Known for his successes with Nadia Comenechi, Mary Lou Retton, Julie Ann McNamara
and Kim Szemeskal, Bella Karoli brushes off the press release praise, referring to his
so-called "mystique"- and how champions seem to follow wherever he goes.
KAROLI: Well, it's not a mystique and it's not an accident and I don't believe it's
fortune. It's based on serious and hard work, and probbaly the passion for the sport. And
also the interest and the competitiveness which has got to be in your heart in order to
implant in the heart of your gymnast.
Koroli first gained national attention in 1976 at the Olympic games in Montreal as
coach of the Romanian team. Nadia Comenchi opened the world's eyes to the sport, gaining
perfect ten's in the balance beam and uneven bars events.
KAROLI: Because that was a change of tradition for gymnastics, into a spectacular, more
attractive type of sport, becoming the most popular feminine sport in the world. Ever
since, gymnastics is going straight forward. I believe today we have even more excitement
around gymnastics. The sport itself became even more spectacular. And I believe 1996 it
is the most spectacular sport in the Olympic program.
Koroli went on to become the individual coach of Mary Lou Retton and Julie McNamara,
both all-around gold medalists at the 1984 Olympic games in Los Angeles. He retired as
the United States gymnastics coach after the '92 games but couldn't stay away from the
sport. His shining star today is 14-year old Dominique Moceanu, who at age 10 was the
youngest athlete ever to make the junior national team. Last year, she became the youngest
US national champion in history.
MOCEANU: I've been in it for 11 and a half years now. I started when I was three and a
half. I always wanted to fulfill my goal and my dream ever since I saw Bella and Kim..
and I always wanted to go to the Olympics and make a name for myself, have people remember
me. You're up there with everybody and you have to have that drive in you that keeps you
going.. think about the Olympics, think about my positive outcome. Everybody's supporting
me so I just want to do the best that I can.
Practice makes perfect for Moceanu, about seven hours a day, sandwiched around school
lessons and physical therapy. She'll run through a balance beam routine 36 times a week.
And works daily with the team's correographer to perfect her floor exercise. Those in
gymnastics get over their fear of.. flying.
MOCEANU: You don't think about anything when you're flying in the air. You just think of
what you have to do, and you've done it so many times, you just go really hard for it.
The first time, you're like "whoa, where am I?"..if you do something new, a new skill.
Then you're like "please let me land on my legs, not my head you know." You have to try
new things. That's why we have safety equipment in the gym. After the first time, you
start feeling it and then eventually you get it perfection-wise that you can do it and
it's easy for you.
Koroli says the discovery of Comenche was no accident. He screened around a thousand
athletes before finding Nadia. And with Dominique Moceanu, Koroli has hit the jackpot
KOROLI: The youthful excitement which already is in her eyes and her words and her
physical expression- it is unique. It's very, very unique. I think it's supporting the
whole idea of what the sport is. She expresses what the sport is supposed to be: joy, fun
and hard athletic attitude. And with that combination, I think she's gonna be a great
role model for thousands and thousands young children. It's very, very nice to see how
FLYNN: Is she one in a thousand?
KOROLI: Well, she's probably one in a million.
The United States gymnastics team- going for gold in Atlanta. Bill Flynn, WXXI, 1370.