The "Communist Mafia" better watch out now.
American Coach Bela Karolyi, with his accent, his opinions, and his knack for producing gymnastic champions, says he'd like to work another Olympics."I'm obligated to carry this on," he said Friday in Olympic Park. "I'm getting a little bit tired, but I feel I have an obligation."
He said his obligation includes Phoebe Mills, his 15-year-old pupil who finished 15th in the women's individual all-around; Brandy Johnson, who wound up 10th; and those who might someday enter the sport.
"I have an obligation to those looking at gymnastics back home," he said without a hint of modesty.
Karolyi, 47, spoke at length in the basement of the Gymnastics Hall, his Yugoslavian accent spilling over the crowd. As the gynmasts mingled around him, he commented on the winners, assessed his team's performance, and criticized the judging.
"The Communist Mafia was working unbelievably," he said.
In all honesty, gold medal winner Elena Shoushounova of the Soviet Union scarcely needed any help from judges. She needed a 10 on the vault to overtake Romanian Daniela Silivas for the gold, and she delivered one. Still, Karolyi seldom hides his opinions, a rarity in an occupation that breeds caution.
Besides, any remark that gets in the paper brings attention to Karolyi, to his school, and to the sport. Attention can translate into interest, interest into pupils, pupils into medal candidates. Karolyi, for instance, says to keep an eye on a young lady named Kim Zmeskal for the 1992 Games. Don't ignore him; he coached 1976 Olympic hero Nadia Comaneci.
Karolyi no doubt irritates some of his peers. After all, a feud marred preparation for the Olympics and probably made him some enemies. Even if he decides to stay, nothing guarantees him a spot on the floor in Barcelona.
"I don't need promises," he said. "The way the kids perform is the one that's going to put me on the floor or off the floor."