Brittany Rogers is an adult and three years away from her athletic career, but the cutting words from her childhood gymnastics coach still play like a broken record in her mind.
You are fat. You are stupid. You’re not good enough.
“I do not think I fully understood the extent of how bad it was until I was removed from the sport,” Rogers said. “And not until I was completely retired could I reflect and see how it has affected me personally today and the aftermath I still have to deal with.”
Rogers, who competed for Canada at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, is among dozens of current and retired gymnasts who wrote an open letter to Sport Canada about the abuse in their sport. Although alarming in all sports, emotional and physical abuse in gymnastics usually involves minors.
“Something new comes up almost every day,” he said. “My self-confidence is almost non-existent. I doubt myself. I can not even look at myself in the mirror sometimes because I am either so judgmental in my physical appearance or it has just instilled in me that I will never be good. enough.”
SE l Canadian gymnasts demand investigation of addiction, toxic culture:
Rogers, who weighed in at virtually every workout as a child, still trains six days a week because of his intense fear of gaining weight. She fears it. There is no joy in the process.
“People do not understand the long-term consequences of being told you’re fat, you’re stupid, you do not know how to do this,” said Penny Werthner, a sports psychologist and dean of kinesiology at the University of Calgary. “When you have been mentally, emotionally, physically, sexually abused, it has long-term and often lifelong consequences.”
The Canadian Minister of Sports, Pascale St-Onge, convened an emergency round table Thursday with representatives from national organizations such as the Canadian Olympic Committee and Own the Podium. The gymnasts said they were excluded from the conversation.
“There was frustration at not being invited to the table, neither bobsled, skeletal or gymnastics athletes,” said Kim Shore, a former member of Gymnastics Canada’s board and a former gymnast and gymnastics parent. “These are the two groups that we know are organized and galvanized and speak out.
“This is a crisis that will only be resolved by getting the voices that demand change to the table,” the gymnasts tweeted under the handle @ Gym4ChangeCan. “Athletes are literally [asterisk]begging[asterisk] for change. And some of the organizations at the round table are the architects themselves and the enablers of the crisis we are now facing. “
The link to the open letter is below! It’s still open for signatures. Please cast your vote for gymnasts who demand change! https://t.co/YPdybFCqsD
St-Onge said she is accelerating plans for an independent safe sports mechanism within the Sports Dispute Resolution Center in Canada that will be mandatory for all national sports organizations. She promises it will be operational in late spring.
In what she called a safe sport “crisis” in Canada, St-Onge said there have been allegations of assault, sexual assault or misuse of funds against at least eight national sports organizations in the five months since she was appointed.
Virtually everyone agreed that the sports culture in Canada needs a major overhaul, so that abuse does not occur in the first place.
“Fun was taken from me at a very young age”
“The fun side of sports, fun was taken from me at a very young age,” said Rogers, who began gymnastics at the age of three. “I never remember having fun in gymnastics. It was a job. And you have no job when you are a child.”
Shore said the gymnasts made a list of actions. She would like to see, for example, daring bans on clubs. Parents should also be allowed to watch their children’s training – they are currently banned from many clubs.
Werthner, who has worked with many national and Olympic teams since 1985, said she is a “fan of the coach / athlete relationship.”
The two-time Olympic trampoline champion Rosie MacLennan was part of the round table as a COC athlete representative and felt optimistic.
“One could hear a sense of urgency from many of the stakeholders, which is necessary at this point,” MacLennan said. “Obviously, step one of many is coming.”
The 28-year-old Rogers wrote about her years of emotional abuse in a long Instagram post this week and received great support.
“It honestly brought tears to my eyes,” she said. “If I can touch one person or 100 people, it does not matter … I hope it encourages other people to share their stories.”
She works with digital advertising in Calgary and coaches children at night: “I want to be the support I never had. They have to have fun and they have to enjoy what they do. I just want it to be different for them. So I do everything I can to create a positive experience for them. “
SE l Athletes Describe Toxic Culture at the Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton: