Editor's Note: This transcript was automatically transcribed, so mistakes are inevitable. You can contribute by proofreading the transcript or highlighting the mistakes. Sign up to be amongst the first contributors.
Thirty four thirty podcasts are presented by Albats, a sustainable shoe brand. It's been a trying year, to say the least, but if few found solace in exercise, Albats has just the right shoe for you. Introducing the tree dasher from Albats, the world's first performance running shoe made from premium natural materials built for performance with a low environmental impact, their light comfortable and perfect for any daily exercise routine. With the new Albats treat Dasher feel confident knowing that you can run hard and tread light on the planet.
Find your pair at all dotcom today. Thirty four thirty podcasts are presented by Volvo at Volvo. Nothing is more important than protecting people both inside the car and out. The Volvo 40 SUV with city safety technology helps keep drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists safe by keeping an eye out and automatically applies the brakes to help avoid a collision wherever you go. Some are safely explore exclusive offers on the C40 during the Volvo summer safely saving's event. Visit Volvo cars dotcom.
Slash us to learn more. A word of warning, this episode contains mature language depicting instances of sexual, physical and or emotional abuse of children. Bella's back back with that same drive and enthusiasm that served him well in years past, Nadia Comaneci, Mary Lou Retton, Kim Summerskill, could he be doing it again? He now begins his quest for the nineteen ninety six Olympic Games in Atlanta. You said you retired, but you're coming out of retirement.
Well, what's what's what's making this decision?
Well, you know, I'm back again and I'm looks like I'm going for another night in the 96 Olympic Games. Atlanta, probably the most exciting one for the United States, in spite of all the heat you've taken in the past couple of years, in spite of all that sound like you're happy to be back. I'm happy to be back. Honest. This is Episode four Home Games. Bella Coralee had come out of retirement to coach a new young gymnast with huge potential, Dominique Moceanu getting ready, the youngest national champion ever to wonder explode into the air.
Dominique Moceanu drew instant comparisons to the athlete who had launched Bella to international prominence 20 years earlier.
This 14 year old is being compared to Nadia Comaneci, the coach, Bela Karoly, and she also comes from Romanian parents.
Dominique became the national champion at just 13 years old. And as a 14 year old at the world championships in 1995, she and her coach were both in the spotlight. He is an interesting character and has been criticized a great deal in the past couple of years, he's very tough on gymnasts as he is on his new superstar, 14 year old Dominic Machado. She is the youngest national champion in the history of the United States for a young athlete.
She has tremendous confidence on this event. I can't speak layout, layout, layout, three layout and embellish her own words. She is showing no fear.
At the 1995 World Championships, Dominique took silver on the balance beam and was the top all around finisher for the U.S. She's just so young, but doesn't seem to be bothered at all by the pressure of her very first world championships. And that's what's so neat about Dominique. This is fun to her. She really enjoys what she's doing. Bela and Marta saw an athlete who could take them back to the top. They set their sights on the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Is 96 Olympic all around champion within your grasp? I hope so. I'm going to train for it and I hope so.
Dominic is special. I would say one of a kind. And not just because we've got to give him physical abilities, which are excellent, because her personality, the way she's thinking about this sport, she is a little tiger behind her big wide smile.
Barney was covering Olympic sports for the Chicago Tribune when Dominique became the newest Coralee hopeful, I went to Houston in the spring of 1996 to do a story about Dominique, and I had a chance to interview her father to meet you.
He had been a talented junior gymnast in Romania, but his parents forced him to give it up to finish his education. Before Dominique's father even met her mother, he had made up his mind that his first child was going to be a gymnast. So Dominique was born into those expectations. So when Dominique was six months old, he took her out to the backyard. He put her hands around a clothesline and he waited to see if she would hang on.
And she did. Dumitru revered Bella Karoly as a maker of champions, and he was dead set on having Dominique work with Bella.
The parents of Dominique Moceanu first out Karalis tutelage when she was just three years old. Karoly told them to call back when she was 10. They called.
Most of us covering Olympic sport at that time weren't old enough to have been around Nadia in 1976. And now here's her reincarnation. Walking around history was repeating itself with this guru and this little girl, and it was an irresistible storyline. But it wasn't just the media who looked at Bella's return as an opportunity, I saw the Crowleys at a competition with Dominic Luciano. Kerri Strug had been left stranded after Bellow retired at the 1992 Olympics. In the three years since she battled a series of injuries while constantly switching gyms.
