Valeri Liukin Takes Over as U.S. Women’s Coordinator: Live Press Conference


This morning, USA Gymnastics announced that Valeri Liukin, coach and father of 2008 Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin, will take over the role of national team coordinator for the U.S. women’s program. Martha Karolyi, who has held the position since 2001, announced several years ago that she would retire following the 2016 Olympic Games.

Since 2013, Liukin has been in the role of elite developmental coordinator, a position he’ll continue to embody as he undertakes his new responsibilities.

Join us live at 10 am ET for a press conference with Liukin! Refresh your browser every 3-5 minutes for updates, the most recent of which will appear at the top.

10:30 am. That’s all! Thanks for joining us today, and I’m excited to see where Valeri Liukin is able to take the team in the future…but I think that Martha Karolyi built a program that is long-lasting. He’s not taking over as a dictator holding unchecked power, but rather as a CEO neatly stepping in to a thriving company with boards and committees and a full system in place. A few people could’ve fit this role well, but I think the second Liukin stepped into the developmental position back in 2013, he showed why he was gunning to become Martha 2.0. There’s literally zero fear going forward, no major shakeups, no reimaginations of how things are done, and that’s exactly what they need to continue the program’s success.

10:28 am. Leslie: “Clarification on conflict of interest…Valeri is not coaching elite athletes, as you know, he is now the national team coordinator. If there is a conflict of interest [e.g. with a WOGA gymnast being up for a spot on a team], the NTC will have a voice with no vote on the selection committee for team selection.”

10:26 am. Rhonda: “The system has worked tremendously well and we will have the same number of national team camps with the same number of days, it will be run with the same schedule, with the four events, dance, the verification system…we did have a retirement, our vault national staff coach. He has been a tremendous asset for USA Gymnastics and I understand his retirement, so we will be having a new staff member coming in on vault. We don’t want to discuss that right now, but we want to keep it with very little change because every staff member we’ve had has been a part of the system for quite a long time and they know how it works.”

10:24 am. “Where do you see the code going in the next four years with the trend going toward big powerful skills?”

“Difficulty is IN right now, so to say. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and if you remember the last Olympics, look at how beautiful the Netherlands performed. They all made finals, they had the Olympic champion on beam, so there’s still a way to have difficulty in dance, not just with power skills. I don’t see our style changing much, just little tweaks [to fit the new code], and we’ll get the updates soon. But there won’t be many big changes.”

10:23 am. “Is Martha ABSOLUTELY retiring this time?”

“It’s too late now! But that’s a good question. I’m not giving it back!”

10:21 am. “What will a four person team mean for the next Games in terms of strategy? How will that affect how you go about looking at the athletes coming up in the next four years?”

“I will definitely look at the developmental skills to help us develop an even stronger elite program in the country. Other than that, the plans are not to fix anything that’s not broken basically. The system has proven itself and is working, we’re winning a lot of medals, and that’s what we hope to continue to do. With the four-person team, I’m confident…we’re working hard and the team has the most difficulty and the greatest quality of gymnastics in the world at this point. I think no matter what happens [in terms of team size changes], nothing can change. If we do our homework daily, as we do, I don’t think anything’s gonna change.”

10:20 am. “Your appointment comes at a difficult time with some recent news, so what do you do to make people feel good about the situation you’re in?”

“Yeah, that’s an interesting question. All we can do…we can provide good training at the camp, as has been done. I don’t think there’s much else I can provide aside from a safe environment and I can assure everybody that number one, I am a father of a gymnast, and everybody knows that, and I hope that’s gonna help people trust me a bit more.”

Leslie: “We’re all aware of making sure we promote a safe environment for all of our athletes. It is definitely a top priority.”

10:18 am. “What can you do to make sure people have trust in the people at the top of USA Gymnastics right now?”

“I’m not in my first year at the elite level, coaches have seen me and known me for many years. This is actually difficult to talk about myself but I will say a few words…I hope they see my passion and respect for them, and the trust I have from the people I work with. Most of these guys are gonna be part of the national team at this point, so it’s pretty simple for me to see how they’ll trust me…they already do.”

10:17 am. “Where do you see the program going over the next quad?”

“We have juniors with lots of talent, and big pools of gymnasts coming up right now. We expect to get even further with our results…at least I do!”

10:15 am. Rhonda: “I feel that one of Valeri’s greatest assets is his work ethic and passion. Valeri shows tremendous knowledge, he was an amazing gymnast himself, he was an amazing coach, his gym’s system has been part of USA Gymnastics’ system for a very long time. When I saw the passion, dedication, and discipline that he showed with his desire four years ago when Martha first said she would possibly retire, he was ready to fill this role. What he did do was put that passion into the developmental program. I saw some results this year at our Hopes Championships, our junior international elites, they all came through his system. Just to see his excitement and also, what I really liked, is that he has a firm belief in educating the coaches…the younger coaches, making them feel like if they don’t have the knowledge, then he’s going to help them with that instead of making them feel like less of a coach. It helps them join the system, and that’s exactly what we need.”

10:13 am. “Obviously expectations have never been higher in this program. Gymnasts credit that to Martha’s exacting eye, the difficulty of performing in front of her compared to at competitions. How will you maintain those expectations? What will be different in terms of personality/style?”

“I don’t think I’m very far off from Martha, to be honest. We have similar coaching styles and we’re very particular with things, very detail-oriented. That’s how you raise high level athletes and Olympians. It’s going to be a lot of new kids coming up on the national team, and I assume half of those kids are ones I’ve been working with and will be comfortable with. I brought them up through the system, basically, and same with the coaches. I’m absolutely comfortable with all of that. And you know with the national team, I’ve been at the national training center since 1999, so it’s been a long time.”

10:12 am. “Congratulations. What happens now at WOGA?”

