Bela and Martha Karolyi: Who are the coaches in Netflix’s ‘Athlete A’?

Athlete A
Béla and Márta Károlyi were two of the top U.S. Gymnastics coaches during the Athlete A scandal. Pic credit: Netflix

The documentary Athlete A hit Netflix on June 24 and tells the story of the U.S. Gymnastics sexual abuse scandal, perpetrated by Olympic doctor Larry Nassar.

The documentary also focuses on the coaches of many of the abused girls, Béla and Márta Károlyi, two individuals who have faced claims that they turned a blind eye to the entire abuse.

Who are Béla and Márta Károlyi?

Béla and Márta Károlyi were two of the top gymnastics coaches for decades and helped many girls rise to the top in worldwide competitions.

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The couple were from Romania and trained girls there before moving on to the United States. Their top early trainee was Nadia Comăneci, the first gymnast to ever score a perfect 10. She went on to score six more perfect 10s and won three gold medals in 1976 at the age of 14.

Béla and Márta Károlyi used her success to build their training regime in the United States.

Among their top athletes in America, names like Mary Lou Retton and Kerri Strug rose to the top of the list.

Mary Lou Retton was the first American woman to win the all-around gold medal at the Olympics.

Kerri Strugg was part of the Magnificent Seven at the 1996 Summer Olympics, and will always be remembered for performing a vault with a severely injured ankle.

Fans will remember Béla Károlyi, as she was the coach who carried Strugg to the podium.

With all that success, recent allegations of abuse arose against both Béla and Márta Károlyi.

In the book, Little Girls in Pretty Boxes, former students Kristie Phillips, Dominique Moceanu, and Erica Stokes accused both Béla and Márta Károlyi of abusing them verbally and physically in training. They also claimed the trainers caused many gymnasts to develop eating disorders due to verbal abuse about their weight.

However, at the same time, other gymnasts, including Nadia Comăneci, Mary Lou Retton, and Betty Okino, have said that what they did was build them up so no one could break them down. They noted these training methods made them successful.

The Athlete A scandal

What Athlete A accuses Béla and Márta Károlyi is worse. While neither was implicated personally, the documentary claims that they turned a blind eye to what Dr. Nassar was doing to the girls.

The way that Nassar was able to groom these young teen girls for sex was to be the only person at the training facility that treated them with kindness. He was accused of sexually assaulting at least 250 girls.

He ended up with charges of molesting seven girls under the guise that it was medical treatment. He was charged with 22 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with minors.

The county found Nassar guilty, and he was sentenced to 175 years in a Michigan state prison after pleading guilty to seven counts of sexual assault of minors. He received an additional 40 to 125 years in prison after pleading guilty to an additional three counts of sexual assault.

Athlete A is now streaming on Netflix.

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