Foreign coaches have boosted U.S. gymnastics to a new level
SHAWN JOHNSON isn't the only top U.S. gymnast trained by a foreign-born coach. Ever since Romania's Bela Karolyi guided Mary Lou Retton to Olympic all-around gold in 1984, there's been a brain drain of overseas coaching talent into the U.S., and it has made American gymnastics into a colossus. Here are some of the likely Beijing-bound gymnasts who have foreign coaches.
NASTIA LIUKIN, 18
A two-time U.S. all-around champ—and the top challenger to Johnson—the elegant Liukin is coached by her father, Valeri, who won two golds for the Soviet Union at the '88 Games. Her mother, Anna, was an '87 world champion in rhythmic gymnastics for the U.S.S.R. Liukin trains at a Plano, Texas, gym that her parents co-own.
JANA BIEGER, 18
The runner-up in the all-around at the '06 worlds, Bieger is coached by her mother, Andrea, a three-time Olympian for West Germany, at the family's gymnastics center in Deerfield Beach, Fla.
ALICIA SACRAMONE, 20
A sophomore at Brown and the spiritual leader of the gold-medal-winning '07 world championship team, she is coached by Mihai Brestyan, a former Romanian national team coach who has a gym in Burlington, Mass.
SAMANTHA PESZEK, 16
Another veteran of the '07 world team, Peszek is coached by Chinese-born Xueyi (Peter) Zhao in Fishers, Ind.
IVANA HONG, 15
Yet another member of the '07 world team, Hong is coached in Blue Springs, Mo., by Armenian-born Armine Barutyan-Fong, a former Russian national team member, and her Chinese-American husband, Al Fong.
ALEXANDER ARTEMEV, 22
The '06 U.S. all-around champ is coached by his father, Vladimir, a former Soviet team member, at a gym in Wheat Ridge, Colo.
DAVID DURANTE, 27
The reigning U.S. all-around titlist is coached by Vitaly Marinitch, a four-time world medalist for the U.S.S.R. and Ukraine and now resident head coach at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.