Gymnastics Team Coaching Staff

Travel Team

Vladimir Kovalenko

Vladimir has been the head coach of the Darien YMCA Gymnastics Team since 2001. His 35 years of coaching acrobatics and artistic gymnastics on both the National and International stage have contributed immeasurably to the success of the Darien program. Since his arrival, Vladimir has produced several regional and eastern U.S.A.G qualifiers. In 2007 Vladimir’s team gained National attention by winning the YMCA National Team Championship along with an Individual All-Around Championship achieved by Jessica Bolduc. Jessica also qualified for the Junior Olympic Nationals in 2006.

Kovalenko’s career began in 1972, after graduating from Kiev State Institute of Physical Culture. Rated as one of the top 10 coaches of Ukraine, Vladimir trained over 50 masters of sport, and coached and recruited athletes for the Ukrainian National Team. He was often summoned to the Ukrainian Olympic Training Center to offer his expertise. In 1993 his most decorated gymnast, Svetlana Ivanova, was crowned Absolute Champion of Europe. Later in 1994, National Team member, Luba Volodina won the Ukrainian Cup and teammate Olga Kozlova was crowned Junior Champion of Europe and National Champion of Ukraine.

His experience and accomplishments in the United States began in 1994, when he arrived at the Academy of Elite Gymnastics in Orlando, Florida. There, he was the first coach of Shayla Worley, who became the 2007 World Champion and was a member of the United States Olympic and National Team. In 1999, Vladimir’s career continued at Gymcarolina in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he trained many level 9 and 10 Junior Olympic Qualifiers and State Champions.

Valentina Kovalenko

Part of the dynamic Kovalenko duo team, Valentina’s career and outstanding accomplishments mirror many of Vladimir’s, however, Valentina has the most experience as a competitive gymnast. This added dimension has helped elevate the Darien program to a new level, as she has related and shared many of her competitive experiences with her gymnasts. Her contributions to the Darien Team have resulted in many State and Regional Championships, including a YMCA National Championship and the crowning of an individual All-Around Champion, Jessica Bolduc.

Before coming to the United States in 1995, Valentina coached at the Mariupol Sports School of Olympic Reserve for Juniors and Children. In 1995 she worked at the Academy of Elite Gymnastics in Orlando, Florida and coached Shayla Worley. Shayla later became a World Champion and a U.S. National Team Member. After her tenure at the Academy of Elite Gymnastics, Valentina and Vladimir continued their coaching career at Gym Carolina in Raleigh North Carolina.

Valentina was a member of the Ukrainian National Gymnastics Team from 1972 to 1977. In 1976 while competing for the famous Spartak Gymnastics Team, her team placed 3rd at the 42nd U.S.S.R. Championships in Tbilisi, Georgia. During this competition, she was a teammate of International Hall of Fame inductee and 1976 Olympic Floor and Vault Champion, Nelli Kim and the 1980 Olympic Champion Yelena Davydova.

Valentina has a Master of Sport, and is a graduate of the Kiev State Institute and the Dnipropetrovsk State Institute of Physical Education, where she majored in Physical Culture and Sports. She has been granted the Top Qualification Rating for coaching in Ukraine.

Robert Ciuculete

Robert began his gymnastics career at the age of 4 years old in his hometown of Sibiu, Romania. He was a member of the Romanian Junior National Team from 2007 to 2012 and a member of the Romanian Olympic Team from 2012 to 2014.

Robert is currently working as a Bars coach and from time to time will be performing Exhibitions in the United States.

Daniela Andrei (Dana)

Dana also began her gymnastics career at the age of 4 in her hometown of Buzau, Romania. She was a member of the Romanian Junior National Team from 2006 to 2008 and a member of the Romanian Olympic Team from 2008 to 2013.

Dana competed in numerous international competitions throughout her career including the 2008 World Artistic Gymnastics Championship in Tokyo, Japan.

Dana is currently our Floor coach and Choreographer. She is also slated to perform some Exhibitions in the United States.

House Team

Linda Briggs

In 2019, Linda Briggs was inducted into the Connecticut Gymnastics Hall of Fame!

Linda Tardiff Briggs was a Connecticut State All-Around High School Champion. She was an elite gymnast for four years, and was also a member of the USA Gymnastics National Team.  During her elite career, she competed at the World Game Trials, trained for the boycotted 1980 Olympics, and represented the United States against other countries such as West Germany, England, & Japan. After her elite career, Linda earned a full gymnastics scholarship to compete for the Pennsylvania State University.

Linda owned and operated Flip City Gymnastics for over 20 years. She has coached many gymnasts to become State, Regional and National Champions. She has also coached a number of gymnasts that have made it to the collegiate level. Additionally, Linda has mentored a number of national team members including 2004 silver medalist Annia Hatch. More recently, Linda has been inducted in to the Norwich Sports Hall of Fame.

Linda is a USA Gymnastics Brevet rated judging official, one of only two Brevet rated judging officials in Connecticut.

Yury Vasilyev

Yury comes to the Darien Y from the Phoenix Gym in Old Bethpage, NY with extensive experience in the sport.

Yury received his degree in Physical Culture and Sport from Chuvashia State Pedagogical Institute in Moscow. He coached five years in Russia at the Cheboksary Olympic Reserves School where he developed and prepared European Junior Champion, Eugeny Vasiliev. He was later selected to serve on the staff at the prestigious Peramayskay Olympic Training Reserves in Moscow, to assist the Russian Men’s Olympic Team with acrobatic preparation for the recent Olympic Games in Beijing.

Yury comes from a family of gymnasts; his sister Tatiana Vasilyev, was one of the coaching staff for the Russian National Team that competed in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

We are fortunate to have such distinguished coaching ability to carry on the tradition of excellence in gymnastics at the Darien YMCA. He is joined his wife Marina and their four year old son, Egor.

Anatolie Vartosu

Anatolie graduated from the College of Sports in the Republic of Moldova with a Master of Sport in Gymnastics, Track and Field, and Soccer.

He has over 20 years experience teaching and working with children of all ages in the fields of physical education and culture, track and field, soccer and all sports. He worked extensively in Romania for SOS, an international organization in 200+ countries devoted to improving the lives of orphans worldwide. Anatolie has a lifelong passion for increasing children’s self-esteem, confidence and capabilities for success in life. He has a prestigious Master of Sports degree from Russia and Romania and is an elite athlete who qualified for the 1996 Olympics in the marathon.

Anatolie was invited to the United States in 2003 to compete in the Clearwater, Florida Marathon. He went on to win many races in the US, including the inaugural Little Rock Arkansas Marathon in May, 2003.

We are fortunate to have Anatolie as part of our coaching staff.