A Canton gymnastics coach officially took his spot among the best in Georgia last week when Michael Bereznev was named the 2019 Optional Coach of the Year by Georgia Men’s Gymnastics.
Bereznev, the owner of Zenit Gymnastics, was honored at the Georgia state meet, where the gym showed just how much his coaching has paid off in the eight-level competition.
Zenit’s Level 6 team claimed the team state championship, while Bereznev’s son, Maxim, claimed the individual all-around title at Level 9. Julian Yon was the all-around champion at Level 6, and Grayson Sinco won the all-around title at Level 4D2.
“The kids did very good,” Michael Brerznev said. “They picked me out of a lot of good coaches in Georgia. I was very excited. It was a big honor.”
Bereznev, who got his start coaching in St. Petersburg, Russia, began coaching in the United States in 1999, along with his wife, Elena, but he has been coaching much longer than that.
He has been a gymnastics coach for 32 years, with experience ranging from the Russian SKA team, to the Russian National School of Olympic Trainees.
Bereznev coached the Malaysian national team from 1994-99, but working with young gymnasts has presented a different kind of challenge.
“I used to only work with the best gymnasts,” Bereznev said. “Now, I work with everybody who is interested in gymnastics. That’s the biggest difference.”
Owning a gym in the United States is even different from the youths he used to coach in Russia. He said the top-level talent is not too different, but the amount of gymnasts he works with has been an adjustment.
“In the U.S., everyone who wants to do gymnastics can do gymnastics, and we invite them to the team,” Bereznev said. “In Russia, it’s less recreational. We always selected the best. People came to the gym, and they select the best to be on the team. The most talented ones get brought in to work. We don’t have so many kids in Russia doing gymnastics like we do in the United States, but the talent is a little bit better. There are a lot of talented kids here too, but there are just so many doing gymnastics.”
As a gymnast himself, Bereznev was a product of the more competitive Russian development system. He said the pommel horse was his favorite event, and while he never reached the elite levels, he did compete competitively for 14 years.
“I wasn’t a great gymnast,” Bereznev said. “I was just normal. It was difficult to get on the national teams, because it was such a big competition. I always enjoyed it, though. I’ve done it my whole life.”
Bereznev was in Italy last week with the U.S. Gymnastics Region 8 Team training with the Italian junior national team.
Zenit does not have any big meets in the immediate future, but the team is set to head to Colorado Springs, Colorado, in September to attend the national team camp.