Hall of Fame gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi and his wife, Martha, face fresh allegations of physical and psychological abuse of young female athletes dating to the 1960s in a newly published book, according to the Daily Mail.
Romanian author Stejarel Olaru wrote in “Nadia si Securitatea” that Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci — the first gymnast to score a perfect 10 at the Olympics, in 1976 — is among the victims who were starved to the point of developing eating disorders, slapped, and denied medical treatment, according to the report.
Comaneci was Bela Karolyi’s first prodigy and his gateway to defecting to America in 1981.
Bela was the individual coach for 1984 all-around gold medalist Mary Lou Retton and head coach of the United States national team for the 1992 Olympics. Martha was in charge for the gold medal-winning 1996 team. But it was Bela, as a trainer for Kerri Strug, who gained fame for keeping Strug composed and encouraged on an ankle injury as she aced the vault that clinched gold. He later carried her off the mat to the podium.
The abuse claims in the new book are based off old files from the Securitate, Romania’s Communist-era secret police force.
“Starving the gymnasts was a regular practice by the Karolyis,” Olaru wrote, according to the report. “The girls ate toothpaste at night before going to bed — this is how hungry they were. In some cases they talked about drinking water from the toilet tank in secret, because they were often not allowed to drink water.
“Some ended up suffering from bulimia. They became expert in stealing food, which they hid in places they thought no one would discover, like the hem of the curtain.”
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SOURCE: New York Post, Ryan Dunleavy