Mihai Brestyan, coach of three-time Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman and Olympic silver medalist Alicia Sacramone, has been named the women’s national team coach in Australia.
Following this summer’s Olympic Games and Australia’s failure to qualify a full team, Peddy Liddick — the national team coach of 20 years — decided to bow out. Just in time for the Games in Sydney, Liddick took the Australian program from a non-contender to one on the rise.
In her history, Liddick led the team to a team bronze at worlds in Anaheim in 2003, and followed up this achievement with the country’s Olympic-best sixth place team finish in 2008, its first individual world medal with Monette Russo’s bronze in 2005, and its first world title with Lauren Mitchell in 2010.
The program has spent the last few years in decline, however, and Liddick told the press after her decision in December that it was the best time for her to step aside, “both personally and professionally.” Gymnastics Australia chief executive Mark Rendell said that the sport is “indebted to Peggy for her achievements,” and he hopes she’ll stay on as a mentor during the transition, but he had a hefty task on his hands to find her replacement, and a lengthy search commenced almost instantly.
At the end of that process, the Romanian-born Brestyan was considered the best man for the job thanks to his success with his Olympic superstars, including bringing both Raisman and Sacramone from injuries and hiatuses back to top-level routines, and also with his gym, Brestyan’s American Gymnastics in Burlington, Mass., which boasts one of the best J.O. club programs in the country.
As the national team floor coach for the U.S. women’s program, Brestyan also had a special role within the country’s elite system, bringing the competitive level on floor exercise up to a higher standard during his years in this role. It is because of that higher standard and his history of success both at the high-performance and developmental levels that Gymnastics Australia wants him to bring down under.
“Gymnastics Australia was clear in its objective of securing a world best coach to drive performance standards of Australian athletes and coaches to be internationally competitive,” Rendell said in a press release today.
In his new role, Brestyan will work directly with the senior and junior national teams at regular camps in addition to leading the strategic direction for the program going forward to the annual Melbourne World Cups, the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast next year, and to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and beyond.
“This is a new chapter and an exciting challenge,” Brestyan said. “I’m looking forward to sharing my learnings and experiences with the athletes and coaches in Australia and guiding women’s gymnastics to a leading gymnastics nation.”
It’s unclear what the situation will be going forward with his U.S.-based gym and going forward in Raisman’s elite career should she decide to continue. At his gym, Brestyan trained gymnasts from elite programs all over the world (including Canada, Trinidad & Tobago, and Egypt) and traveled with them to international competitions despite his allegiance to the U.S. national program, so technically he could still continue to coach Raisman if they could find a way to make it work out geographically (though should she make another worlds or Olympic team, she’d have to bring someone else along as her personal coach).
But this isn’t a priority right now, and Raisman’s coaching needs won’t become an issue for at least the next year or so. Instead, Brestyan’s focus at the moment is on beginning his role with a ten-day visit to the country, where he will meet with Gymnastics Australia staff, coaches, and athletes.
We look forward to Brestyan’s future with Gymnastics Australia and hope he is able to accomplish great things with a team of strong young women hoping to get the program back on track. Congratulations to him, and we can’t wait to see him in action!
Article by Lauren Hopkins