Those hard-to-resist-Svengalis: Bela Karolyi

That Bela--alternately so jovial, so brutish! The image of Karolyi hoisting Kerri Strug to the champion's podium is one of the most ubiquitous images of the 1996 Olympics. Nadia Comaneci, Mary Lou Retton, et al. have defended him, but others--most notably Joan Ryan of Little Girls in Pretty Boxes fame--contend that his techniques are psychologically damaging.

A Slate profile circa the 2000 Sydney Olympics illuminates the shadows Ryan explores:

He sought younger and younger girls to train, and psychologically overwhelmed them. "I am going to turn their little minds around," he said. "The young ones are the greatest little suckers in the world. They will follow you no matter what." He called his methods "survival of the fittest" and "scorpions in a bottle." He constantly set the girls against each other, knowing that the survivors would be impervious to competition pressure.

"Bela is a great coach for two reasons," says Ryan. "First, he is an incredible motivator. He could get you to run through a wall. And second, he has no conscience when it comes to the damage done to these little girls. He says that he's the coach, and everything else—eating disorders, for example—is the parents' responsibility."

None of this can change the fact that as a doomed gymnast-child, I longed nightly to be teleported to Karolyi's Texas Valhalla. The groupthink operating in my little gym was powerful enough that I still have dreams that it's 95 degrees outside & my coach is guzzling a 32-oz something as he counts backwards while we hold our legs at an unfathomably obtuse angle. At least he didn't call us "pregnant goats"! And to all our former child athletes: who was your Bela?

Carl Court, Getty Images
Is There a Limit to How Many Balls You Can Juggle?
Carl Court, Getty Images
Carl Court, Getty Images

In 2017, a juggler named Alex Barron broke a record when he tossed 14 balls into the air and caught them each once. The feat is fascinating to watch, and it becomes even more impressive once you understand the physics behind it.

As WIRED explains in a new video, juggling any more than 14 balls at once may be physically impossible. Researchers who study the limits of juggling have found that the success of a performance relies on a number of different components. Speed, a.k.a. the juggler's capacity to move their hands in time to catch each ball as it lands, is a big one, but it's not the most important factor.

What really determines how many balls one person can juggle is their accuracy. An accurate juggler knows how to keep their balls from colliding in midair and make them land within arm's reach. If they can't pull that off, their act falls apart in seconds.

Breaking a juggling world record isn't the same as breaking a record for sprinting or shot put. With each new ball that's added to the routine, jugglers need to toss higher and move their hands faster, which means their throws need to be significantly more accurate than what's needed with just one ball fewer. And skill and hours of practice aren't always enough; according to expert jugglers, the current world records were likely made possible by a decent amount of luck.

For a closer look at the physics of juggling, check out the video below.

Bowman Gum - Heritage Auctions, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
11 Timeless Yogi Berra Quotes
Bowman Gum - Heritage Auctions, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Bowman Gum - Heritage Auctions, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The great Yogi Berra—a 10-time World Series champion and three-time MVP—was one of baseball's best catchers, but he's remembered just as much for his wit and wisdom as his Hall of Fame career. Here are some of the quotes attributed to Yogi (who was born on May 12, 1925), even if he didn't always say them first.

1. "Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't go to yours."

2. "The future ain't what it used to be." (Yogi later clarified, saying, "I just meant that times are different. Not necessarily better or worse, just different.")

3. "A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore."

4. "It ain't over 'til it's over."

5. "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." (See Quote Investigator)

6. "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded." (See Quote Investigator)

7. "We have a good time together, even when we're not together."

8. "It's déjà vu all over again." (See Quote Investigator)

9. "Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical."

10. "I really didn't say everything I said."

11. "Then again, I might have said 'em, but you never know."


More from mental floss studios