But she couldn't find a coach who motivated her the way Bella had. I told my parents that since they were out of retirement, I wanted to return. Carrie's parents were hesitant. They remembered how much she had struggled with Bella's aggressive coaching style in training demands. But Kerry was adamant that she needed the Crowleys and she needed the second chance to prove herself. I wasn't hesitant. I was most comfortable under the Curley's watch. I knew this was my last Olympic Games and I wanted to be prepared.
So Carrie returned to Texas with her parents. We went out there and visited with them and set some guidelines and expectations. I started training with them.
Carrie's dad had had a talk with Bela and Marta before they came, and they're like, you're not going to treat her like you had in the past. And a little kid. You can't treat her like you used to. She won't last like she won't be able to handle it.
Fourteen year old Dominique Moceanu was envious of her new training partner, eighteen year old Kerri Strug.
So I always felt like she was a bit more babied because of that.
Bella had spent the past decade improving the training facilities at his ranch. Things were still pretty rustic, but the Crowleys like the lack of distractions. So instead of training their Olympic hopefuls at their state of the art gym in Houston, he and Marta brought Dominique and Carrie out to Huntsville and it was just carrying me throughout that summer right before we went to the Atlanta games, we had to live at the ranch and the equipment was subpar.
It wasn't really the best equipment.
Our legs were dead.
I think it's like legendary between all the early gymnasts that that floor was so hard. And we're like, if we can do it here, we can do it anywhere.
The two of us were in this little cabin and there was three bunk beds, one bathroom, a kitchen and a couch. There was a TV with like two channels and it was steps away from the gym and you would hear bells, four wheeler and all that. It was time to get out that door, go to the gym.
Once again, Kerri Strug found herself playing second fiddle training alongside the Crowleys. Latest it girl.
I was 18. I was no longer 13, 14 years old. And I don't think the expectations were as high for me from the Crowleys as they were for. Domini, she was kind of the shining star, and I think in some ways. I was jealous of her that she was, you know, the next Nadia Comaneci and had all this attention that done so well and had this family that was. Always in the gym supporting her, Carrie only saw what was on the surface, Dominique's parents lived in Houston and were always around, always checking in.
They were close with the Karalis, who knew they could use them, Oceanus, to help control Dominique. To carry that attention looked like support to Dominique, it felt oppressive.
One day I was in the middle of my nap at the ranch.
When I hear the door open up, Dominique woke up to see her father standing in her in Carrie's room.
I'm just kind of days and I'm just like, what's going on? He pulls me by my ear and he wakes me up and pulls me out of the bed. And he's just like, you know, what are you doing? How come you're not working hard? He's speaking to me in Romanian.
Dimitri Moceanu led his daughter to the house and into the Karalis den where her mother, Bela and Marta, we're all waiting for her.
Then my dad starts going at me, like, why were you not working hard? What are you doing? Why are you eating what you're not supposed to? And I'm like, what are you talking about? I was so terrified. I'm like, I better just not say anything because I'm in trouble anyway. And all of a sudden out of the blue, he hit me across my cheek really, really hard in front of Marta and Bela.
I remember just holding my cheek and I was trying to be tough, but I felt mortified and humiliated. Marta had this look of satisfaction on her face, like, oh, good for you. And it was like she was happy that I was being punished, just like she enjoyed the moment. I started welling up with tears in my eyes, and I don't even say a word, and I just feel so horrible about myself in this moment, but I eventually put two and two together and I was like, oh, because they found candy and they wanted to get me in trouble with my dad.
Dominique's aunt, knowing the Coralee searched her bags for food, had given her a teddy bear, and inside the bear, she'd hidden a few of Dominique's favorite candies.
It was just some fun kid stuff. I mean, Twizzlers, gum and Mentos is not the end of the world at that moment. Everything turned dark for me. You know, my parents did sneak me things here and there when I really needed them. I knew if I said I've had enough, I'm done with this girl, give me that ice cream sundae, my parents would have gotten it for me. She didn't have that option, Domonique had no reprieve, just the weight of expectations, and on top of all that, she was training through the pain of a stress fracture in her shin.
We can never say I'm hurt. It was a sign of weakness to Marda. She would make you feel like you're faking it. And Bella, too. I mean, you could not say I'm hurting to them. They wouldn't believe you.
Kerri Strug was also training through an injury, a sore ankle that tinged with every landing. The two athletes had more in common than they realized, but they were too busy being envious of each other to notice. Carry on her way to her second Olympic Games, yearned for someone to pay attention and treat her like a serious contender, while Dominique would have given anything to escape the constant pressure from the adults around her. Is she what gymnastics can be, what it will be, Dominique Moceanu molded by the coach of champions Bela Carolynn and already counted as the sport's future.
