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Written by Amanda Turner    Friday, 02 February 2018 20:19    PDF Print
Retrosi: It's Time to Say #ThanksCoach
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

As the gymnastics community struggles to pick up the pieces following the Larry Nassar tragedy — which revealed allegations of physical, sexual and psychological abuse by gymnastics coaches — a grassroots movement has begun to reshape the sport and its image.

As the gymnastics community struggles to pick up the pieces following the Larry Nassar tragedy — which revealed allegations of physical, sexual and psychological abuse by gymnastics coaches — a grassroots movement has begun to reshape the sport and its image. Coach and educator Tony Retrosi says it's time to recognize the tremendous work of the amazing gymnastics coaches who have influenced so many athletes in a healthy and positive way.

Retrosi, the head coach and owner of Atlantic Gymnastics Training Centers, started the "Thank You to my Gymnastics Coach" page on Facebook (, because he wants to remind the public that the majority of gymnastics coaches shouldn't be lumped in with the kind who make headlines for harming athletes.

"With all the negative press, it just seemed like the right thing to do," Retrosi told IG on Friday. "There are so many great coaches out there who make a difference every day."

Retrosi is a frequent lecturer and has traveled around the world visiting clubs and teaching clinics. He was named Educator of the Year by USA Gymnastics in 2010.

1992 Olympian Wendy Bruce talks to young gymnasts.

Retrosi started the page on Thursday evening and it had several hundred fans by Friday morning. He started off the page with a shoutout to his own coaches. His very first coach was his mother, Denise Carlisle Edmonds, and he later trained with Jon Bean, Don Tonry and Kip Reed. The late Don Tonry, a long-time coach at Yale and 1960 Olympian, taught him tremendous technical knowledge, Retrosi said.

"I learned so much from all of you," he posted in tribute to his coaches.

The "survivors army" of 156 women who spoke at Nassar's first sentencing hearing in Ingham County, Michigan, stunned the world with horrific stories of sexual abuse by the once trusted doctor at USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University. Many of the gymnasts who gave victim impact statements shared heartbreaking tales of abusive conditions both at the club level and through the national team, which they say Nassar took advantage of, becoming a sympathetic figure who expertly groomed gymnasts, bringing them food and gifts and badmouthing their coaches, in order for the gymnasts to view him as a friend. Several of the gymnasts made allegations of physical and mental abuse against coach John Geddert, Nassar's long-time friend who has since been suspended by USA Gymnastics. Nassar was also the team doctor at Gedderts' Twistars in Michigan.

Among the most heartbreaking statements at the first sentencing hearing was from 2010 world team member Mattie Larson, who cried as she shared that she had purposely injured herself so she would not have to return to the Karolyi camp, the isolated U.S. national team training center she described as a prison, and where Nassar repeatedly abused an unknown number of gymnasts.

The public outrage and condemnation were swift, and USA Gymnastics was repeatedly cast as an enabler of sexual predators like Larry Nassar. The Indy Star's investigative piece into USA Gymnastics' failure to report sexual abuse led to the bombshell revelation about the team doctor who had quietly retired from USA Gymnastics in September 2015.

"The trail of human wreckage left by Larry Nassar may never be completely calculated," ESPN investigative reporter John Barr said.

World and Olympic champion Shawn Johnson shared her disgust, saying if she had a daughter, she would not put her in gymnastics because of what she called USA Gymnastics' utter failure to protect gymnasts from physical and sexual abuse.

Sports Illustrated writer Charles P. Pierce was the most brutal of all, comparing the horror of the sentencing to that of cannibal serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, which Pierce sat through in 1992. Pierce condemned the entire sport.

"American gymnastics is no longer a sport. It's a conspiracy of pedophiles and their enablers," he wrote on January 24, the day Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison.

All this has shocked and jolted the gymnastics community. News stations across the country have flocked to local gyms for their reactions, with many responding that they do not tolerate abuse and it's time to completely change the culture of the sport. Gyms are organizing their own fundraisers to help causes and wearing teal ribbons — the awareness ribbon to support sexual assault survivors — and teal clothes at meets to show support.

The movement to change the sport has begun at the club level, as many criticize USA Gymnastics' lack of leadership in this area. All major sponsors have fled USA Gymnastics, and its entire board was forced to resign by the U.S. Olympic Committee under threat of decertification. The organization is fighting off civil lawsuits and has been accused of a massive cover-up of Nassar, who continued to work as a physician in Michigan — and assault girls and women — until September 2016. USA Gymnastics continues to insist in legal briefs that it had no legal duty to warn anyone about Nassar after he left USA Gymnastics.

