USA Gymnastics announced changes to the program’s coaching staff in preparation for the eventual departure of National Team Coordinator Martha Karolyi. But don’t panic! Karolyi isn’t running off to retirement yet, she’s just doing what Martha does… getting everything she wants.
Karolyi made it clear she has another four years in her, but she’s clearing her plate and handing over responsibility of the junior program to Valeri Liukin (aka: Nastia’s dad). It’s a non-shocker since Karolyi’s answers regarding who will take the reins is usually Liukin for reasons related to his technical prep of athletes that makes his now famous gym, WOGA, a hot bed of talent for up and coming juniors who turn into dominating seniors (See: Patterson, Bross, Liukin).
USA Gymnastics confirmed Liukin’s role as Elite Athlete Development Coordinator effective January 2013. There’s no official word yet on what will happen with his personal coaching duties. Karolyi had long been retired as a personal coach when she assumed her role overseeing the national team, but Liukin is still deeply immersed in coaching his current roster of athletes, which includes U.S. junior champ Katelyn Ohashi (among other much hyped juniors) and still potentially includes 2010 National Champion Rebecca Bross.
Liukin taking a role with the national team while still participating as a full time coach to athletes who might be on said team seems like a pretty straightforward conflict of interest. However, Liukin will only oversee junior development. Steve Rybacki, a long time Martha sidekick, will serve as Director of Elite Athlete Programs, which includes helping select teams for international competition, but final word on team selection and line up remains with Karolyi.
Liukin will be the guy overseeing the talent pipeline. In some aspects over seeing juniors could able him to continue with Bross and Ohashi. After all, he’s a coach who loves having a gymnast in the spotlight and one could assume this role was given to him to allow him to coach Ohashi through the 2016 Rio Games.
But for the near future it doesn’t appear fans will feel much impact from these changes. Nothing will really change until Martha fully relinquishes her role. Which clearly… could take a while.
If Serena Williams is to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title at the French Open, she may have to go through her older sister in the fourth round.
Williams, the sixth seed, could play Venus Williams in the round of 16 at Roland Garros, which begins Sunday.
Serena opens against countrywoman Kristie Ahn, whom she beat in the first round at the U.S. Open. Serena could then get her U.S. Open quarterfinal opponent, fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, in the second round.
If Venus is to reach the fourth round, she must potentially get past U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka in the second round. Azarenka beat Serena in the U.S. Open semifinals, ending the American’s latest bid to tie Margaret Court‘s major titles record.
Venus lost in the French Open first round the last two years.
The French Open top seed is 2018 champion Simona Halep, who could play 2019 semifinalist Amanda Anisimova in the third round.
Coco Gauff, the rising 16-year-old American, gets 2019 semifinalist Jo Konta of Great Britain in the first round in the same quarter of the draw as Halep.
The field lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.
Rafael Nadal was put into the same half of the French Open draw as fellow 2018 and 2019 finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria, with top-ranked Novak Djokovic catching a break.
Nadal, trying to tie Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, could play sixth-seeded German Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals before a potential clash with Thiem, who just won the U.S. Open.
Djokovic, who is undefeated in 2020 save being defaulted out of the U.S. Open, could play No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy in the quarterfinals before a possible semifinal with Russian Daniil Medvedev.
Medvedev is the fourth seed but is 0-3 at the French Open. Another possible Djokovic semifinal opponent is fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who reached the fourth round last year.
The most anticipated first-round matchup is between three-time major champion Andy Murray and 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka. In Murray’s most recent French Open match, he lost in five sets to Wawrinka in the 2017 semifinals.