Coach Marta Karolyi isn’t an emotional person but when the U.S. women’s gymnastics team revealed that she was the inspiration behind the team’s “Final Five” nickname, the tears were hard to control.
I’m very proud and, yes, I cried,” Karolyi said. “I’m not sentimental, but when Aly told me the name of the team is the Final Five, that is the moment.”
She added, “From my nature, I’m really not a sentimental person, honestly. I’m known for being really tough. So I felt like, what’s happening to me, really?”
In an interview following the team’s gold medal win, the team expressed gratitude for Karolyi’s efforts in coaching it to Olympic success.
“We’re the ‘Final Five’ because this is Marta (Karolyi’s) last Olympics and without her none of this would’ve been possible,” Aly Raisman told TODAY’s Hoda Kotb. “We wanted to do it for her just because she’s there with us every single day.”
Every single day is right.
Karolyi along with her husband Bela—before he retired from coaching in the 1990s and was Team USA’s national coordinator in 2001—have churned out great champions in women’s gymnastics for four decades. In the Karolyis’ first Olympics in 1976, Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci won three gold medals in Quebec, Canada.
Since Comaneci’s 1976 victory, the Romanian immigrants have trained some of gymnastics biggest stars at their 40-acre ranch in North Texas. Mary Lou Retton, Dominique Moceanu, Kerri Strug, and most recently Simone Biles. The Karoylis’ resume boasts 28 Olympians, 15 world champions, 12 European champions, and six U.S. champions.
Their work has not gone unnoticed by Steve Penny, President of USA Gymnastics.
“[The Karolyis] have raised the bar on the sport every time they’ve had a chance to do so,” Perry told TIME. “This system has been designed to never take success for granted and so hopefully, and our plan, is to make sure that we continue that system and perpetuate that legacy.”
“Final Five” also signifies the last Olympics where there’s a five-member team. For Olympics 2020 in Tokyo, Japan, the women’s gymnastics team will only consist of four members.
The U.S. women’s team that is comprised of Biles, Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, and Madison Kocian won a gold medal for all-around competition on Aug. 9