Welcome to Atlanta's Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony of the Centennial Olympic Games. The 1996 Summer Olympics were on home turf, just as they had been when Mary Lou won gold in 1984. This time the U.S. women came in as a favorite. The women's team competition is still one day away, and already things have gotten wacky, the markets have gotten a hold of this thing. They are calling the women the Magnificent Seven. So they have hats and T-shirts with Maggette seven emblazoned on them.
I understand the key chains are next.
Marta Karoly, not Bella, was named head coach, but it was truly just a matter of optics. Everyone knew Bella and Marta were a package deal. Bella personally coach two of the U.S. athletes, so of course he would be there on the floor. It was a win win. NBC got Bella mugging for the cameras.
These guys, you got to get you.
And we and USA Gymnastics got mardas iron clad organizations behind the scenes. Marta, the very few a lot of people don't even realize he's married for twenty five years. He's been married to this incredible tiger of a woman who is the gymnastic coach.
And both Bela and Marta were laser focused on bringing home gold.
And you weren't here in the U.S. team being announced to this crowd on their feet going into the Georgia Dome.
It was amazing in terms of, you know, you just saw the sea of red, white and blue. It was all the flashes.
Everybody is just chanting, cheering for USA. When we come out, there's so much enthusiasm and electricity that excitement all centered on whether or not the American and the Carolynn could finally beat the Russians back here with the United States marching to their next rotation.
The standings will show you that they are firmly established. Everybody was, you know, fighting and hugging Team USA was on a roll. Our quest for Olympic gold was really going to come to fruition.
Next up, Dominique Moceanu, 14 years old. In the Olympic Games, balance beam can be the make or break point on a team's quest for gold. It's just four inches wide, four feet off the ground. There is no room for error.
And there was an incredible amount of pressure on Dominique to put up a big score.
We have a microphone on Crowley, her coach. I want you to hear it. And yes, yes, I remember just being so relieved because I nailed it, I nailed everything and I stuck the dismount.
It is moves like that when the Team USA, their first gold medal, Dominique Moceanu, one of the youngest Olympians of all time, was leading the U.S. march to gold standings after three rotations of for the United States is in gold medal position.
They have widened their lead over Russia.
The Americans held the lead but hadn't knocked the Russians out of gold medal contention. On the final rotation, the U.S. moved to the vault.
They each get to vault. They will take the higher score. Of course. This is Johnny Phelps. Nine, six, six, two. Maybe Chow's second ball. I think Shannon is going to be trying an easier ball. Not being the nine hundred twenty these dollars is Sam Anderson, the first four vaults were solid, but they still needed one more great score to clinch a victory.
It all came down to the last two gymnasts in the rotation, Dominique Moceanu and Kerri Strug. Dominique stood at the start of the vaulting runway, her right leg, the one with the stress fracture, was heavily taped.
I remember there being so much chaos right before I went for my vault. Bella wanted the stink that taken out. I wanted it in a sting.
That is what it sounds like, a two inch extra layer of padding that helps cushion the landing.
That's what I practiced on. Why would you change it when I'm Walding? When you don't have it exactly the way you trained it starts to mess with your head a little bit.
I'd never done it without a sting that he's waving his arms. He's like no one's in hollering some things and trying to communicate with people 80 feet down the runway. And I'm about to go and I have almost a panic attack inside.
Here's the situation now. If Dominique Okano it's a nine seven four three. And the American team will be a lot of a team gold. That would win the gold medal, but Dominique fell on her first vault. The crowd was stunned. She walked back to the start of the runway to make her second attempt.
Bell is trying to holler some things over the divider. But what he's saying, it's not even making sense. It's like animated for Kamras sake, but not for me. It wasn't helpful to me to win the team gold.
Here we go. The same thing Dominique fell a second time. OK, this is amazing. I just want my feet slipping from under me and my mouth again, shoot, I thought I was going to be in so much trouble, I was like, I don't even want to go face my coaches again.
I just want to, like, crawl under the floor right now. And I I was stunned. She was supposed to be the next Nadia Comaneci. This girl really could handle the pressure.
Usually I remember walking off the podium. I didn't want to even make eye contact with Marta Karoly, and she grabs me by the back of my neck. When I walk off the podium, she's like, too bad.
Nah, my heart sank when she said that because I knew she was saying, you know, you basically are worthless. So Kerri Strug, it is up to her and she can score nine point four nine three to see her parents in the stands or better. Then she will win the team gold for the USA. She's the last to go. She's the only one who can do it. There's a reason why I was last in the lineup. There was very high expectations.