But throughout the tragedy, there have been moments of pride for gymnastics coaches. It was revealed that Maggie Nichols' personal coach, Sarah Jantzi, overheard Nichols talking at the Karolyi ranch about Nassar's "treatments." Jantzi immediately raised the alarm, reporting the abuse to both USA Gymnastics and Nichols' mother. Nassar never returned to the ranch and was dismissed from the national team, and USA Gymnastics' handling of the reports has come under massive scrutiny.

And in the Lansing courtroom, several of the survivors stood up with their former coaches by their side as their support. Tom Brennan, introduced as "Coach Tom," stared down Nassar and then confronted him with such force that the moment went viral. "Coach Tom" demanded that Nassar look at the survivor as she spoke, and then when invited to make his own statement, he spoke of his crushing guilt that he had referred nearly 100 gymnasts to Nassar. He then said that his pain was nothing compared with the women Nassar had assaulted, before tossing in, "For the record, Go to hell."

"Who is that?! He is speaking for all of us!" wrote one national team coach on social media while watching the live stream.

Brennan, who had considered Nassar a mentor and close friend, believed Rachael Denhollander, the first to publicly accuse Nassar, when she told him what Nassar had done. He called up all his former gymnasts to ask if they had also been abused.

Brennan was hailed as a hero by coaches watching the live stream, and by his former gymnasts, who shared stories of what a wonderful coach he had been. Multiple people called for Brennan, who accompanied five survivors at the hearing, to be appointed to the board of USA Gymnastics.

"This has all been a surreal experience," Brennan told IG. "The girls' bravery and resilience along with their tenacious desire for change have been inspiring."

Larson was one of many voices calling for change, saying, "There is a better way, a healthy way, to create champions."

The coaches who embrace a positive and supportive philosophy should be celebrated, Retrosi decided.

Canadian coach Andrea Seright of West Wind Gymnastics in Lethbridge, Alberta, knows Retrosi and invited many to like his page to support great gymnastics coaches.

"He's been my mentor for four years," Seright told IG. "He's an extraordinary coach."

Retrosi, who operates the gymnastics education website Gym Momentum, said he hoped he would make a difference in rebuilding the image of the sport.

"I'd love to see #ThanksCoach go viral," he said.

Written by Amanda Turner    Friday, 02 February 2018 12:39    PDF Print
Valeri Liukin Resigns with 'Heavy Heart' from USA Gymnastics
(10 votes, average 4.00 out of 5)

Valeri Liukin has resigned from his position as the women's national team coordinator for USA Gymnastics, he said Friday in a statement, saying the "present climate causes me, and more importantly, my family, far too much stress, difficulty and uncertainty." Pictured: Valeri Liukin and Marta Karolyi, whom he succeeded as U.S. women's national team coordinator, at the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart.

Valeri Liukin has resigned from his position with a "heavy heart" as the women's national team coordinator for USA Gymnastics, he said Friday in a statement, saying the "present climate causes me, and more importantly, my family, far too much stress, difficulty and uncertainty."

Liukin, who replaced Marta Karolyi as the national team coordinator in the fall of 2016, submitted his resignation amidst the current fallout at USA Gymnastics, which has been accused of fostering an abusive culture.

Liukin wrote that he had been looking forward to turning around the program as the national team coordinator, but he felt he had to do what was best for his family.

"It is time to move on in a different direction, at least for now," Liukin wrote. "I wish the coaches and athletes continued success, and I stand ready to encourage and support all of them from a different vantage point."

Liukin is among the most respected figures in gymnastics. A native of Kazakhstan, he was a daredevil on the undefeatable Soviet men's team from the mid-1980s to 1991. He was the first gymnast to tumble a triple back on floor exercise — still the most difficult tumbling move done today — and he also has a move named after him on high bar, the full-twisting layout Tkatchev. He won four Olympic medals at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul: gold medals with the team and on high bar, and silver medals in the all-around and on parallel bars. In 1993, he moved from Russia to the United States with his wife, Moscow native and rhythmic world champion Anna Kochneva, and his baby daughter, Nastia Liukin. Nastia Liukin went on to become a legend in her own right, winning four world championship titles between 2005 and 2007 before winning the all-around gold and four other medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, tying the American gymnastics record of five medals in a single Olympics.

