Netflix recently produced the documentary “Sports A” about Larry Nassar, a former American gymnast who “turned out to be a monster”. He sexually assaulted hundreds of players, distributed candy and pretended to be “the only nice guy on the team”. One of his victims explained: “Larry has always saved himself with the same argument:“ These women are lost. ”Within two weeks, the British public is experiencing a similar relationship in the gymnastics community.
Shocking stories by former players
Gymnasts from the islands decided to share their stories. Many of them were bullied by the coaches. I was terrified of being overweight – says former player Nicole Paver in an interview with BBC Sport. The 24-year-old says she’s weighed daily throughout her career. At the age of fourteen, she became ill with bulimia. Three years later she quit gymnastics because she can no longer live in her lean body. However, she still had problems eating. Now that I’m just an adult, I can see how this affects me. From eating disorders to chronic pain to waking up every night with nightmares. I still hate the way I look. I wake up and for days on end I don’t even want to have breakfast – he adds.
Francesca Fox, who performed as a gymnast at the 2012 London Olympics, said, citing The Guardian, that she was constantly told that she was “fat” and “looked like a hippo.” She weighed 10 times a day. British Olympic gymnast Lisa Mason has admitted being forced into such intense training that her hands start to bleed. “But everyone goes through it, so I thought it was normal,” she explains. The gymnasts who dared to speak up received solid support from the country’s current international player, Becky Downey. Last year the world runner-up wrote on Twitter: The most important thing now is to protect future generations. Don’t get me wrong, this sport has a lot of demands and there are many bad things you have to face to get to the top, but this streak has been crossed many times.
Strong French fries training
BBC Sport discovered the testimonials of many other unknown gymnasts – of all levels of competition, who had different coaches and trained in different clubs. Their parents also made statements. Their relationships are horrible. A contestant told how their coach forced them to train for three hours after seeing them eat French fries. Another asked them to search trash cans in and around the training facility with cleaners looking for food packages. One of the girls was beaten by the coach with a wooden stick, and another was locked in a locker in the locker room at the age of 10.
Many gymnasts say they have had to train despite suffering an injury. The parents of one of the girls admitted that their daughter had broken her wrist, and she resumed training shortly after. The pain was so intense that she once came home and vomited. Her friend broke a rib during training but was afraid to tell the coach. The trauma eventually punctured her lungs, which kept her out of sports for more than a year. The former athletes can still feel the psychological effects of those training sessions. They treat depression and take powerful medications. Most of their children do not want to do gymnastics in the future.
Pavier’s former coach Claire Barbieri also spoke. “So far, I have not received an official complaint against me from gymnasts,” she said in a statement carried by BBC Sport. She acknowledged that a training regimen for female elite players can be “demanding at times”. She added, “Nevertheless, throughout my career, I have followed the best practices of British gymnastics and have continued to make the interests of the gymnasts I train on a top priority.”
A few years ago it used to be the norm to weigh and measure players every day. After receiving feedback from the medical team, this regimen was reduced to twice a week. I am fully aware of the risks of eating disorders among gymnasts, and confirmed we got a professional opinion and then used it where potential problems were reported, he says.
Mason says British gymnasts on the current national team are still afraid to talk about the matter in case they face punishment for not going to the Tokyo Olympics next year. Next year, the Olympic Games will be held. Many people don’t want to bother the people making major decisions – he argues.
A culture of fear
The Telegraph ran an article by Jennifer Pinches, who represented Great Britain in gymnastics at the London Olympics eight years ago. The title of this post is important: “A culture of fear permeates all gymnastics and it must end.” Benches wrote that thanks to the documentary Sports A, a debate about violations in British gymnastics began. – While watching this documentary, there were moments when it seemed to be very close to what players experienced in Great Britain. Fortunately, she added, I haven’t heard about sexual assaults from us, but I do have a culture of fear.
In her opinion, many abusive coaches still work with the players. – It’s really annoying because relationship rules are meaningless when people aren’t responsible for their behavior.
The British Gymnastics Federation announced that an independent investigation will be conducted into the players’ allegations in recent days. The gymnasts did not feel they could inform us of their problems. CEO Jane Allen said an independent investigation was needed to understand why and how they were helping.
“The behaviors we have heard about in recent days are completely inconsistent with our standards for safe training and should not be the same in our sport,” she added. A dedicated unit has been established to investigate all allegations made. There is nothing more important to British gymnastics than the well-being of our gymnasts at every level and we will continually strive to create a culture in which people feel they can raise any concerns, as stated in the press release.
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