"You can do it! You can do it Kerri!"
Ah yes, Bela's famous last words of encouragement before walking away from the sport of gymnastics for the second (and what was thought to be the last) time.
Psych! He's back!
As the athletes ready themselves for the first day of competition, Bela Karolyi has the hopes and dreams of six young girls and a nation hungry for medals resting heavily on his shoulders. Only this time, none of the athletes are his own. After the U.S. team's sixth place showing at last year's World Championships, USA Gymnastics phoned Bela for a lifeline. If anyone could spin a web of miracles, it would be him.
I had the honor of being coached by Bela. As one of his athletes you can't help but give every ounce of what you have inside you, because that's what he does, too. He teaches by example. His enthusiasm and dedication to the sport is infectious. It bleeds through all his athletes, making them a force to be reckoned with.
Unfortunately, Bela's lived most of his life with constant criticism from the media for his training methods: "He pushes too hard!" "They're only little girls!" "He's a slave driver!"
Keep in mind that in order to compete in front of a billion viewers at the Olympic games, you cannot be an ordinary little girl. We are world class athletes. In order to handle the pressures of competition, we must push ourselves both physically and mentally beyond the level of "normal" human capacity.
The current U.S. Olympic Team
Bela knows that all too well. So do the hundreds of little girls who come to his camp with hopes of making their dreams come true. Not everyone can handle what Bela has to offer... but if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
Bela is a consummate perfectionist, who puts himself on the line for the good of his athletes.
One day, at his ranch in Texas, Bela was gored in the leg by one of his pet rams. Without telling anyone, he struggled to the gym and bandaged his leg, so that he could be there for our training session. He waited until practice ended, then passed out from the pain. He ended up in the emergency room. If that's not crazy dedication, I don't know what is. That's why he's one of the most amazing human beings and coaches ever.
Bela may always be one of the most controversial coaches in sports. Then again, aren't all the great ones? Look at Bobby Knight!
For me, Bela was a mentor and father figure. With his stern glares and bear hugs, he touched the lives of many athletes... and made this little girl's dreams come true.
Will Bela spin another web of miracles? I wouldn't be surprised.