In 1994, Liukin co-founded World Olympic Gymnastics Academy in Plano, Texas, with former sports acrobatics world champion Yevgeny Marchenko. In addition to coaching multiple world champions and dozens of collegiate gymnasts, WOGA has produced three Olympic champions, including Nastia Liukin, who followed 2004 Olympic all-around champion Carly Patterson, and Madison Kocian, a member of the "Final Five" U.S. team that won a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, where she also won a silver medal on uneven bars.

Liukin left the ranks of personal coaches in 2013 when he became the elite developmental coordinator, overseeing the progress of the junior team. In September 2016, he was selected to succeed Marta Karolyi after the latter's retirement in August 2016. In 2017, the U.S. women continued to impress. First-year senior Morgan Hurd won the all-around title at the world championships last fall in Montreal.

Nastia Liukin, the only child of Valeri and Anna, recently posted a blog in which she revealed she had been subject to criticism by people who assumed she was continually supporting the actions of USA Gymnastics, apparently because of her family's association with the federation, and not the survivors of Nassar's abuse.

"This is an apology to anyone who had the perception I was not in complete support of my teammates and the women who have suffered at the hands of Larry Nassar," she wrote. "I continue to be in awe of my teammates and other women and the bravery it took for them to come forward with their own stories of Larry Nassar’s abuse. All week long I have been a witness to their testimonies live on my computer. They all inspire me with their courage. To compete on the biggest stage of our lives, while knowing the man on the floor with us was a monster, takes incredible fortitude and strength. His actions and assaults against my teammates, friends and other women are appalling and disgusting and I am so sorry they had to go through it alone."

Liukin, who wrote that she had faith in her father, added her voice calling for change for the next generation of American gymnasts.

"My hope is this is the beginning of positive change," she wrote. "I will do everything in my power to help our next generation never have to go through what my teammates went through. I, like so many others, believe many things could have been handled differently by USA Gymnastics. Many have written me asking why I continue to support them. Please believe me when I say I do NOT support the things I have read about or heard about. I do however support the future of gymnastics as a whole. I hope young women like Morgan (Hurd), Ragan (Smith), Riley (McCusker), Maile (O'Keefe), and so many others will one day feel safe within the sport, and can continue striving to achieve their own dreams. I am here for not just these young athletes but for all young women who want and deserve to feel and to be safe."

Liukin's resignation follows the exit of the entire board of USA Gymnastics, which was forced to resign by January 31 under threat of decertification by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Statement from Valeri Liukin

It is with a heavy heart that I resign as National Team Coordinator. I was truly looking forward to trying to turn this program around and bring success to our country and the gymnastics community. But the present climate causes me, and more importantly my family, far too much stress, difficulty and uncertainty.

I have loved gymnastics my entire life. Highlights were being fortunate enough to win my own Olympic medals and then coach my daughter to her Olympic Gold Medal — that was the proudest moment of my life.

It is time to move on in a different direction, at least for now. I wish the coaches and athletes continued success, and I stand ready to encourage and support all of them from a different vantage point.

Note: An earlier version of this article included allegations against Valeri Liukin without evidence they were related to his resignation and without seeking comment from him. IG and the author deeply regret the error.

Written by Amanda Turner    Friday, 02 February 2018 09:38    PDF Print
'What If This Had Happened To You?' — Father Lunges at Nassar in Court
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

A father whose three daughters were sexual abuse victims of former doctor Larry Nassar attempted to attack the disgraced doctor in court on Friday as Nassar's second hearing continued in Eaton County, Michigan.

A father whose three daughters were sexual abuse victims of former doctor Larry Nassar attempted to attack the disgraced doctor in court on Friday as Nassar's second hearing continued in Eaton County, Michigan.

Randall Margraves, who stood up alongside his daughters as they gave their statements, was admonished by Judge Cunningham for swearing at Nassar.

"I would ask you as part of this sentencing grant me five minutes in a locked room with this demon," asked Randall Margraves, who was wearing a union shirt representing IBEW Local 665, the Lansing union for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Judge Cunningham said that was not possible, and then Margraves asked for just one minute, which she again refused.

In a shocking moment, Margraves then rushed toward Nassar in the witness stand before Nassar's lawyer and the bailiffs tackled him to the ground.

"What if this had happened to you?" Margraves was heard asking the officers who arrested him and then hauled away from the courtroom in handcuffs.

A stunned Michigan Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis, the lead prosecutor in the case in both counties, turned around and strongly warned the gallery of survivors and their families, saying she did not want to see any more parents arrested.

"You cannot behave like this," Povilaitis said. "This is letting him have his power over us."

