Karolyi leaves USA Gym­nas­tics in fine shape


Martha Karolyi doesn’t know who will re­place her as na­tional team co­or­di­na­tor for USA Gym­nas­tics when she steps down later this month.

How­ever, she does have a mes­sage: Don’t get cute.

“The pro­gram is al­ready built,” Karolyi said. “I just re­ally hope they don’t try to fix some­thing that has proved it­self and right now re­ally shows that it’s the high­est level pro­gram in the world.”

It’s hard to ar­gue with the re­sults.

The “Fi­nal Five” — a name cho­sen by Si­mone Biles, Aly Rais­man, Gabby Dou­glas, Lau­rie Her­nan­dez and Madis­onKo­cian to honor Karolyi as she heads to re­tire­ment— will re­turn to the US af­ter the Rio clos­ing cer­e­mony with nine medals, in­clud­ing a sec­ond straight team gold and a record-ty­ing four for Biles.

No other coun­try earned even half that to­tal. The Amer­i­cans won medals in ev­ery event and placed the max­i­mumt­wocom­peti­tors in ev­ery fi­nal ex­cept for the vault, which Biles cap­tured with re­mark­able ease.

Even the team’s clos­est com­peti­tors are will­ing to ad­mit that right now, the US stands alone at the top.

“When I com­peted I re­al­ized I didn’t have a chance to win a gold medal or sil­ver medal, but it was so pleas­ant for me,” saidRus­sian star Aliya Musta­fina, who fin­ished third in the all-around be­hind Biles and Rais­man.

The gap ap­pears to be widen­ing. The US has won ev­ery ma­jor in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion since 2011, a com­bi­na­tion of the fruits of the semi-cen­tral­ized sys­tem Karolyi per­fected when she took over in 2001 and in­abil­ity of tra­di­tional pow­ers such as Rus­sia and Ro­ma­nia to de­velop the ta­lent nec­es­sary to keep pace.

The Ro­ma­ni­ans failed to even make the Games, a star­tling fall for a coun­try that had fin­ished on the podium in the team com­pe­ti­tion at ev­ery Olympics since 1972.

The Rus­sians were a stag­ger­ing eight points be­hind the Amer­i­cans in the team fi­nal. The gap be­tween sec­ond and eighth-placed Brazil was half that.

“I think it’s true to say that we could have fielded two teams here and they would have gone first and sec­ond,” Olympic coach Aimee Boor­man said. “Maybe first, sec­ond, third or fourth if we threwin a third team.”

It’s not hype. The three Olympic al­ter­nates in­cluded MyKayla Skin­ner and Ra­gan Smith — both of whom fin­ished ahead of Dou­glas and Ko­cian at the Olympic tri­als.

Mag­gie Ni­chols, a mem­ber of the 2015 world cham­pi­onships team, would have been in the mix if not for a knee in­jury in the spring that slowed her train­ing.

The world will be play­ing catch-up for a long while.

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