Karolyi Ranch becomes gymnastics training site in the United States


Once considered a beacon of “dreams, desire and dedication” for a generation of young women, now symbolic of years of abuse and betrayal, the Karolyi Ranch north of Houston will no longer serve as a national training center. for the USA Gymnastics Women’s Team.

The federation announced Thursday that it has terminated its lease to use the gymnasium and housing complex, owned by famous coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi in the Sam Houston National Forest, as the site of monthly training camps for the elite gymnasts of the countries which have won the last two Olympic team gold medals and the last four Olympic all-around championships.

The announcement of Kerry Perry, new president and CEO of USA Gymnastics, came as a Michigan judge prepares Friday to sentence former team doctor Larry Nassar, who has pleaded guilty to seven counts charge of criminal sexual conduct and should be sentenced to life imprisonment.

“I had been intending to end this deal since I started as President and CEO in December,” said Perry. “Our most important priority is our athletes, and their training environment must reflect this. We are committed to promoting a culture that empowers and supports our athletes.”

Gymnasts were scheduled to arrive at the facility, located in Walker County about 11 miles northeast of New Waverly, on Monday for the first in a series of monthly training camps designed to prepare top gymnasts for national competitions. and international.

However, USA Gymnastics moved quickly to terminate the lease and cancel the scheduled camp after Perry attended Nassar’s sentencing hearing in Lansing, Michigan, where dozens of victims detailed their stories regarding the abuse. Nassar. The decision came three days after four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles of Spring, one of Nassar’s casualties, wrote that it “breaks my heart” to think about returning to the ranch to train for them. 2020 Olympics.

The Karolyi have used the ranch, which they have owned since 1983, as an occasional training base for gymnasts like Mary Lou Retton and Kim Zmeskal. But in 1990, when Bela Karolyi became National Team Coordinator, replaced by his wife Martha in 2001, it became a monthly destination for elite team members to train as a group while maintaining links with gyms and trainers in their hometown.

The semi-centralized system, a variation of the system the Karolyis experienced in their native Romania, produced results – Olympic all-around gold medals in 2004 for Carly Patterson and in 2008 for Nastia Liukin, both of Dallas. , in 2012 for Gabrielle Douglas and in 2016 for Biles, as well as team gold medals in 2012 and 2016.

Contrast with the image

Gold medalist Aly Raisman said Nassar capitalized on the isolated nature of the camp, where parents were not allowed to attend and the stress of competing in the sport had reached new levels, to gain confidence of his victims and engage in abuse under the guise of medical treatment.

It was a sense of reality very much at odds with the bucolic image of the ranch portrayed in portraits such as the NBC Sports documentary “The Ranch,” which aired ahead of the 2016 Olympic Trials and began with the narrator. Kristen Bell saying, “It welcomes dreams, desire and dedication, and it’s spawned some of the greatest stories you’ll hear in Olympic sports.”

The film, still available on the NBC site, was followed days later by the team’s performance in Rio de Janeiro, where Biles won four gold medals and five in total, then a few days later by a series of stories in Indianapolis. Star describing the allegations against Nassar, who also worked as a team doctor at Michigan State University.

Purchase Canceled

USA Gymnastics in 2016 announced plans to purchase the 36.2-acre portion of the 2,000-acre ranch that included the Karolyis Gymnasium and Residential Complex and continue to use the property as a national training center, but this deal was quashed after the charges. against Nassar emerged.

Houston attorney Gary Jewell, who represents the Karolyis, said the rental agreement between the couple and USA Gymnastics included a right of early termination. He didn’t know right away how much time was left on the deal.

“It’s their contractual right, and they (USA Gymnastics) have exercised it,” he said.

Jewell said Martha Karolyi was abroad but was due to meet the couple in February.

USA Gymnastics, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, said it was looking for a temporary training site while it considered plans for a permanent replacement for Karolyi Ranch.

Janis Burke, CEO of the Harris County Houston Sports Authority, said the group has submitted a proposal to keep the site in the Houston area.

“We would like to keep USA Gymnastics in Houston,” she said. “We think it’s useful to have an Olympic training site here.”


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