UPDATED: What happens now? The Karolyi rumors spread to American media
Posted November 19, 2008on:
As has been reported on several gymnastics message boards and a few blogs, a Romanian news source recently published damaging interviews with the Romanian gymnast Emilia Eberle (now Trudi Kollar) and Geza Pozar, the long-time choreographer for the Romanian gymnastics team. Eberle has come out with stories of abuse by Bela Karolyi that correlate to those related by other Romanian gymnasts from the Karolyi period (and later).
But things are really coming to a head now: the story has been picked up by KCRA, a Sacramento news station.
The original interviews appeared in Cotidianul, a Romanian newspaper. The Eberle interview can be found here, and plenty of related articles are sidebarred.
The big question is whether the American media will pick this up. Karolyi is a darling of the American media. He is gregarious, loud, has that slightly crazy foreigner thing going (a la Roberto Benigni), and has totally reshaped the American gymnastics system (along with Marta, obviously). There is no doubt in my mind that whatever happened in Romania, Karolyi hasn’t been able to transplant his training style entirely to the United States; there’s no way USAG would be OK with that. In any case, the details of many of the girls’ stories are fairly consistent with one another, and it’s hard to see what they would gain from making these claims. The fact that Pozar backs them up is pretty damning. What I’m anxious to see is whether Karolyi responds to the charges (in English — he did do a brief interview with Cotidianul) and whether the American media care.
Like many others, I have a hard time seeing the charming Karolyi doing this, but then plenty of gymnasts — up through Dominique Moceanu — have suggest that his demeanor in the gym is worlds away from that of his public persona. In either case, I’d be interested to see what — if anything — the media, or even USAG, plan to do with these claims.
**ETA: As it happens, USAG has responded to the claims in an AP article. I guess they had to because the information had come out in English. USAG has said that they have not received a complaint about Bela or Marta since their arrival in the United States 30 years ago. The FIG has stated the same.
USAG’s statement was pretty boring, and with Marta in Argentina with the PAGU girls, I assume we won’t be hearing much more. (Of course the Karolyis did not provide comment.)