“I haven’t been coaching for a few years since I started as the developmental coach, so they’ve been working successfully without me. They had another Olympic champion without me. This is how it’s been working. I have to hire, and they produce. I’m not worried about it.”

10:11 am. Rhonda: “The decision was made that Valeri’s position, he is on the selection committee and has a vote. In the event of a conflict of interest, he will have what is called a voice with no vote, and the USOC in conjunction with the USA Gymnastics board of directors will determine the person who will replace Valeri for the vote.”

10:08 am. Rhonda: “There have been steps taken so there won’t be a conflict of interest [with WOGA], and we have worked with Steve Penny and Valeri on those items and also with the USOC and board of directors. We have a system in place so there won’t be any conflict of interest.” [Her phone just broke up]

Valeri: “For the Olympians who want to return, it’s very difficult to say who can do it. I assume the 2016 Olympians will take some time off…I anticipate Laurie Hernandez will come back, she’s very young and basically just starting her senior career, of course hopefully Simone Biles will be back within a year or so…we’re hoping to see them back at camps. I can’t tell for sure about Aly Raisman, but we definitely hope they all come back because they’ve done an incredible job. It’s not easy to stay on the elite path, but we’d absolutely welcome them.”

10:07 am. “Did you have any qualms about taking over this job?”

“Absolutely not. I was waiting for the call for four years! We all know Martha thought about retiring four years ago and I was super excited back then, and I’m just as excited and happy today to accept it. It’s big shoes to fill, but I mean, I still have done this for a few years as a coach and I’m not afraid of that.”

10:05 am. “Can you tell us a little bit about the developmental program and give us some idea how good things look for the next Olympic cycle?”

“The last four years, I’ve been working in the developmental role, which was an amazing job. I loved every day of it, and I feel like we’ve made great progress. We’ve been working very close with the club coaches and gymnasts, and at the last national championships, some of our little babies were at the top of the board. That gives me great confidence for the future.”

10:04 am. “Do you envision any significant changes in the way the monthly training camps will be handled?”

“First thing, I just wanna thank everybody. I just want to say how honored I am to accept this position. It is an incredible honor and I can’t wait to write the next chapter, so to speak, of the book of success at USA Gymnastics. For your question, no, I don’t think we should change many things at all. I mean, the system is proved to be working. I was brought up with this system, I brought all my athletes through it, and I’m absolutely happy with the outcome. There will be little tweaks, I’m sure, all the gymnasts are different. But generally I don’t see the need to change anything.”

10:03 am. Faehn is beyond excited to announce Liukin as the coordinator. “He will continue to serve as the developmental coach. He’ll be doing both roles and we are very much looking forward to it.”

10:02 am. Leslie King is welcoming us to the call…both Liukin and Rhonda Faehn are here to chat. No questions about WADA or Larry Nassar today, this is JUST about the new national team coordinator.

10:00 am. This was a super last-minute press conference so I’m glad I could join! From random sources, I’ve known Liukin was taking over for about a year and I think as the months ticked on, most people came to the same conclusion…so it’s not surprising at all, but great to see it all OFFICIAL now. It also makes a ton of sense that he’ll stay with the developmental program…some of the girls who will become elites in the next few years have been with Liukin since they were about eight years old. It’s awesome to have that kind of continuity to build future generations within the sport, which is why the program has been so successful, especially in the past five years where all gymnasts essentially grew up in the Martha Karolyi system.

9:57 am. Excited to hear from Valeri Liukin about his new role within the U.S. women’s program shortly!

Article by Lauren Hopkins


28 thoughts on “Valeri Liukin Takes Over as U.S. Women’s Coordinator: Live Press Conference

  1. Romania is also betting on their jr developer for coordinator… I hope they will hv monthly camp meets like US given the need to keep jr and sr with their coaches in different cities alsi…


  2. Wait, who was the US Vault Coach? Maybe we’ll get more amanars this quad. I’m surprised Rhonda and Valeri didn’t form a partnership and bounce into Martha’s spot.


    • The recent news refers to two things: 1. a Russian Espionage group hacking into the WADAs database and publishing Simone Biles’ medical information without her consent and 2. Larry Nasser (national team doctor) being accused of sexual assault by two gymnasts, one who chose to be anonymous and only identified as a member of the Sydney team and one that I never heard of, but must have been in the program at some point to have come in contact with Nasser.


  3. This selection makes total sense. I’m sure the program will continue to be great.

    I think maybe NBC should replace Nastia as a commentator though. It’s not like their coverage wasn’t already pretty sycophantic, but now there’s really going to be a bias.

    Nothing against Nastia personally, but even if it’s on a subconscious level there’s no way she won’t just me a mouthpiece for her dad.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I prefer Nastia’s commentary without Tim or Al. I feel like she was better when she started. She covered the 2013 American Cup, that was the first time I heard her and I thought she was great actually pointing out things that an actual fan of the sport would be interested in. I don’t see a conflict of interest. Her job is to tell us what’s happening on the floor and she’s already an American who likely roots for the Americans competing so what difference does it make that her father is the team coordinator?


  5. Yet another recycled Eastern European to coach the US team? Drug cheats, sexual assaults and mercenary coaches… Proud of what you’ve done to gymnastics? Go Team USA!


  6. It would be amazing if lauren did the commentary. You did so well giving John Horton and Courtney the information but it was so obvious with the stupid mistakes they made. I also don’t really understand why we have to hear about Jon Horton personal life it’s not like he ever did women’s gymnastics. Any update on your book


  7. I think they went with who has more experience with the upcomers. And its very obvious that valeri has way more experience than rhonda with regard to this.. they must have liked the way he ran the jr program.

    i think he should give up any association w WOGA like marta gave up any individual coaching roles in 2001.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s