Everyone knows it: a coach can make or break a gymnast, literally – both in a physical and emotional sense. The really good ones (such as the Mrs. and Steve Nunno…ha ha, just kidding) are capable of turning that lazy-but-oh-so-talented kid into a passionate, fiery gymnast with a champion’s heart and lion’s courage (all right, I’m digging the cliches today…so what? It’s my blog, and I can do whatever I want with it!). The not-so-good ones – well, they can shoot a girl’s self-esteem down faster than you can say “Jeff Wood” (ahem).
Chow: how can he not be on the list? He’s so smiley and cute all the time, it makes me want to give him a big hug. While I’m not sure that he’s all that great of a technical coach (perhaps Shawn Johnson is simply an exceptionally talented athlete. I believe that it takes more than one gymnast to be able to prove yourself), you can tell that he’s extremely caring, considerate, and understanding. It’s so great that he allows Shawn to have a life, too (can anyone else totally picture Elfi shaking her head in disapproval? Maybe Shawn – gasp – also texts her friends, just like those Romanian gymnasts? Oh, the horror!). Now, if only he’d make her work on her splits…
Kelli Hill: while I wouldn’t want to cross her on a bad day (the woman is tough! She doesn’t take crap from anyone – not even Bela, surprisingly enough), she seems so caring and understands that forming a complete gymnast is not only about the athletics, but about the person as well. She doesn’t freak out when her girls make mistakes (to Dominique Dawes’ tremendous relief), either, which is a great quality for a coach. Also, she teaches her girls how to swing on bars (the Chinese gymnasts could learn a little something from her – perhaps that could fix their dead hangs). It’s awesome.
Yevgeny Marchenko: I’ve always liked him, more so than Valeri Liukin (to tell you the truth, he doesn’t seem very nice). He’s kind of like a big teddy bear. Too bad his star gymnast was a boring, expressionless robot.
Alexander Alexandrov: one thing I really like about him (in addition to the glorious Soviet gymnasts and teams he produced) is that he genuinely feels bad about “having” to pull Roza Galieva out of the all around at the 1992 Olympics in favor of a gymnast who actually had a shot at the gold medal. That is to say, he was not actually just a coldhearted Soviet monster. I’m so glad he’s going back to Russia – hopefully, the team will regain some of its former glory.
Adrian Goreac: people say that Bela Karolyi (and Nadia) put Romanian gymnastics on the map, and that might be true – but it is undeniable that it was Adrian Goreac that created their golden legacy during the 80s (the time when Romanian gymnastics was at its zenith, in my opinion). And he managed to do this without becoming a total beast (or so the story goes, anyway) – apparently, his gymnasts liked him much better than Karolyi because he actually respected them, even though he was a very harsh disciplinarian.
Nicolae Forminte: I don’t know whether he is a good coach or a bad one (only time will tell), really, but I love the change he’s brought to Deva ever since the (abusive) pair of Mariana Bitang and Octavian Belu left. For the first time in a long, long while, the Romanian gymnasts actually seemed happy in Beijing. It was very nice to see.
Galina Marinova: just listen to her talk about the sport (and the artistry factor!)! Sigh…why can’t she be National Team Coordinator, instead of Bartha? Or, better yet, why can’t she be the FIG president? Gymnastics would be so lovely under her rule…
At least her girls at AOGC are a pleasure to watch. Beautiful!
Boris Pilkin: don’t say you’ve never wished that Boris Pilkin was your grandfather because I swear he’s the most adorable old man you’ve ever seen in your life. Not only that, but you can tell that he is (was? Is he alive still?) an incredibly smart technical coach – Svetlana Khorkina did not have the body type to become a world class gymnast, nor did she seem to have that much talent (to me, anyway). Yet, he was able to come up with innovative ways so that she could remain competitive and on top for three whole quads – all with very, very different Codes! What a genius.
Elvira Saadi: I don’t know much about her personality as a coach (or as a gymnast, truthfully), but she certainly knew how to produce some fantastic, original gymnastics. Tatiana Groshkova, anyone? She also coached Yvonne Tousek, one of Canada’s best gymnasts of all time. EDIT: I’ve been informed that Saadi is pretty much a tyrant. Forget what I said. Groshkova is still amazing, though.
Kim Zmeskal: love her. Love love love her. Not so much as a gymnast (she was exciting, though, that’s for sure), but as a coach, I think she’s fabulous – and she’s just getting started! She seems motivational and inspirational to her athletes, probably because she’s been there. Some people have suggested that she become the next National Team Coordinator for the Americans (actually, I think it was Karolyi himself – oh, the irony!), and I totally agree. She seems like a very sweet, fun person – and I love Chelsea Davis!