The Romanian gymnastics trainer who coached Nadia Comaneci to three gold medals in the 1976 Olympics has defected to the United States with two other team officials, the US State Department reports.
Bela Karoly, his wife, Marta, and Geza Pozsar, a top choreographer for Romania's national women's gymnastics team, told Romanian officials of the decision in a State Department meeting Tuesday. They filed for political asylum April 2, after leaving the Romanian women's team in New York on March 30 just before the team was to return home from a US tour.
The trainers, who worked together for 11 years, said their decision to defect was prompted by their long dissatisfaction with the Romanian State Central Federation of Athletics. They said they could not tolerate chronic interference by the federation with their training methods, including those for Miss Comaneci.
In an interview with the Washington Post, they said they hoped to continue their careers in America.
"We have a system that the three of us have developed," Mr. Karoly was quoted as saying. "We would like to offer that system here so that American women gymnasts can beat the Russians and the Chinese."
Left behind in Romania were the Karolys' seven-year-old daughter and Mr. Pozsar's wife and daughter. The trainers have asked Romanian embassy officials to allow their families to join them in the United States.