Martha Karolyi’s successor knows a thing or two about developing Olympic champions, too.
Valeri Liukin, whose daughter Nastia is the 2008 Olympic all-around gold medalist, was announced Friday as the new women’s national team coordinator. He replaces Karolyi, who retired after Rio, where the U.S. women won a record nine medals, including their second consecutive Olympic team title.
“As a coach, it’s a dream to have an Olympic champion. The next one is obviously this one, to be the national team coordinator,” Liukin told USA TODAY Sports. “I feel I can do so much more at this point than coach one athlete.
“It’s a lot of pressure” to succeed Karolyi, Liukin said. “To match the success is going to be very difficult, obviously. But I’m not afraid of this.”
As the national team coordinator, Liukin will run the monthly training camps at the Karolyi ranch and work with the individual coaches to develop training plans for each of the U.S. women. He’ll also work with personal coaches, particularly up-and-comers who have never trained gymnasts at the elite level.
And Liukin will have to hit the ground running, with the first national team camp at the end of the month.
“It’s amazing. First of all, we’re going to have a lot of new kids coming up,” he said. “I’m just eager to see what’s going to happen. Basically we’re ready to write a new chapter in the USA Gymnastics’ book of success.”
Liukin was the logical choice to replace Karolyi, who had been the national team coordinator since 2001. He himself is a double Olympic champion, winning two gold medals at the Seoul Olympics in 1988. He and wife Anna, a world champion in rhythmic gymnastics, moved to the United States four years later, settling first in New Orleans and then moving to Dallas.
It was there that the Liukins and friend and former teammate Yevgeny Marchenkofounded WOGA. In addition to Nastia Liukin, the gym produced 2004 Olympic champion Carly Patterson and Final Five member Madison Kocian.
And since 2013, Liukin has been the developmental coordinator for the women’s team, responsible for identifying and developing the next generation of Americans.
“My dad has always been my biggest idol and hero, and today I couldn’t be more proud of him,” Nastia Liukin told USA TODAY Sports. “He has such a passion for the sport of gymnastics and helping guide athletes to achieve their dreams. I can’t wait to watch him lead the women’s program to continued success.”
By Nancy Armour
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.