Karolyi, 43, defected to the U.S. in 1981 after coaching Nadia Comaneci to a total of five gold medals in the '76 and '80 Olympics. Karolyi's many U.S. prot�g�es include Mary Lou Retton
The decision to stay in the United States came suddenly. Since our first big success at the 1976 Olympics, my wife, Martha, and I had been increasingly harassed by the Romanian Gymnastics Federation. When the federation decided to send a team to the U.S. in 1981, a large official delegation traveled with us, extolling at every press conference the importance of communist ideology in the progress we had made in gymnastics. I felt embarrassed.
One morning in New York, Martha and I decided to defect. We were both 39 years old and spoke no English. On the second day of our new life, we watched on TV what we presumed to be a gangster movie with people shooting and running around. We couldn't understand why they showed the same scene over and over until somebody explained that President Reagan had been shot.
With our last dollars we bought plane tickets to L.A., and I found work on the docks, loading and unloading ships, and cleaned restaurants at night. Finally, Paul Ziert, the gymnastics coach at Oklahoma, got me a job at the university and in his private gymnastics club. Martha and I found all the kids wanted to do was have fun: "I just want to have fun, have no responsibilities, no desire to feel proud of something achieved." I began my own program in 1982. We started with one gym in Houston; now we have three. We also own a 50-acre ranch in New Waverly, Texas.
Our success with Mary Lou Retton and Julie McNamara showed that our kids aren't coming for the fun anymore; they are shooting for Olympic gold.
Andretti, 46, came to the U.S. at 15. He is the only man to be selected Driver of the Year in three decades ('67, '78, '84) and to win both Formula One and Indy Car championships.
Following World War II our city, Montona, which had been part of Italy, became part of Yugoslavia. We wanted to keep our Italian citizenship, so in 1948 we moved to Lucca, a charming little city in Tuscany. Italy's economy was in bad shape, though, and my father, a farmer, had a hard time making ends meet. My mother had relatives living in the U.S. who suggested that we give it a try over here.
The day we sailed past the Statue of Liberty was my sister Anna Maria's 21st birthday. It was a beautiful morning, and we all ran toward the ship's bow to look at the statue, which to us was the symbol of the future, the symbol of hope. For my father, who was almost as old then as I am now, it meant a dramatic change. We settled in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, and he went to work for Bethlehem Steel. None of us kids ever wanted to go back to Europe. When I was older I got many offers from racing teams in Italy. I still love my homeland and I'm proud of my heritage, but I would never go back to live there. This is my home.