August 29, 1942
|Known for||Romanian centralized gymnastics training system and coach to many world champions|
Márta Károlyi (born August 29, 1942) is a Romanian gymnastics coach and the National Team Coordinator for USA Gymnastics. She and her husband, Béla, are of Hungarian heritage, and trained athletes in Romania, but defected to the United States in 1981. Béla and Márta Károlyi have trained nine Olympic champions, fifteen world champions, sixteen European medalists and many U.S. national champions, including Mary Lou Retton, Betty Okino, Kerri Strug, Teodora Ungureanu, Nadia Comăneci, Kim Zmeskal and Dominique Moceanu.
Romania's famed centralized training program has its roots in the 1950s era; the Károlyi's helped develop the program further in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They established a boarding school in Oneşti, training young girls specially chosen for their athletic potential. One of the first students at the Károlyis' school was six-year-old Nadia Comăneci, who lived near Oneşti and commuted from home.
While Béla became a highly visible figure in Romanian gymnastics, accompanying the team to major competitions and, often, clashing with officials in the sport, Marta remained in the background, coaching and choreographing routines for some of the team's gymnasts.
In 1981, the Károlyis, along with Romanian team choreographer Géza Pozsár, defected during a gymnastics tour in the United States. They were granted asylum and settled in Oklahoma.
1980s and 1990s
After their defection in 1981, the Károlyis established a gym in Houston, Texas. Béla's status as "Nadia's coach" quickly attracted gymnasts to the club, and by the late 1980s, the Károlyi gym had become the preeminent training facility in the United States. By 1990, Károlyi gymnasts were so predominant at national United States meets that journalists dubbed the top cluster of athletes the "Károlyi six-pack." At the 1991 World Championships, every single gymnast on the American squad was either a Károlyi athlete or trained by a former Károlyi club coach.
Károlyi has avoided most of the controversy and accusations of abusive coaching that have trailed her husband, opting for a quieter, less abrasive approach. In the Károlyi coaching team, Béla was often known as the "motivator," while Márta was the "technician," applying her gymnastics savvy to helping her athletes learn and perfect their technique, mechanics and form. Béla accompanied the gymnasts to meets and was a highly visible presence to both the gymnastics community and the media; Márta remained in the background.
In 1996, Márta was chosen as the head coach of the U.S. women's team for the 1996 Olympics.
U.S. National Team Coordinator
Following the 1996 Olympics, the Károlyis retired from coaching. However, three years later, Béla returned to the public eye when he was named the National Team Coordinator for the U.S. women's gymnastics team. His approach was protested and resisted by both the national team gymnasts and their coaches, who, by the 2000 Olympics, were so frustrated and unhappy that they spoke about the situation publicly.
In 2001, on the recommendation of the U.S. national team coaches, the position was handed over to Márta. While she maintained some aspects of Béla's original program, her approach has been different, and generally more acceptable, to the gymnasts and their coaches. It has also yielded impressive competitive results: between 2001 and 2008, American women have won a combined total of forty-four medals in World Championship and Olympic competition.
As coordinator, Márta oversees all aspects of the women's national team. Among her duties are selecting athletes for competitions, determining apparatus lineups at the meets, and making recommendations about skills and routine compositions. The Károlyis' daughter Andrea is the nutritionist for the team.
At the 2012 Olympics, after Aly Raisman was given a score of 14.966 in the balance beam final which would have put her a tenth of a point behind Cătălina Ponor Károlyi requested a video review. As a result of the review, Raisman was awarded an additional tenth of a point for difficulty, allowing her to win the bronze medal on a tie breaker.
In November 2008, Emilia Eberle—a former Romanian national team member during the Karolyi coaching era—gave an interview to KCRA-TV in Sacramento, California claiming that while she was a Romanian national team gymnast, both Bela and Márta Károlyi regularly beat her and her teammates for mistakes they made in practice or competition. "In one word, I can say it was brutal," she told KCRA. Other Romanian team members, including Ecaterina Szabo and Rodica Dunca, as well as Geza Pozsar, the Romanian team choreographer who defected with Karolyi, have made similar charges of physical abuse. When asked in 2008 to comment on the allegations, Béla Karolyi said: "I ignore it. I'm not even commenting. These people are really trash." 
- Ryan, Joan. Little Girls in Pretty Boxes. Doubleday, New York, 1995. ISBN 0-385-47790-2.
- Comaneci, Nadia. Letters To A Young Gymnast. Basic Books, New York, 2003. ISBN 0-465-01276-0.
- Latimer, Clay, "Karolyis' Olympics rise is gym dandy: Husband-and-wife team have shaped gymnastics in U.S.", Rocky Mountain News, August 3, 2008
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- Sandomir, Richard (2008-08-20). "Karolyi Puts the Color in Color Commentary". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 February 2010.
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- Robertson, Linda (7 August 2012). "Aly Raisman wins gold in floor exercise; Danell Leyva fifth on high bar". The Miami Herald (The McClatchy Company). Retrieved 8 August 2012. "After Raisman's initial score of 14.966 was shown, U.S. team coordinator Martha Karolyi and husband Bela requested a video review. Judges added a tenth to her difficulty, which tied her with Ponor, but Raisman got third on the basis of her higher execution score."[dead link]
- "Gymnast Says trainer Karolyi beat her up". [UPI]. 2008-11-19. Retrieved 2008-11-20.
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