• Podcast Librarian

30 for 30 (Heavy Medals): The rise and fall of gymnastics' power couple

The Premise (from Apple Podcasts):

Original audio documentaries from the makers of the acclaimed 30 for 30 film series, featuring stories from the world of sports and beyond. 30 for 30 offers captivating storytelling for sports fans and general interest listeners alike, going beyond the field to explore how sports, competition, athleticism and adventure affect our lives and our world. Sports stories like you've never heard before.


Series or standalone:

This is a mini-series. The podcast as a whole consists of both mini-series and standalone episodes.


Begin listening to:

HEAVY MEDALS Part 1: Made in Romania


Format:

Investigative reporting


Host(s):

Alyssa Roenigk


Sound/production quality:

Very good


Rating/age suitability:

Adult

CW: Sexual and other abuse; language associated with abuse


Approximate length of episodes:

40 minutes


Curricular ties:

n/a


Similar recommended pods:

Believed; Crisis; Where is George Gibney?


Unfortunately, those are no shortage of recent podcasts that deal with people in power abusing minors.


Podcast Librarian’s Review:

This series is part of the larger 30 For 30 podcast, which is produced by ESPN and covers big stories about sports. In other words, it’s something I would never have downloaded if it were not covering this particular story about Bela and Marta Karolyi. If you’re not familiar, they were two of the biggest names in USA women’s gymnastics. Now, you may recall that USAG has been in hot water over the last couple years, since the first woman came out accusing gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar of sexual assault (see: the excellent podcast Believed for that story). Naturally, that headline is covered in this podcast because it’s ultimately what led to the demise of the Karolyi empire, but the focus of this pod is more the early years of the Karolyis’ careers, starting with Bela coaching Romanian gymnasts to glory, the couple's subsequent defection to the US, and their career leading up to present. They have since fallen out of favor, not just because of their affiliation with Larry Nassar (USAG cleaned house pretty thoroughly once that scandal was revealed) but also because of their methods which, at the time, were considered "unconventional" and effective--but are now essentially considered abuse. It’s an interesting pod, particularly if you have an interest in gymnastics. As previously mentioned, I don't care about any sports (except gymnastics and figure skating), so I have not listened to other seasons of this pod, but they cover Donald Sterling, Bikram, and some other standalone episodes about various athletes and sports topics. Nick Quah (who writes about podcasts and the podcasting industry for Vulture and his own newsletters) called it "This American Life for sports." If you like narrative storytelling and sports stories, this pod is sure to please.


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