Three falls in a row for the Americans fall short, just like Moceanu. I was embarrassed. You know, this is the Olympics. She is limping. Carried his herd. I knew something was wrong. I felt like my ankle was out of place. Kerri Strug is in trouble. She just stumbled there. She either turned her ankle, Kerry flexed her ankle and pointed her toes and hopped from one foot to the other. She made her way back to take her final vote.
She didn't hesitate. She didn't call to her coaches for help. And so there was no consultation with Bella Marda or the medical staff.
Up until the balls, it looked like the Americans would be along her first goal, a nine point one six two, not high enough. She knows what to do. She will go and she is ready. My teammates had done their part. I can't imagine unless I had to be carried off, not at least trying again.
Bella is over there from the divider. Like you could do it. You can do it way you can. Silly Bella. Just saying you can do it. Kerry steadied herself and visualized perfect execution.
I said to myself, you can and you will do this and you can do it.
Kerry charged down the runway, did a round off onto the springboard and a back handspring onto the vaulting horse.
Raise your arms stretched out as far as you can, snap down hard, rotating one and a half times in the air and keep your arms by your ears. Tight turn. And stopped the landing immediately, she lifted her left leg and raised her arms overhead to salute the judges, and she finished the. Standing on one leg, I didn't plan on lifting the leg up and hopping off, I mean, it was all just instinctual. The pain was too great for my leg to be down.
And then down to the floor, she goes like grabbing her ankle and wincing in some serious amount of pain.
Kerri Strug is hurt. She is hurt bad. As Kerry saying to her hands and knees on the mat, the crowd rose to its feet. We have got a. Is a nine seven one, so she has done it, Kerri Strug has won the gold medal for the United States team.
The crowd then erupts again. It reminds us that the scores up there on the board were on top and we won. And the team is like, hey, are we supposed to be happy because she's hurt? Are we allowed to celebrate? The Georgia Dome is all at once and pandemonium and everyone in this place. Worried about Kerri Strug, Marta Carolien, a female trainer, helped carry off the competition floor where 33 year old Larry Nassar was waiting. He had just been appointed the national medical coordinator for USA Gymnastics, and it was honestly just chaos at that point.
There's people throwing flowers at us and I remember everybody being excited behind the curtain as we were, you know, preparing to march out for the awards ceremony. The U.S. team was about to walk out onto the Olympic podium, but Kerry was still in a room behind the competition area, getting medical attention. Bella came in screaming, They're going to do the award ceremony, you got to come, you got to come. Geisa Pausa was one of the few people allowed backstage.
He had choreographed the floor routines for Kerry and every member of the Magnificent Seven.
Villagomez picking up and taking her out.
I was laying on like stretcher and he just came in and scooped me up. And then we went down to the floor and the girls were already lined up.
Bella carried his star gymnast to the podium, beaming. The whole time, Kerry looked both stoic and helpless. She had tears in her eyes and was an obvious pain in her left leg, wrapped in a temporary cast, stuck out at an awkward angle.
And I remember Bella whispering to me, This is your moment. Enjoy it, Carrie.
Go ahead and go with the flow, because I was the type of kid who had a hard time just letting go of everything else and being in the moment, and he knew that the TV audience of paternal gesture, a coach caring for his injured champion Baylor, knew what he was doing.
That speaks to us all, know that in every single newspaper and the next day in the morning, that picturesque village, sometimes tomorrow Kerri Strug will be on the cover of every newspaper in the world.
That's right. He wanted to be the one to get the recognition before the heavens got. He could recognition. It was so Belmopan, it was so able to do that, but it's absolutely understandable.
Houston Chronicle reporter John Lopez was watching from press row in the Georgia Dome. He'd been covering both Kerry and Bella for years. He's got that top hat, P.T. Barnum streak in his soul, and it's never going to leave. I mean, there's no question he knew that this was his moment to, you know. And maybe that's unfair. But in his heart, he really felt like Kerry needed to be carried out there because she deserved it.
And she earned. He loved he loved what she did.
She was always overshadowed. He was always like, oh, you know, Carrie, you know, she's always been in the back. And so he knew, you know, her struggles. So the romantic in him was like, we got a her out here. And then they kind of the flamboyant salesman in him was like, hey, I'm going to carrier out there. So there's both things.
Of course, no question that he was the face of USA gymnastics and he did like the cameras, but I think that benefited all of us, to be honest.
The most important thing that no one was involved in 2008.
Yes, the U.S. had won the team gold. They were, as Bella had proclaimed, the number one powerhouse in women's gymnastics. And Kerry was their new number one star. She had known this when she sprinted down the runway to take her final vault. But the U.S. had already clinched the gold. Dominique didn't know that the fans in the arena didn't know. The millions of people who would watch a tape delayed broadcast wouldn't know. But once the final Russian score posted, the math showed that Dominique score despite her two false.
