Olympic Coaches: Where They Came From and The Road To The Top

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All eyes are on the gymnasts performing in the 2016 Rio Olympics. But behind every gymnast is a coach who pushes them to aim higher and achieve greater. Coaches not only help their athletes refine their technique but also motivate them in challenging times.

In this blog post, we’ll introduce you to the coaches who make the U.S. national gymnastics team incredible.

Women’s Olympic Coaches

Head Coach: Aimee Boorman

Boorman was born in Chicago and started her coaching career at the age of 13, when she became an assistant coach in the gym she was training at. She attended Northern Illinois University and earned a degree in Sports Business in 1995. After graduating from college, Boorman coached at Bannon’s Gymnastix, eventually becoming head coach. During this time, Boorman met Simone Biles. Biles visited Bannon’s during a daycare field trip and was encouraged to take classes. She was paired up with Boorman and the rest, as they say, is history.

It was under Boorman that Biles became one of the most decorated gymnasts of all time. Boorman’s accomplishment did not go unnoticed as she bagged the 2013 and 2014 USOC National Coach of the Year award. In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Boorman expressed her love for coaching. “I love coaching. That is what I do. Gymnastics is my passion.”

Boorman resides in Spring, Texas. She is the team manager and head coach of World Champions Centre, the gymnastics facility Simone Biles’ parents own.

Assistant Coach: Mihai Brestyan

Born in Romania, Mihai Brestyan is considered to be one of the most successful coaches in American gymnastics. Brestyan and his wife, Silvia, both have degrees in Physical Education Sciences with graduate studies in coaching techniques from Romanian University. For a time, they were national coaches for the Romanian and Israeli gymnastics teams.

Brestyan has helped world-class gymnasts Alicia Sacramone and Aly Raisman earn a combined 18 individual and team medals for the U.S. Asked to name the most successful technique in coaching in an interview with GK Elite, Brestyan said, “Paying attention to the details and encouraging the athlete to be dedicated and determined to be a champion. Small details make a big difference.”

Brestyan was named the US team head coach at the 2010 and 2015 World Championships. He was also named the USAG Coach of the Year for 2005, 2011, and 2013. Currently, Brestyan serves as a USAG ambassador and speaks about the development of gymnastics. He also delivers annual lectures at the USAG National Congress.

National Team Coordinator: Martha Karolyi

Martha Karolyi is one of the most recognized and respected coaches in gymnastics. Karolyi’s impressive coaching career almost spans 50 years. Together with her husband, Bela, she has trained world-famous gymnasts such as Mary Lou Retton, Kerri Stug, Nadia Comaneci, and Dominique Moceanu.

Originally from Romania, Martha helped her husband develop Romania’s famous gymnastics training program. They later started a boarding school in Onesti and gymnastics legend Nadia Comaneci became one of their first students. Unlike her husband who was often in the spotlight, Marta chose to work behind the scenes, coaching and choreographing routines. Gymnastics insiders have pointed out that Bela is the “motivator” and Martha is the “technician”.

In 1981, the Karolyis defected to the U.S. They soon opened a gym in Houston, Texas. Many young gymnasts flocked to the gym because the Karolyis’ status as “Nadia’s coach”. Within three years of their arrival, their student, Mary Lou Retton, became an all-around gold medalist in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Martha served as the head coach of the “Magnificent Seven” in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The Magnificent Seven made history when they brought home the first ever Olympic team gold medal in gymnastics for the US.

The Karolyis retired from coaching in 1996. Bela returned to coaching in 2000 after he was assigned as the team coordinator for the US women’s gymnastics team. His return, however, was met with accusations of abuse from former students. As a result, Martha took over the position upon the recommendation of US national team coaches. Her diplomatic and warmer approach to coaching was remarkably different from that of her husband’s brash style.

As team coordinator, Martha is in charge of overseeing all aspects of the national team (e.g.: picking athletes for competitions, making recommendations about routines). The current crop of top gymnasts, such as Simone Biles and Aly Raisman, credit part of their success to Marta. In fact, Raisman declared Marta as Team USA’s “secret” after winning the gold in the 2015 World Championships.

The 2016 Rio Olympics will be the last time that Marta serves as national team coordinator but her legacy in gymnastics will, undoubtedly, be forever.

Men’s Olympic Coaches

Head Coach: Mark Williams

Williams was named the head coach at Oklahoma in 2000 and has positioned the program as a national contender every year with an overall mark of 371-36 (.912) in 15 seasons at the helm. The Sooner head coach has had success at every level of the sport and has recently been announced as one of the members of the 2015 class of inductees into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame—just another testament to the outstanding coaching he has done with the national team and the OU men’s gymnastics squad.

Williams has won nine Texas state high school championships and was twice honored by the Gymnastics Association of Texas (GAT) with its Distinguished Service award. He received the GAT Honorary Life Membership Award in 2004 and the USA Gymnastics Service Star Award in 2007, and was inducted into Garland Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 and the Hurst-Euless-Bedford Sports Hall of Fame in 2008. This year, Williams was inducted into the Frank J. Cumisky Judging Hall of Fame, the highest honor offered to men’s gymnastics judges in the United States.

Team Coordinator: Kevin Mazeika

Mazeika, a native of Houston, began coaching men’s gymnastics in 1984 and has served on the National Team Coaching Staff since 1988. He has coached at more than 35 international competitions and has been head or assistant coach at 15 international team events.

Mazeika also was the head coach for the 2007, 2003 and 2001 World Championships Team. The U.S. men’s team earned the team silver medal at the 2001 and 2003 World Championships. Prior to 2001, the men had not won a world team medal since 1979.

He has been the personal coach of two Olympians, seven World Championship team members, a world champion, nine World Cup medalists, 52 national team members and 33 national champions. Mazeika, who was named the U.S. men’s national team coordinator in December 2009, was the men’s program manager at the Houston Gymnastics Academy and is the owner of Mazeika’s Elite Gymnastics.

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