With grace and strength and teen-age charm, Olga Korbut won four gold medals and revolutionized gymnastics at the Munich Olympics in 1972.
Eight years later, Gary Anderson is reaping the fruits of that harvest in the Maryland suburbs. When Korbut captured the hearts of millions with her exquisitely intricate performances on the uneven bars and the balance beam before a worldwide television audience, gymnastics was hardly in the mainstream of American sports.
Now Anderson's cup runneth over, and in no small sense the girls gymnastics coach owes it to Korbut, the pride of the Soviet Union, who made gymnastics for fun and profit possible in America.
"When she stubbed her toe and cried on television, everyone fell in love with her," Anderson said. "It was the best thing that ever happened to gymnastics in the United States. She did a move on the bars that no one had ever done before. She made a tour of the United States and every little girl wanted to be Olga Korbut.
"Then four years later in Montreal along came Nadia Comaneci, and she dazzled the world with three 10.0s, and it happened all over again."
In this area, Anderson is only one example of the Korbut legacy. But he is one of the biggest and one of the most successful. In 1972, he was running a small gymnastics club with about 200 members in borrowed facilities at the Jewish Community Center in Rockville. Today, his organization, Marvateens Gymnastics, is one of the largest, if not the largest, in the area. It has more than 1,000 paying members and 10 full-time and five part-time staffers.
There is a main gymnasium in Rockville and branches in Wheaton and Gaithersburg. Costs range to $6 an hour, although for the elite gymnasts, who practice up to 30 hours or more a week, they are pared substantially.
Marvateens is only one of at least 25 private gymnastics clubs in the Washington, Baltimore and Northern Virginia areas, up from four in pre-Korbut days.
A former assistant coach at the U.S. Naval Academy and an all-America gymnast at West Chester State College in Pennsylvania, Anderson has competed on U.S. teams internationally. He is a veteran of 20 years in the gymnastics trade, but it is only now, with the sport's surge in popularity, that he believes Americans have the potential to produce a steady crop of top-rate gymnasts, able to compete with the best internationally.
"I can't keep any of my assistant coaches," he said."They keep getting offers to be head coach somewhere else."
At the championship level, any sport demands enormous amounts of work and tip-top conditioning. But this is probably more so in gymnastics than in most other forms of athletic endeavor, Anderson's top gymnasts spend 30 hours a week and more training, and some travel great distances to get there.
Christine Edgerle, 11, for example, of Grand Haven, Mich., has been boarding with a Wheaton family since August and going to school in Montgomery County so she can spend afternoons at Anderson's gymnasium.
Lisa McVay, 13, of Waldorf, spends five hours every weekday afternoon and most weekends at the Marvateens gymnasium, honing her floor exercises and her routines on the uneven bars and the balance beam.
She was one of six Maryland gymnasts, five from Marvateens, to compete last summer in the national championships in Oklahoma City, and she already is thinking Olympics 1984.
"I like the competition a lot. I like the floor exercises and the tumbling and dance routines. I've been doing this for about five years."
It is a logistical achievement to get McVay from her home in Charles County to the Marvateens gym in Rockville. But it became worth it to her parents two years ago when they could find no facility nearer home with that level of coaching and equipment.
"It's 100 miles round trip, an hour and 10 minutes one way," said her mother, Diane. "In order for Lisa to get here on time, I had to change her schools to Prince George's County because it's a little bit closer. She goes to St. Mary's of the Assumption in Upper Marlboro.
"My husband takes her to school in the morning, I'm a secretary at the Census Bureau in Suitland and I get out of work at 2 o'clock. I pick her up as soon as I can, and we go right out to the gymnasium. We get here a little after 3, and we usually don't leave until after 8 o'clock. We get home about 9:30. Fridays I leave her here, and she works all weekend.
"When we started in this years ago, it was just a fun thing to do, but then she got better and better at it, so we started looking around for some of the better coaches. The reason we're willing to do this is because she enjoys it so much. We want to give her the opportunity to do what she is very good at." s
It is, of course, a long way to the 1984 Olympics, and no one is more aware than Gary Anderson of the pitfalls that can impede an athlete's progress on the road to that elusive goal.
Nevertheless, he already is drilling McVay and a half-dozen others in the routines and exercises they'll need to make a serious bid for the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. All exercises and movements are meticulously recorded on videotape, then played back in slow motion on closed circuit television for the coaches' critiques.
"Sure, anything could happen between now and 1984. You could get injured, any number of things," Anderson said."But some of these kids are good enough. They could make it."
Compulsory gymnastics routines for the 1984 Olympics already have been announced, and every teen-age gymnast in the nation with Olympic ambitions is hard at work on them.
Kim Houghton, 16, another Olympic aspirant at Marvateens, keeps track of her progress in a thick notebook, making detailed notations of the subleties in each routine or movement that need attention. "I've been doing this since the sixth grade," she said.
In the next year, Anderson said, he will be sending gymnasts to meets in California, Colorado, New York, Oklahoma, Florida, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Saturday and Sunday, his athletes will be competing against others from 43 clubs in 14 states and Canada in the International Capital Club Gymnastics Competition at Montgomery College in Rockville. Among the participants are expected to be Marcia Frederick and Amy Koopman, members of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team.