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Written by Amanda Turner    Monday, 15 January 2018 16:58    PDF Print
Biles 'Not Afraid to Tell My Story Anymore' of Sexual Abuse by Nassar
(8 votes, average 4.38 out of 5)

World and Olympic champion Simone Biles, the most successful gymnast the United States has ever produced, came forward Monday afternoon to reveal that she was also sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar.

Biles, known equally for her big grin and tremendous power as an athlete, said she has struggled with going public with her allegations against Nassar. She joins fellows Olympians Jamie Dantzscher, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas as among more than 140 women who come have forward to reveal the once highly respected doctor sexually assaulted them under the guise of treatment.


Simone Biles at the 2016 Olympic Games

"Please believe me when I say it was a lot harder to first speak those words out loud than it is now to put them on paper," Biles wrote on Twitter and Instagram, in a post with the hashtag #MeToo. "There are many reasons that I have been reluctant to share my story, but I know now it is not my fault."

Biles has been vocally supportive of her teammates who came forward but until Monday had kept her own story private. Like Raisman, Biles identified herself as a survivor of sexual assault, not a victim.

"I will not and should not carry the guilt that belongs to Larry Nassar, USAG, and others," she wrote.

Biles, who will turn 21 on March 14, won three consecutive world all-around titles from 2013 to 2015, dominating the sport of women's gymnastics. She capped off her streak with four gold medals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio: team gold for the United States and individual golds in the all-around, vault and floor exercise. After taking a break for a year, Biles recently returned to training at her family-owned World Champions Centre in Spring, Texas. In her note, Biles said she is traumatized at the thought of having to return to the Karolyi ranch, the U.S. national training center near Houston where Nassar allegedly had free reign to take gymnasts alone behind closed doors in order to assault them. USAG backed out of plans to buy the ranch after Nassar was first exposed in 2016, but the organization has made no concrete steps to replace the center, or even hold training camps at a temporary facility.

Raisman, who won the silver medal in the all-around behind Biles at the 2016 Olympics, tweeted a photo of the two holding hands in Rio along with a message of support.

"I am so proud of you," tweeted Raisman, the captain of the 2012 and 2016 U.S. women's Olympic teams. "You are incredible Simone. I stand with you. I am shaking reading your post. I know we will all get through this together."

After Maggie Nichols, Raisman and another gymnast were overheard at the Karolyi ranch in June 2015 discussing Nassar's "treatments" by Nichols coach, Sarah Jantzi, Jantzi and Nichols informed USA Gymnastics. USA Gymnastics sent a human resources consultant to interview Nichols and Raismanm instead of immediately alerting authorities. In a recent statement, USA Gymnastics claimed that statements from Nichols and Raisman "did not provide reasonable suspicion that sexual abuse had occurred," a stunning announcement that Raisman called "hurtful."

USA Gymnastics states that it reported Nassar to the FBI in July 2015. Nassar left USA Gymnastics in September 2015 but the allegations against him were not made public. He announced his retirement from USA Gymnastics and was allowed to continue practicing at Michigan State University, where he was an associate professor and team physician. He also continued to work at the Twistars Club near Detroit. Michigan State University, which had reportedly ignored repeated complaints about Nassar dating to at least 1997, is being sued alongside USA Gymnastics by more than 130 women.

USA Gymnastics, which has been accused of trying to silence gymnasts and their families from speaking about the Nassar scandal, has filed a motion to dismiss some of the lawsuits in Michigan, claiming it had no legal duty to notify MSU or Twistars of allegations against Nassar.

"An investigation must be done on @USAGym I am sick over this," Raisman tweeted Monday. "We must get to the bottom of how this disaster happened."

In November, Nassar pleaded guilty to 10 counts of sexual assault in two Michigan counties. The first of two sentencing hearings begins Tuesday in Ingham County and is expected to last through Friday. As part of his plea deal, the judge can consider other victims not included in the prosecution. As many as 100 women are expected to give victim impact statements, either in person or via letter to the court. Nassar was already sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for charges related to child pornography, discovered in September 2016 after women filed reports with the MSU Police Department.

Statement from Simone Biles

Most of you know me as a happy, giggly, and energetic girl. But lately...I've felt a bit broken and the more I try to shut off the voice in my head the louder it screams. I am not afraid to tell my story anymore.

I too am one of the many survivors that was sexually abused by Larry Nassar. Please believe me when I say it was a lot harder to first speak those words out loud than it is now to put them on paper. There are many reasons that I have been reluctant to share my story, but I know now it is not my fault.

