From Soviet Union to N. Texas: Valeri Liukin to be head of U.S. women's gymnastics

North Texas coach to succeed Martha Karolyi

Valeri Liukin, the father of decorated gymnast Nastia Liukin and owner of a North Texas gym that lays claim to multiple Olympic gold medalists, will take the helm of the U.S. gymnastics program.

Liukin takes over for the departing Martha Karolyi, who has guided the program to 96 medals in world and Olympic competition over the last decade-and-a-half.

"He does know these are huge shoes to fill, but at the same time, that drives him,” said former Olympic gold medalist Carly Patterson, who trained at Valeri Liukin's North Texas gym.

The announcement was published on the USA Gymnastics website.

“We are at the highest level there is,” Liukin said in the official release. “It’s not going to be easy – it shouldn’t be – but I have been a part of this team for many years in one way or another. I have been at The Ranch since 1999 and have coached several generations of national team members. I know the drill. I grew up in that system as a gymnast, and I’ve raised my athletes in that same system, too.”

Liukin, from Parker, Texas, owns WOGA Gymnastics, the academy where his daughter, as well as fellow Olympic gold medalists Patterson (2004) and Madison Kocian (2016), have trained. He'll continue in his role at the gym, according to USA Gymnastics.

"He knows exactly what to do with young people and gymnasts to help them achieve their dreams,” Patterson said.

Valeri served as Nastia’s coach during her 2008 gold-medal run in Beijing.

“I’ve never been more proud to be his daughter,” Nastia said. “He’s always been my father, but he’s also been a role model and inspiration for me, so to see him achieve something that he has wanted to do for so long, to see him lead the U.S. team, that makes me very proud of him.”

The elder Liukin won eight gold medals -- including two Olympic golds -- while competing on the world stage for the Soviet Union from 1987-93.

The first national team camp with Valeri as the program's coordinator -- the official launch of preparation for the 2020 Olympics -- will take place at the Karolyi Ranch in southeast Texas at the end of this month.

"I think he's going to do a great job, and I can't wait to see what the future holds for him,” Patterson said.

Copyright 2016 WFAA


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