It’s been almost three months since USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced for sexually assaulting young gymnasts — but Bela and Martha Karolyi are only just now breaking their silence.
The couple are the famed coaches behind some of the world’s most legendary gymnasts, including Nadia Comāneci, Mary Lou Retton, and Kerri Strug. They’re also the owners of the now-shuttered Karolyi Ranch gymnastics training facility in Huntsville, Texas, where Nassar targeted the athletes in his care.
In a new interview with Dateline airing Sunday night and previewed on Today Friday morning, the Karolyis insist that they didn’t “suspect anything” about the “awful” crimes Nassar was committing on their property.
“I heard during the testimonies that some of the parents were in therapy room with their own child and Larry Nassar was performing this….and the parent couldn't see. How I could see?” -Marta and Bela Karolyi talk Nassar abuse scandal. More Sunday on @datelinenbc pic.twitter.com/CAaa6cFjxO
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) April 20, 2018
More than 250 people have accused Nassar — who was sentenced to 60 years in prison for child pornography, 40 to 175 years for seven counts of the sexual assault of a minor, and 40 to 125 years for three additional counts of sexual assault — of abuse. Many incidents reportedly took place at Karolyi Ranch, which has been accused by some gymnasts of fostering a toxic, emotionally abusive atmosphere that enabled Nassar.
“Your coaches are just always watching you,” gold medalist McKayla Maroney told Dateline of the intense pressure she experienced at the camp. “And wanting to keep you skinny.”
Maroney said that Nassar was able to take advantage of the negative atmosphere by ingratiating himself through offers of food.
Though there’s been speculation that the Karolyis turned a blind eye to Nassar’s behavior, they tell journalist Savannah Guthrie during Sunday’s “Silent No More” special that they were in fact blindsided by the revelations.
“The whole thing is just like an explosion, a bomb exploding — boom!” Bela Karolyi says in the interview.
According to his wife, the couple could not be expected to be privy to what Nassar was doing when even some of the gymnasts he abused were unaware.
“I heard during the testimonies that some of the parents were in therapy room with their own child and Larry Nassar was performing this … and the parent couldn’t see,” she says. “How I could see?”
Dateline‘s “Silent No More” special airs Sunday, April 22, at 7 p.m. and will also feature interviews with Maroney and Aly Raisman, both of whom were sexually abused by Nassar.
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