It is not normal to receive any type of treatment from a trusted team physician and refer to it horrifyingly as the "special" treatment. This behavior is completely unacceptable, disgusting, and abusive, especially coming from someone whom I was TOLD to trust.

For too long I've asked myself, "Was I too naive? Was it my fault?" I now know the answer to those questions. No. No, it was not my fault. No, I will not and should not carry the guilt that belongs to Larry Nassar, USAG, and others.

It is impossibly difficult to relive these experiences and it breaks my heart even more to think that as I work towards my dream of competing in Tokyo 2020, I will have to continually return to the same training facility where I was abused.

After hearing the brave stories of my friends and other survivors, I know that this horrific experience does not define me. I am much more than this. I am unique, smart, talented, motivated, and passionate. I have promised myself that my story will be much greater than this and I promise all of you that I will never give up. I will compete with all of my heart and soul every time I step into the gym. I love this sport too much and I have never been a quitter. I won't let one man, and the others that enabled him, to steal my love and joy.

We need to know why this was able to take place for so long and to so many of us. We need to make sure something like this never happens again.

As I continue to work through the pain, I kindly ask everyone to respect my privacy. This is a process, and one that I need more time to work through.

XO, Simone Biles

 
Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 12 January 2018 14:15    PDF Print
World Medals Give Yeryomina 'Confidence In Myself And My Strengths'
(3 votes, average 3.67 out of 5)



The January/February 2018 issue of International Gymnast magazine includes a four-page feature on Russia's Yelena Yeryomina, who says that winning bronze in the all-around and silver on uneven bars at last fall's world championships in Montreal verified her talents and inspired her for future competitions.

The January/February 2018 issue of International Gymnast magazine includes a four-page feature on Russia's Yelena Yeryomina, who says that winning bronze in the all-around and silver on uneven bars at last fall's world championships in Montreal verified her talents and inspired her for future competitions.

"The medals that I earned give me confidence in myself and my strengths, and tell me that I can compete with the best gymnasts in the world," says Yeryomina, who trains under coaches Vera Kiryashova and Alexander Kiryashov in Pushkin, Saint Petersburg. "It is necessary to make my program more difficult and achieve stability."

Kiryashova says she immediately noticed Yeryomina's gymnastics potential when she entered the gym 12 years ago, but her intriguing character equally impresses her.

"The closer I got to Lena, the more I realized that her external traits showed a character, a rich inner world, a desire to be first," Kiryashova told IG. "She has everything to become an interesting person, both in life and sports."

Although her family name (Ерёмина) is pronounced Yer-YOM-in-a, she is indifferent to the variations in its transliteration outside Russia, including "Eremina" in FIG results as well as "Jeremina" in German, Dutch and Polish reports.

"In general, you correctly pronounce it 'Yeryomina,'" says Yeryomina, who will turn 17 on July 29. "But in my passport, I'm Eremina. In (most) other countries everyone abroad says Eremina and writes it, also. I do not pay attention to this, because they all talk about me!"

Read "Perfect Harmony," a four-page profile on Yeryomina and her coaches, in the January/February 2018 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To subscribe to the print and/or digital edition or order back issues, click here.

 
Written by Amanda Turner    Friday, 12 January 2018 05:45    PDF Print
Nassar Could Face Up to 125 Years in Prison
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)



The Michigan Attorney General has recommended a county judge sentence Larry Nassar to 40 to 125 years in prison next week, in the first of two sentences to come for the former USA Gymnastics doctor who is behind the worst known case of sexual abuse in sports history.

The Michigan Attorney General has recommended a judge sentence Larry Nassar to 40 to 125 years in prison next week, in the first of two sentences to come for the former USA Gymnastics doctor who is behind the worst known case of sexual abuse in sports history.

Nassar, 54, pleaded guilty in November to 10 counts of sexual assault in Ingham County and Eaton County, Michigan, as part of a plea deal organized by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette. On Wednesday, the Michigan Attorney General's office filed a memorandum with its sentencing recommendation to the judge in Ingham County, recommending Nassar serve 40 to 125 years in prison.

Nassar will be sentenced on only 10 counts of assault that occurred in Ingham and Eaton counties represent only a small fraction of the number of assaults he has been accused of. Nassar reportedly told local police that he performed vaginal or anal penetration "thousands of times" while claiming it was a legitimate procedure. More than 130 women have filed civil lawsuits against him, USA Gymnastics, and his former full-time employer, Michigan State University. According to the Michigan Attorney General's office, 88 women are expected to provide victim impact statements over the four-day sentencing hearing, which Nassar agreed to as part of the plea agreement.

