Can I Attend Bela and Martha Karolyi's Camp? There Aren't As Many Restrictions As You'd Think
With Team USA's women's gymnastics team completely dominating the medal board, plenty of young Olympic hopefuls (and their parents) are trying to figure out how they can become part of the pipeline of talented youngsters trying to take home a gold, or two. So even though this was the final Olympics for long-time women's coordinator and coach Martha Karolyi, that doesn't mean that she — or her husband Bela — are retiring from the sport completely. Naturally, that might have you wondering: Can I attend Bela and Martha Karolyi's camp? There are a few restrictions, but your dream might just come true. Getting into the camp isn't as difficult as you may expect.
Situated on a 2,000-acre property outside of Huntsville, Texas, the Karolyi Ranch is an officially designated Team USA Olympic Training Center. The camps, held in the summer, are open to female gymnasts over the age of seven. Worried about whether or not your skills are up to snuff? Believe it or not, according to their website, there isn't a skill requirement. Karolyi's Camp accepts female gymnasts of all skill levels, from beginners to elite competitors. The only other restrictions are spatial ones — demand far outstrips the number of spots open, and registration fills up quickly. Considering the coaching couple's long history with Team USA, the high demand is anything but surprising.
So while the camp functions as a fun, if not grueling, way to kick-start a potential Olympic career, it is only a part of the winning Team USA gymnastics operation. Camps like this can be a springboard for more elite competitions, and help make elite training accessible to the general gymnastics community. But after Camp Karolyi winds down at the end of each summer, the ranch itself is an integral part of Team USA's winning strategy.
Championed by Martha after she took over for her husband as Team USA's gymnastics coordinator, the camp represents a system in which athletes, coaches, and other ancillary professionals who work in the gymnastics world can come together and exchange ideas. For those reasons, it has been a key part in Team USA's domination on the podium over the last several years.
Three-time gold medalist and Team USA's current captain, Aly Raisman, told The New York Times: “I think the training camps are key. It’s where we are evaluated and compared to each other, in a healthy way. We wouldn’t be here without that system.”
When this year's gymnastics squad decided to name themselves "The Final Five," it wasn't just a nod to the new rule changes that will trim national teams from five to four members. It was also a tribute to Martha — and Bela's — longstanding commitment and devotion to the sport, and to the American squad. Even though the couple will both be officially retired from the sport after this Olympics, the camp, as well as the ranch, will continue on as the center of gravity in the American gymnastics world for a long time to come.