Martha (Marta) Karolyi

Martha Karolyi and Bela Karolyi
Martha and Bela Karolyi at their national team training center. © Bob Levey / Getty Images

Martha Karolyi, working alongside her husband Bela Karolyi, coached Olympic champions Nadia Comaneci, Mary Lou Retton, Dominique Moceanu, Kim Zmeskal, and Kerri Strug, as well as many other elite gymnasts.

Martha Karolyi has also served as the national team coordinator for the US women's program since 2001.

Romanian Roots:

The Karolyis started their first gymnastics training center in Onesti, Romania, and one of their very first students was Nadia Comaneci.

She started gymnastics at age six, and became world-famous at 14 when she won the all-around and scored seven perfect 10.0s at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

After Montreal, Romania became one of the top gymnastics teams in the world, but Bela had ongoing disagreements with the Romanian federation. After Comaneci and the Romanian team won a silver medal at the 1980 Olympics, the Karolyis defected to the United States during a 1981 gymnastics tour in the US.

Starting Again in the US:

Though none of the Karolyis' Romanian gymnasts defected with them, the Karolyis had built up a huge international reputation, and success with new gymnasts came very quickly. They coached Dianne Durham to a national title in 1983, just two years after defecting -- and in 1984, they coached Mary Lou Retton to the Olympic all-around gold and Julianne McNamara to the uneven bars gold.

Martha and Bela Karolyi became the most powerful coaching team in the United States, with hundreds of gymnasts moving to Texas with the hopes of becoming "the next Mary Lou." While Bela was the more vocal of the two, Martha worked behind the scenes.

In 1991 Kim Zmeskal, a Karolyi protege, became the first American woman to win the world all-around title. Then in 1996, the US team, with Martha Karolyi as head coach, won the first Olympic gold in history for the American women. Two of the athletes on the team -- Dominique Moceanu and Kerri Strug -- were personally coached by the Karolyis at the time as well.

National Team Coordinator:

In 2000, Bela Karolyi was named team coordinator for the Olympic team, but after the Sydney Games, Martha took over the role, and has served as national team coordinator for the women's team ever since. One of the high-profile tasks she has is to help select the world and Olympic teams, and to assign national team gymnasts to various international competitions throughout the year. Since she's been named NTC the women's program has entered a period of unprecedented success, winning Olympic team gold in 2012, silver in 2008 and 2004, and the last three Olympic all-around gold medals (Gabby Douglas in 2012, Nastia Liukin in 2008, and Carly Patterson in 2004).

Allegations of Abuse:

No one can argue that the Karolyis have had long and successful careers creating gymnastics champions, but their coaching methods have often come under fire. Moceanu has more than once made allegations that she was subjected to emotional and physical abuse under the Karolyis. Romanian gymnasts Emelia Eberle (now Trudi Kollar) and Rodica Dunca have also given interviews to the press about physical abuse they endured, and Geza Pozsar, who worked with the Karolyis as a choreographer for 30 years, has backed up those claims.

The Karolyis have denied the accusations, or refused to comment on specific claims.

Personal Info:

Martha Eross was born August 29, 1942 and married Bela Karolyi on November 28, 1963. The couple has a daughter, Andrea, born in 1973, and two granddaughters Julia and Christina (daughters of Andrea and her husband Paul Wise).

The Karolyis live on a ranch in Huntsville, Texas in the Sam Houston National Forest near Houston. The ranch is also the site of their gymnastics camp, and the National Training Center for women's gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline, tumbling, and acrobatic gymnastics.