Would have been enough. I was so sad, I was just like, I don't think I've made my dad proud, you know, just feel like, what's my dad going to say about my fault? Instead of being proud of all she done to help secure the team, Gold, 14 year old Dominique Moceanu felt like a failure.
The girl who fell twice, it was, you know, like portabella, completely forgot that I existed. And they didn't care because I couldn't land that vault. And somehow I was weaker in their minds.
For the first two days of competition, Bela and Marta were all in on their star. Then in the space of a few minutes, they had tossed aside.
If they didn't even say goodbye to me at the Olympics, they just left. It was like the end and it was just like abandonment. Martha, Carolee, husband and wife, and what a coaching team they are less than six and a half years ago, a big. Twenty years ago, the big one, that was when Nadia won gold, and I think I heard them say, Tim, that they're retiring. This time it was for real.
The Karalis were leaving elite gymnastics on their own terms on top.
They were selling their Houston gym and moving full time to the ranch where they would continue to host summer camps and travel to coach at Clinics USA, Gymnastics was riding an all time wave of popularity. The women's team final was the highest rated night of Olympic coverage in 20 years. The Magnificent Seven landed on the Wheaties box. They did exhibition tours and the world at large couldn't get enough of Bella. You can do it was everywhere. It even got the Saturday Night Live treatment.
Come get me, come on, you can do it. You can do it. So give me listen to me, you can do it right, get off, get off. Shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it all. I'm OK, you say OK. Bella Karoly was big time. It's hard to imagine any gymnastics coach ever again having that kind of impact. The stars would all have to align, you know, for anyone to to match what he did.
Bella was synonymous with the sport going into ninety six. He was bigger than the sport. Coming up, you can do it. That is Bella Karoly. If you or someone you know has been subjected to sexual assault or abuse and you would like more information or support, these hotlines can help Rheins 24/7. Confidential National Sexual Assault Hotline, one 800 six five six four six seven three or Childhelp one 800 four two two four four five three. Thirty four thirty podcasts are brought to you by Audible We're all fatigue from screens, and listening is a great way to occupy the mind while giving the eyes a much needed break with audible.
You can do just that. From podcasts to guided wellness programs to A-list comedy, Audible has what you need when you need it. Visit audible dotcom slash 30 for 30 or text thirty for thirty to five hundred five hundred. That's audible dot com slash the number thirty four thirty or text the number thirty four. Thirty to five hundred. Five hundred.
Thirty four thirty podcasts are presented by Volvo at Volvo. Nothing is more important than protecting people both inside the car and out. The Volvo 40 SUV with city safety technology helps keep drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists safe by keeping an eye out and automatically applies the brakes to help avoid a collision wherever you go, some are safely explore exclusive offers on the exit 40 during the Volvo summer safely savings event. Visit Volvo cars dotcom. Slash us to learn more.
Coming up on the next episode of Heavy Metals, I must be pretty good because I get to meet Bela and Marta. It was the epicenter of where Olympic athletes were being made. After that first camp, people really took a psychological turn for the worse.
I felt motivated by fear. This is straight out of the book of Romania Eastern Bloc gymnastics coaching.
They were all watching every turn we took. We were under a microscope. The only way I can explain this place is like it was kind of like prison.
It was just complete control. I was stripped of choice. I was told what to eat, what to wear, how to think. Don't speak. Heavy metals was reported by me, Alissa Rolnik and Bonnie Ford, producers Andrew Mambo and Meredith Hoddinott, senior producer Julia Lowri Henderson, executive producers Libby Gaist and Aaron Liden, mix engineering and sound design by Matraca Bowley Production Management and Licensing. Louisiana's Kaczyński and Jennifer Thorp, production assistants Riley Bloom, Gus Navarro, Samantha Dowd and Trevor Guille.
Original music by Ian Costs, executive producers for ESPN Commercial Rob King and Alison Overholt. This podcast was developed by Jenna Anthony and Adam Newhouse with help from Jody Afghan additional production support from Amy Van Dewson and Eve Wolf archival producer Julianna Branom. John M. Berardino provided fact checking. Terry Langford did legal research, ESPN Audio, Tom Ricks, Megan Judge Pete, Jeanna Sweeney and Ryan Granter special thanks to Jenna Jahnavi and Elaine Tang, Jolene Van Vuit and the production teams at ESPN, L.A. and ESPN New York.
This season of 34 30 podcasts was produced in association with ESPN W.