull. A new age limit kept some of their top gymnasts out of the World Championships in 1997. While American gymnasts did medal in international competitions such as the Goodwill Games and the Pacific Alliance, they were largely unsuccessful in most major meets. In both 1997 and 1999, the American team left the World Championships without a single medal.

After the 1999 World Championships, USA Gymnastics attempted to revamp their program by hiring Károlyi to serve as National Team Coordinator. Károlyi required that all national team members attend frequent grueling camps at his New Waverly, Texas gymnastics ranch, north of Houston, and selection procedures for international meets became more arbitrary. Coaches resented what they felt was Károlyi's intrusion onto their domain; athletes were under a considerable amount of stress. At the 2000 Olympics, where the U.S. team placed fourth and once again came away without a single medal, the tension had escalated to the point where gymnasts were openly speaking out against Károlyi.Mariotti, Jay. Chicago Sun-Times, 20 September 2000Shelton, Gary. St. Petersburg Times, 20 September 2000.Roberts, Selena. The New York Times, 19 August 2000. (On April 28, 2010, the International Olympic Committee stripped China of their team medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics after it was discovered one of their gymnasts was underage and the 2000 U.S. Team was awarded the bronze medal.)

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