International gymnastics guru Bela Karolyi says America's gymnastics community is self-destructing on the eve of the 1988 Summer Olympics.
Karolyi, who coaches some of America's top women gymnasts, said the controversy and in-house fighting that have plagued the United States Gymnastics Federation will take their toll when the Americans arrive in Seoul next month."We are looking like dirty idiots," Karolyi told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his home in Houston. "Personally I just can't understand it. I have never seen such miserable procedures."
Karolyi, who coached Mary Lou Retton to the all-around gold medal in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, has another strong group of Olympic contenders with 15-year-old national champion Phoebe Mills, 14-year-old Chelle Stack and 16-year-old Kristie Phillips, who is trying to regain the form that two years ago prompted comparisons with Retton.
While the rest of the Olympic hopefuls arrived in Salt Lake City well in advance of the start of the women's competition Thursday night, Karolyi and his girls remained in Houston. The decision, said Karolyi, was strictly technical.
"Because of the altitude, getting the girls there three or four days is worse than just going straight into competition," said Karolyi. "It was a technical decision."
Embroiled in a dispute with the USGF, Karolyi resigned as the American delegation leader to Korea, and has vowed not to attend the Summer Games, even if the U.S. team is dominated by his proteges.
But Karolyi considers his dispute with the federation the least of its troubles right now. He said allegations of illegal and unethical financial transactions by the federation, as well as former women's team coach Greg Marsden's admission that he had conspired with a Romanian coach to fix scores at the World Championships last year at Rotterdam, would end up hurting the American team in Seoul.