The No. 1 Gymnastics Podcast in the Galaxy

197: Betty Okino



Betty Okino escaped an assassination attempt as a child, has two skills named after her in the Code of Points, won an Olympic medal just six years after her very first gymnastics class, was 5′ 1″ tall during the Barcelona Games, danced for Destiny’s Child with Beyonce, acted in movies and televsion, is a polyglot, was the first black female gymnast to win an Olympic medal along with Dominque Dawes in 1992. Betty was one of the famed “Karolyi’s Six-Pack” (nickname for his elite training squad in the 90’s) era gymnasts who dominated US gymnastics after the Mary Lou Retton years. As an Afro-Romanian-refugee-dancer turned Olympian, and now as a gymnastics choreographer she has a uniquely-positioned perspective on the sport. We chatted on March 21st and discussed:

  • Her appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show where she defended the training methods of Bela Karyoli after the expose Little Girls in Pretty Boxes came out.
    • Her thoughts on the issues around athlete welfare McKayla Maroney brought up in her interview with us.
  • Her refugee story: Why her family had to escape Uganda
  • Romanian speaker: What she overheard in those days when Bela and Marta didn’t know she could speak Romanian
  • Examples of the technical genius we hear so much about in Marta Karolyi.
  • Advantages and disadvantages of being part of the famous Karyolyi Six-Pack.
  • Injuries: Did the doctors ever warn her about what could happen from competing with a fractured back?
  • The state of artistry in gymnastics, judging and what can be done to encourage artistry in the code.


Betty can choreograph your routine or give specific skill feedback. Contact her via Precision Choreography.

Watch this routine choreographed by Betty for EvaFollow her official Instagram here or find her on Facebook.


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Will it Ever Be Good Enough? I Spent Too Much Time Being Embarrassed by My Bronze by Betty’s Olympic teammate, Wendy Bruce

The Last King of Scotland movie about Idi Amin’s violent dictatorship in Uganda. The Obote Clan rule in Uganda. Syrian refugee crisis explained.


The team bronze was considered a disaster in 1992 rather than a huge success.
The team bronze was considered a disaster in 1992 rather than a huge success.


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7 years ago

Excellent interview!! Jess asked great questions and Betty has had such an interesting life story!

While I don\’t necessarily agree with everything Betty says (e.g. her views on the responsibility for coaching methods), she gives such thoughtful, articulate responses that are extremely insightful and resonating.

I really hope her experience and perspective can be shared with current athletes training in the US and elsewhere in the world today. And definitely would love to see more Okinos on beam!

7 years ago

Are you now going to post the parts of Mckayla\’s interview that weren\’t about the coaching/health issues and all the things that Betty seemed to take issue with? Because she seems to think that was the whole point and only reason for that interview, when it actually wasn\’t. But going on what was shown post-editing, then it does appear to be that way. I can\’t fault Betty for that but when only part of an interview is posted, then it\’s going to persuade those viewing it to have a certain opinion. So how about showing everyone the rest of it now? The parts Mckayla actually were hoping and wanting people to see…the part not related to the coaching and health issues.

Mike hunt
Mike hunt
7 years ago

The teams you mentioned about 84 boycott ( Hungary and Bulgaria) had no chance to win a team medal. The USA team would have won the team bronze in a fully attended games. Only East Germany would have challenged them and their 83 team was very weak and was almost beaten by the Czechs in the alterate games.

I think you are an average interviewer because you are doing too much of the talking in this interview.

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