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Karolyi’s soft retirement means little change for Team USA

Nov 7, 2012, 10:41 AM EDT

Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

USA Gymnastics announced changes to the program’s coaching staff in preparation for the eventual departure of National Team Coordinator Martha Karolyi. But don’t panic! Karolyi isn’t running off to retirement yet, she’s just doing what Martha does… getting everything she wants.

Karolyi made it clear she has another four years in her, but she’s clearing her plate and handing over responsibility of the junior program to Valeri Liukin (aka: Nastia’s dad). It’s a non-shocker since Karolyi’s answers regarding who will take the reins is usually Liukin for reasons related to his technical prep of athletes that makes his now famous gym, WOGA, a hot bed of talent for up and coming juniors who turn into dominating seniors (See: Patterson, Bross, Liukin).

USA Gymnastics confirmed Liukin’s role as Elite Athlete Development Coordinator effective January 2013. There’s no official word yet on what will happen with his personal coaching duties. Karolyi had long been retired as a personal coach when she assumed her role overseeing the national team, but Liukin is still deeply immersed in coaching his current roster of athletes, which includes U.S. junior champ Katelyn Ohashi (among other much hyped juniors) and still potentially includes 2010 National Champion Rebecca Bross.

Liukin taking a role with the national team while still participating as a full time coach to athletes who might be on said team seems like a pretty straightforward conflict of interest. However, Liukin will only oversee junior development. Steve Rybacki, a long time Martha sidekick, will serve as Director of Elite Athlete Programs, which includes helping select teams for international competition, but final word on team selection and line up remains with Karolyi.

Liukin will be the guy overseeing the talent pipeline. In some aspects over seeing juniors could able him to continue with Bross and Ohashi. After all, he’s a coach who loves having a gymnast in the spotlight and one could assume this role was given to him to allow him to coach Ohashi through the 2016 Rio Games.

But for the near future it doesn’t appear fans will feel much impact from these changes. Nothing will really change until Martha fully relinquishes her role. Which clearly… could take a while.

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