Nassar has never been arrested or charged with any crimes related to his sexual assaults on members of the U.S. national gymnastics team, including Olympians Jamie Dantzscher, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney or Aly Raisman, and world championship team members Jeanette Antolin, Jessica Howard or Maggie Nichols. All seven women have come forward in the 16 months to confirm being assaulted by Nassar, which occurred at the U.S. national training center known as the Karolyi ranch in Texas, as well as competitions all over the country and world.

Nassar, who began working with USA Gymnastics (then the United States Gymnastics Federation) in 1986, was made the national team doctor in 1996. In 2014, he announced he would be resigning after the 2016 Olympic Games. He was quietly let go from USA Gymnastics in 2015 after Nichols' coach, Sarah Jantzi, overheard Nichols, Raisman and another gymnast at the Karolyi ranch discussing the "treatment" they received from Nassar. Despite statements from Jantzi, Nichols and Raisman to USA Gymnastics, he was not reported to the FBI for five weeks after USAG was first informed. In September 2015, Nassar publicly announced he was retiring from his position at USA Gymnastics to run for a position on the school board.

Nassar continued to practice and assault other women for more than a year after USA Gymnastics was informed, all the while the FBI failed to take any action against him. (The FBI has refused to comment on why it apparently did not seriously pursue the case.) Nichols, Raisman and their families have accused USA Gymnastics of pressuring them to keep quiet about the abuse during this time. Maroney, who is also suing USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University and the U.S. Olympic Committee, and her attorney have accused USA Gymnastics of forcing her to sign an illegal confidentiality agreement in order to receive a $1.25 million settlement in December 2016.

Despite repeated complaints that date to 1997 and its own internal investigation in 2014, Michigan State University took no action against Nassar, who worked as an associate professor and team doctor for the athletic department. During the 2014 investigation, Nassar was allowed to keep practicing, and he was eventually cleared by the university, which chose to believe his account and not that of his victim.

Rachael Denhollander, who was abused by Nassar as a 15-year-old club gymnast in 2000, spent more than 10 years independently pursuing her case after realizing she had been assaulted as a teen. When The Indianapolis Star published its "Out of Balance" series into USA Gymnastics' handling of sex abuse reports in the sport in August 2016, Denhollander went public with her story. Her account was published by The Indianapolis Star on September 12, the same date that Dantzscher's civil lawsuit in California against Nassar and USA Gymnastics was reported by the paper. Dozens of women then came forward, leading to Nassar's firing from MSU and subsequent arrest for assault.

In July, Nassar pleaded guilty to three counts related to child pornography found on his property during a police search on September 20, 2016. He was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on those charges in December, a sentence he has appealed. He is unlikely to ever serve time in federal prison, given the lengthy sentence expected in Michigan, where he must serve his time first.

Despite the shocking details of Nassar's abuse, the large number of victims and the years his victims' complaints went ignored, the case has so far failed to match the scandal of Penn State University football coach Jerry Sandusky. The national media attention, public outrage, official investigations and criminal charges in the Nassar case pale in comparison to that of Sandusky, an assistant coach for the Penn State Nittany Lions, who was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse of boys from 1994 to 2009, and whose abuse was covered up for years by associates. Penn State paid more than $140 million to his victims and was fined $60 million by the NCAA and $10 million by the Big Ten Conference.

Schuette has stated he is considering opening an investigation into Michigan State University, which like USA Gymnastics continues to deny it ever covered up Nassar's abuse. So far there have been no announcements of investigations in Indiana, where USA Gymnastics has its headquarters, or in Texas, where Nassar spent more than 15 years treating gymnasts at the U.S. national training center in Houston, despite never being licensed to practice medicine in the state.

 
Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 11 January 2018 21:52    PDF Print
Germany's Tratz Enjoys Transition to College Life at UCLA
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)



After winning vault in her debut for UCLA last week, 2016 German Olympic team alternate Pauline Tratz told IG she is enjoying the process of adapting to collegiate gymnastics and university life in the United States. Pictured: The German team celebrates after Tratz, the final performer, hit her routine on uneven bars at the 2016 Rio Test Event in Rio de Janeiro, where Germany placed second as a team to clinch qualification to the 2016 Olympic Games later that summer.

After winning vault in her debut for UCLA last week, 2016 German Olympic team alternate Pauline Tratz told IG she is enjoying the process of adapting to collegiate gymnastics and university life in the United States.


