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Valeri Liukin Resigns with 'Heavy Heart' from USA Gymnastics
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Valeri Liukin has resigned from his position as the women's national team coordinator for USA Gymnastics, he said Friday in a statement, saying the "present climate causes me, and more importantly, my family, far too much stress, difficulty and uncertainty." Pictured: Valeri Liukin and Marta Karolyi, whom he succeeded as U.S. women's national team coordinator, at the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart.

Valeri Liukin has resigned from his position with a "heavy heart" as the women's national team coordinator for USA Gymnastics, he said Friday in a statement, saying the "present climate causes me, and more importantly, my family, far too much stress, difficulty and uncertainty."

Liukin, who replaced Marta Karolyi as the national team coordinator in the fall of 2016, submitted his resignation amidst the current fallout at USA Gymnastics, which has been accused of fostering an abusive culture.

Liukin wrote that he had been looking forward to turning around the program as the national team coordinator, but he felt he had to do what was best for his family.

"It is time to move on in a different direction, at least for now," Liukin wrote. "I wish the coaches and athletes continued success, and I stand ready to encourage and support all of them from a different vantage point."

Liukin is among the most respected figures in gymnastics. A native of Kazakhstan, he was a daredevil on the undefeatable Soviet men's team from the mid-1980s to 1991. He was the first gymnast to tumble a triple back on floor exercise — still the most difficult tumbling move done today — and he also has a move named after him on high bar, the full-twisting layout Tkatchev. He won four Olympic medals at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul: gold medals with the team and on high bar, and silver medals in the all-around and on parallel bars. In 1993, he moved from Russia to the United States with his wife, Moscow native and rhythmic world champion Anna Kochneva, and his baby daughter, Nastia Liukin. Nastia Liukin went on to become a legend in her own right, winning four world championship titles between 2005 and 2007 before winning the all-around gold and four other medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, tying the American gymnastics record of five medals in a single Olympics.

In 1994, Liukin co-founded World Olympic Gymnastics Academy in Plano, Texas, with former sports acrobatics world champion Yevgeny Marchenko. In addition to coaching multiple world champions and dozens of collegiate gymnasts, WOGA has produced three Olympic champions, including Nastia Liukin, who followed 2004 Olympic all-around champion Carly Patterson, and Madison Kocian, a member of the "Final Five" U.S. team that won a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, where she also won a silver medal on uneven bars.

Liukin left the ranks of personal coaches in 2013 when he became the elite developmental coordinator, overseeing the progress of the junior team. In September 2016, he was selected to succeed Marta Karolyi after the latter's retirement in August 2016. In 2017, the U.S. women continued to impress. First-year senior Morgan Hurd won the all-around title at the world championships last fall in Montreal.

Nastia Liukin, the only child of Valeri and Anna, recently posted a blog in which she revealed she had been subject to criticism by people who assumed she was continually supporting the actions of USA Gymnastics, apparently because of her family's association with the federation, and not the survivors of Nassar's abuse.

"This is an apology to anyone who had the perception I was not in complete support of my teammates and the women who have suffered at the hands of Larry Nassar," she wrote. "I continue to be in awe of my teammates and other women and the bravery it took for them to come forward with their own stories of Larry Nassar’s abuse. All week long I have been a witness to their testimonies live on my computer. They all inspire me with their courage. To compete on the biggest stage of our lives, while knowing the man on the floor with us was a monster, takes incredible fortitude and strength. His actions and assaults against my teammates, friends and other women are appalling and disgusting and I am so sorry they had to go through it alone."

Liukin, who wrote that she had faith in her father, added her voice calling for change for the next generation of American gymnasts.

"My hope is this is the beginning of positive change," she wrote. "I will do everything in my power to help our next generation never have to go through what my teammates went through. I, like so many others, believe many things could have been handled differently by USA Gymnastics. Many have written me asking why I continue to support them. Please believe me when I say I do NOT support the things I have read about or heard about. I do however support the future of gymnastics as a whole. I hope young women like Morgan (Hurd), Ragan (Smith), Riley (McCusker), Maile (O'Keefe), and so many others will one day feel safe within the sport, and can continue striving to achieve their own dreams. I am here for not just these young athletes but for all young women who want and deserve to feel and to be safe."

Liukin's resignation follows the exit of the entire board of USA Gymnastics, which was forced to resign by January 31 under threat of decertification by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Statement from Valeri Liukin

It is with a heavy heart that I resign as National Team Coordinator. I was truly looking forward to trying to turn this program around and bring success to our country and the gymnastics community. But the present climate causes me, and more importantly my family, far too much stress, difficulty and uncertainty.

I have loved gymnastics my entire life. Highlights were being fortunate enough to win my own Olympic medals and then coach my daughter to her Olympic Gold Medal — that was the proudest moment of my life.

It is time to move on in a different direction, at least for now. I wish the coaches and athletes continued success, and I stand ready to encourage and support all of them from a different vantage point.

Note: An earlier version of this article included allegations against Valeri Liukin without evidence they were related to his resignation and without seeking comment from him. IG and the author deeply regret the error.

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