The first hearing in Ingham County revealed that at least four sets of sisters had been sexually abused by the disgraced former doctor. On Friday, it was revealed that all three Margraves sisters had been abused.

In November, Nassar pleaded guilty to sexual assault in a plea deal with the Attorney General and admitted sexually assaulting girls and women under the guise of "treatment" and that he had done it for his own sexual gratification.

However, a six-page letter of complaint he wrote during the first sentencing hearing was obtained by the Ingham County Sheriff and given to Ingham County Judge Rosemarie Aquilina. Before sentencing him to up to 175 years in prison, Aquilina revealed parts of the letter in court, revealing that he had written that he claimed to be innocent and that all the survivors accusing him had been brainwashed. Aquilina declined to read the entire letter or release it to the public; IG has learned it contained additional, highly disturbing remarks about certain survivors.

Nassar was also removed from the courtroom but after a delay, he returned and the sentencing hearing resumed.

Written by Amanda Turner    Wednesday, 31 January 2018 13:07    PDF Print
USA Gymnastics Board Resigns on Time per USOC Demand
(1 vote, average 5.00 out of 5)

All members of the USA Gymnastics Board have resigned as requested by the United States Olympic Committee, USAG said Wednesday in a statement, meeting the first deadline in a list of six demands that USAG must meet or face decertification as the governing body for the sport of gymnastics.

"USA Gymnastics has received resignations from all of the members of its Board of Directors, as required by the United States Olympic Committee," USA Gymnastics said in a statement. "USA Gymnastics thanks the Board members for their service. We are grateful for the time and effort each has devoted to USA Gymnastics."

On January 25, a day after former doctor turned convicted pedophile Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison on seven charges of sexual assault, USOC CEO Scott Blackmun sent a letter to USA Gymnastics threatening the federation with decertification. The letter came following massive public backlash against both organizations during the sentencing hearing of the former team doctor, during which 156 survivors of his horrific sexual abuse shocked the world with their ordeal and their outrage at the organizations, including USA Gymnastics and the USOC, which were accused of failing to protect athletes and allowing gymnasts to train under extremely abusive conditions.

The first of six requirements were that the USAG's entire board of directors must resign by January 31. Chairman Paul Parilla, Vice President Jay Binder and Treasurer Bitsy Kelley, all long-time board members, resigned on January 22, but only under USOC pressure. The trio had refused to heed calls to resign from outspoken members of the gymnastics community, including Nassar survivor Jamie Dantzscher. Dantzscher, the first gymnast to file suit against USA Gymnastics and the first well-known gymnast to accuse Nassar of sexual assault under the guise of medical treatment, had attended last summer's with fliers demanding Parilla, Binder and Kelley resign for their behavior and devoted support of ousted CEO Steve Penny, who likewise resigned only when the USOC forced his hand.

The second step in the USOC's list of requirements will be for USA Gymnastics to form an interim board by February 28, which USAG stated is underway.

"We are in the process of moving forward with forming an interim Board of Directors during the month of February, in accordance with the USOC's requirements. USA Gymnastics will provide information about this process within the next few days."

The entire board was forced to resign, including the most recently elected athlete representatives, who just joined the board on January 1. They will be eligible to join a future board if re-elected.

Click here to read the letter from the USOC in PDF format.

Former USA Gymnastics Board of Directors

Board Executives

Paul Parilla, Chairman (resigned January 22)
Jay Binder, Vice Chairman/Secretary (resigned January 22)
Bitsy Kelley, Treasurer (resigned January 22)

National Membership Directors
Kelli Hill, women
Tom Koll, women
Mike Burns, men
Yoichi Tomita, men
Natalia Kozitskaya, rhythmic gymnastics
Patti Conner, trampoline and tumbling
Carisa Laughon, acrobatic gymnastics

Advisory Council Directors
Casey Koenig
Kathy Krebs
Rome Milan

Athlete Directors (appointed January 1, 2018)
Steve Legendre, men
Ava Gehringer, rhythmic gymnastics
Ivana Hong, women
Dylan Maurer, acrobatic gymnastics
Austin White, trampoline and tumbling

Public Sector Directors
David Benck
Kevin Martinez
Cathy Rigby McCoy (appointed March 2017)

Written by Amanda Turner    Wednesday, 31 January 2018 01:41    PDF Print
Canadian Coach Arrested for Sexual Assault
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Ontario gymnastics coach Scott McFarlane, 28, has been arrested for sexual assault on a minor, the third Canadian coach accused of sexual misconduct with young girls in the past two months.