Tratz poses at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion after winning vault in her NCAA debut.

"I was excited to make the transition," said Tratz, who arrived on the Los Angeles campus directly from this summer's University Games in Taipei, where she placed 13th all-around and fifth on floor exercise. "It's really interesting to see how differently the gymnasts work, because it's really all about execution and not about the difficulty."

Tratz, who will turn 19 on June 14, said she is also savoring the challenge of adjusting her routines to meet NCAA requirements.

"For sure it was hard at the beginning because it was different," she said. "But I really enjoy choosing the best skills from my elite routines and working on them really hard, and trying to do them perfectly."

Tratz was a member of Germany's fourth-place team at the 2014 European Junior Championships in Sofia and its 12th-place team at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow. She finished 18th all-around at the 2015 Europeans in Montpellier. At the 2016 Olympic test event in Rio, Tratz helped Germany finish second in the team competition behind Brazil, clinching a team berth to the 2016 Rio Games.

In recent domestic competitions, Tratz placed seventh all-around, second on vault and third on floor exercise at the 2015 German Championships; 10th all-around, first on vault and second on floor exercise at the 2016 German Championships; and first on vault at the 2017 German Championships.

Tratz trained at TSV Rintheim in Karlsruhe under coach Tatjana Bachmayer and competed in the German Bundesliga for TG Karlsruhe-Söllingen. Starting in January 2017, she was also coached by American Chris Lakeman. Lakeman, a former Penn State gymnast who won the 2001 NCAA still rings title, is the new head coach of TG Karlsruhe.


Tratz on floor at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow

Tratz, who competed on vault and floor exercise in her collegiate debut against Ohio State University last Saturday, said she hopes to return to all-around competition next year.

"At the moment I have problems with my right shoulder so I can't train bars, but I'm working on beam," she said. "It's taken me a little time because I had to change from my elite routine to a college routine, so I just need to get a little more confident. I'm planning to do beam, and hopefully next season, bars, when my shoulder gets better."

Tratz said she is keeping her academic options open. This quarter her classes include English Composition, Design and Media Arts, and Introduction to Screenwriting.

"First I just want to get experience in different areas," she said. "I'm interested in film and television, but I don't know what I want to do exactly. I want to play around and see what classes I like, and what I want to do in my future."

While Tratz said she is inspired by the long careers of German teammates including Elisabeth Seitz and Kim Bui, both of whom are thriving in their 20s, she has her own agenda that may or may not include a return to international competition.

"I see that they still have fun and love competing, and I also still love competing," she told IG. "But I want to have a change and experience myself in a different way. So I thought starting college gymnastics would be the perfect way. I want to focus on this season and help my team win the national championship. After the season, I will think about elite again."

 
Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 11 January 2018 10:33    PDF Print
Steingruber: 'I Just Couldn't Wait To Come Back'
(1 vote, average 5.00 out of 5)



Featured in the December 2017 issue of International Gymnast magazine, Switzerland's Giulia Steingruber said determination helped her earn her first world medal at last fall's worlds championships in Montreal.

Featured in the December 2017 issue of International Gymnast magazine, Switzerland's Giulia Steingruber said determination helped her earn her first world championships medal last fall after coming back from an injury.

"I prepared myself as well as I could with my coaches," said Steingruber, who will turn 24 on March 24. "I just couldn't wait to come back and compete."

Steingruber is still recovering from the foot surgery she underwent in January that kept her out of competition for most of 2017. Despite the injury, she had her best finish yet at the 2017 World Championships in Montreal, winning her first world championships medal with the bronze medal on vault and finishing seventh all-around (tying her result from 2013).

Steingruber, who made her world debut in 2010, qualified to five consecutive vault finals from 2011-2017, finally making the podium last fall behind two-time world champion Maria Paseka (Russia) and newcomer Jade Carey (United States). She became only the second Swiss female to win a world medal following compatriot Ariella Käslin, who won the silver medal on vault in 2009.

In the summer of 2016, Steingruber also made history with her bronze medal on vault at the Olympic Games in Rio, where she became the first Swiss female to win an Olympic medal in gymnastics.

The December 2017 issue of International Gymnast magazine includes "Montreal Milestones," a collection of profiles on gymnasts including Steingruber, Diana Varinska (Ukraine), Tin Srbić (Croatia), Jorge Vega (Guatemala) and Claudia Fragapane (Great Britain). To order back issues, or subscribe to the print and/or digital edition of International Gymnast magazine, click here.

 


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