Gymnasts angry for not being part of harassment debate

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Lori Ewing, Canadian Press

The gymnasts expressed their anger at not being heard at an emergency meeting ordered by the Canadian sports minister over the abuse of athletes.

An open letter published last Monday has so far supported at least 270 signatories.

A group of 70 gymnasts signed an open letter last Monday denouncing this fact. Then, over the past few days, that number more than tripled to 270 during the day on Friday. The gymnasts’ exit comes a month after dozens of athletes with bobsleigh and skeletons exited demanding the departure of the president and deputy director of their respective national federations.

These public outings, among many other things, forced Minister Pascale St-Onge to hold an emergency meeting Thursday with representatives of various organizations, including the Canadian Olympic Committee and Podium Ownership.

But gymnasts condemn the fact that they are excluded from the conversation.

Brittany Rogers is now an adult and retired from competition three years ago. However, the harsh words that were repeated to her while playing sports throughout her childhood, she does not let go as if she is breaking a record.

you are fat. you are stupid. You are not good enough.

“I don’t think I realized the extent of the damage until I retired from the sport,” Rogers said. And before I retire I found myself unable to reflect on the effects I have had on my personality today and the consequences I continue to suffer.

Representing Canada at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, Rogers is a signatory to an open letter to Sport Canada on abuse in sport, and gymnastics in particular.

While situations of abuse are a concern in all sports, physical and psychological abuse in gymnastics involves minors. Later, these young people carry these traumas into their adult lives.

“New things pop up almost every day,” says Rogers. I have almost no confidence in myself. I doubt myself. Sometimes I can’t even look at myself in the mirror because I judge my physical appearance harshly or it’s anchored in me that I’ll never be able to keep up with it.

He says he had to weigh in every training session as a kid and still has to train hard six days a week for fear of gaining weight today. A routine he hates.

“People don’t realize the long-term repercussions of telling you that you’re fat, stupid and can’t do anything,” says Penny Werthner, a renowned sports psychologist.

“When you experience physical, emotional, sexual abuse, it has long-term and often lifelong consequences,” adds the Dean of the University of Calgary School of Kinesiology.

Former athlete and former Gymnastics Canada board member Kim Shore, who is also the mother of young gymnasts, says it was “disappointing” that athletes were not invited to the meeting urgency.

There is also the anger shared by athletes who do gliding sports at the source of the reports.

Not understanding the minister’s negligence, Shore explains, “These are two groups that we know are mobilized, mobilized, and speaking out in public.”

The Minister of Sports said that he has accelerated the deployment of an independent mechanism to oversee safety in sport within the Canadian Center for Sports Dispute Resolution, and that this mechanism will be mandatory for each federation. He promises that everything will be in place by the end of spring.

He described the situation as a “crisis” in sports in Canada, adding that at least eight sports federations have faced allegations of harassment since his appointment five months ago.