A gymnastics coach from Mississauga, Ontario, has been arrested for sexual assault on a minor, the third Canadian coach accused of sexual misconduct with young girls in the past two months.

Scott McFarlane, 28, turned himself in on Sunday, three days after a Canada-wide arrest warrant was issued for him, regional police reported on Tuesday.

The Peel Regional Police said that a 15-year-old girl contacted law enforcement in early January to allege that her gymnastics coach had engaged in sexual activity with her over a four-year period.

McFarlane appeared in court on Monday and was charged one count each of sexual assault, sexual interference, luring a child under 16, making sexually explicit material available to a child under 16 and indecent exposure to a child. He was released on bail.

McFarlane coached for four years at Manjak's Gym in Mississauga until he was terminated last October. His dismissal was related to his social media activity, owner Kelly Manjak told CBC Toronto.

McFarlane was a provincial-level gymnast in Ontario, where he trained at Tumblers Gymnastics Centre in Orleans. He finished 25th all-around in the Open category at the 2012 Canadian Gymnastics Championships in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Manjak said that when he hired McFarlane, he provided references and a police background check. McFarlane had also worked in Ottawa and Oakville. Gymnastics BC stated that McFarlane had coached at summer camps in British Columbia.

"At Manjak's, we're devastated," said Manjak, who said he has not seen McFarlane since October. "Today I got the news myself... so it definitely affects us and my heart goes out to the victim."

Manjak was the coach of Olympic champion Kyle Shewfelt, who last week called for major overhauls in Canadian sports to protect athletes from sexual predators.

"Our policies in our club are going to tighten up, obviously," Manjak told CBC Toronto. "Hopefully we can continue to eliminate this kind of situation in our sport."

McFarlane has been suspended indefinitely by both Gymnastics Ontario and Gymnastics Canada.

Gymnastics Ontario CEO Dave Sandford said Tuesday that Gymnastics Ontario was aware of a previous allegation against McFarlane, and in October the provincial federation suspended McFarlane for three months. Sandford said he was not able to discuss any other details of the first allegation, per the federation's policies.

In a statement, Gymnastics Canada Chairman Richard Crépin offered support for the gymnast who made the accusation again McFarlane.

"Our hearts go out to the victim in this case," Crépin said, "and we want her, and the rest of our community to know that we will not rest until this type of behaviour no longer finds a home in the sport of gymnastics."

In the spring of 2017, Gymnastics Canada began an overhaul of its policies in the wake of the ongoing sexual abuse scandal at USA Gymnastics that has stunned the gymnastics world. In a two month-span, McFarlane is the third coach suspended by Gymnastics Canada for sexual misconduct following Michel Arsenault and Canadian women's national coach Dave Brubaker in December.

In early December, Arsenault was accused of sexually abusing three former gymnasts in the 1980s and '90s in Quebec. Arsenault was suspended by Gymnastics Canada but not charged with any crimes. However, last week, the Sûreté du Québec announced it was actively investigating an unidentified gymnastics coach after seven women came forward to file complaints alleging sexual assault in the early 1990s, when they were then between 7 to 20 years old. Radio-Canada Sports confirmed the individual being investigated was Arsenault, who left Quebec in 1994 and settled in Edmonton, Alberta.

In mid-December, Brubaker was arrested and charged with 10 offenses relating to sexual misconduct with a minor in Sarnia, Ontario. A publication ban has been placed on the case to protect the identity of the individual making the accusation. Brubaker was released on bail and is due in court on February 6.

"Gymnastics Canada has a zero-tolerance policy for any type of behaviour that puts the safety and well-being of our participants at risk," Crépin said. "More than words though, it's actions that count. Our top priority is building a safe environment for our participants by enhancing the policies and mechanisms we have in place so that our athletes and coaches are safe and secure and so parents feel confident that their children are safe. We are also working in close collaboration with our provincial partners to develop updated policies and to ensure alignment in key areas such as background screening, conduct, and the development of a safe sport framework that will focus on policies, procedures, education, and alignment throughout the system."

The Peel Regional Police, which covers the municipalities of Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga, has asked anyone with information to come forward and stated they are looking for other alleged victims.

Anyone with information in relation to this incident is asked to contact investigators at the Special Victims Unit at 905-453-2121, ext. 3460. Anonymous information may also be submitted by calling Peel Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), by visiting or by sending a text message to CRIMES (274637) with the word "PEEL" and then your tip.


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