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Interview: Eric Demay (Switzerland)
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IG spoke with former Swiss head coach Eric Demay about the situation that led to his and his wife's exit from the Swiss women's program in April 2007.

The Swiss women's team preparations for the European Championships in Amsterdam ground to a halt when tensions between the gymnasts and the French-born Demays became unsurpassable.

On April 11, the Swiss Gymnastics Federation, the Schweizerischer Turnverband-Fédération Suisse de Gymnastique (STV-FSG), announced that the women's team would not be participating in the Europeans. One week later, on April 18, the STV-FSG held a press conference to announce that Demay and his wife were relieved of their duties. Demay and his wife, Cécile Pellerin Demay, had been under contract through October 2007.

Former East German coach Wolfgang Bohner is now preparing the Swiss women's team for the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart.

Following our April 25 interview with team member Ariella Käslin, Demay shared his side of the situation.


IG: Why were you relieved of your duties, according to the Federation?

Demay at the 2005 Worlds
ED: I was relieved of my duties under the media pressure created by Miss Käslin and her mother, for no other reason. Initially the STV-FSG had kept me in my position and Miss Käslin and her friends had agreed to some light training, but the media shows on only the Swiss-German channels — nothing in the Swiss-Italian or French — changed the situation.

IG: Most of the gymnasts on the team speak German as their native language. Was this ever a problem in the gym?

ED: I am always surprised when people ask me this question. Switzerland has four official languages; if one doesn't speak German, it's a problem with the Germans. On the other hand, nobody asks the question of when a coach doesn't speak German, if this causes a problem with the Swiss Italians or the Swiss Rumantsch. I speak one of the four official languages of the country like the majority of the coaches who work in Switzerland.

IG: The gymnasts told the media that you called them names, such as "cows." Is there any truth to this?

ED: This is a delicate question; there were indeed some excessive exchanges with one or two gymnasts. Melanie Marti, the best Swiss gymnast in the past 25 years, never had this type of problem, like the majority of the young athletes that trained with us. Miss Käslin should ask herself the question: why [did this occur] with her?

IG: Where are you and your wife going to go now?

ED: We have some options but I don't wish to speak about it at the moment.

IG: Do you have any other comments you would like to add?

ED: It is clear that this situation occurred for several reasons. The first is that the seniors and especially Mis Käslin were not physically, technically or psychologically ready to participate in the European Championships. Miss Käslin had refused to train normally from November after Aarhus until mid-March, that it to say because of health problems but mostly because of a lack of will, of motivation and a surplus of weight. The second is that the rise of the juniors (born in 1992 and training for the Stuttgart World Championships) was pressure for Miss Käslin who felt her status as No. 1 after the retirement of Melanie Marti was threatened. During the race to the Olympic qualification Miss Käslin tried to draw aside the other athletes, including these friends, because she did not support the competition, she did not support Melanie Marti and she continues (this) with the young gymnasts now.

In seven years of positive results, the best in a long time, there were some difficult moments. In order to obtain international results and build a system, it was very complicated and long, there were always happy people and other unhappy people, this is standard for any high level. In the uncontrollable anger of Miss Käslin and her friends to explain their faults, they needed a culprit and in this case it is always the coach. She could not accept some incorrect words which only account for 1 to 2 percent of the years of training.

To reject others for their faults is always easier than accepting one's own mistakes, at least this affair allowed us to see that to giving everything to one athlete is not enough especially when that athlete has gotten used to having everything since a young age, it's a problem of education.

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