The question of who will take the reins of the United States women’s gymnastics national team has been answered with the selection of two-time Olympic champion Valeri Liukin as U.S. women’s national team coordinator. Liukin’s appointment was announced Friday by USA Gymnastics. He will report to Rhonda Faehn, USA Gymnastics senior vice president of women’s program.
Liukin succeeds Martha Karolyi, who held the position since 2001. During her 15 years at the helm, the U.S. women’s program blossomed into a dominant force. The results of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games are proof: nine medals, a record high for the U.S. women, including the team title, individual all-around gold and silver, and the country’s first women’s vault gold.
“I was waiting for this call four years,” Liukin said. “We all know that Martha thought about retiring four years ago, and I was super-excited then. I am just as excited and happy today to accept this position. I am sure there are going to be little tweaks here or there, but generally, I don’t see the need to change anything (in the current program).”
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The elite development coordinator since 2013, Liukin has played a key role in the identification and advancement of the athletes who will potentially comprise the U.S. Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Team at the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games. He also is known for his work as the personal coach of his daughter, Nastia, the 2008 Olympic all-around champion who won five Olympic and nine world championship medals in her career.
“Valeri has excelled as a personal coach, and he has demonstrated his ability to lead and guide other coaches through his efforts as the elite developmental coordinator,” said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. “He will provide a smooth transition from the program that has been created, and Valeri is recognized as a capable and talented coach.”
As the national team coordinator, Liukin will be responsible for the strategic plan and training program for all national team members, including training camps; oversight of international competition assignments for athletes, coaches and judges; and coordination of the development program and USA Gymnastics’ Talent Opportunity Program (TOPs). He becomes only the third person to serve as women’s national team coordinator, succeeding Bela Karolyi (1999-2000) and Martha Karolyi (2001-16).
Co-founder and owner of the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy in Texas, Liukin has helped develop more than 30 members of the U.S. national team who have brought home 35 world or Olympic medals. That roster includes back-to-back Olympic all-around champions in Carly Paterson in 2004 and his daughter in 2008. An accomplished gymnast in his own right, Liukin was a member of the former Soviet Union’s national team from 1985-92, winning gold in team and on high bar at the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games, where he also earned silver in the all-around and parallel bars.
A member of the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame, Liukin was head coach of the U.S. women’s team at the Guadalajara 2007 Pan American Games and was a coach at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. The 2009 International Gymnastics Coach of the Year, he was named to the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame earlier this year.