Anna Levandi being investigated for abusive coaching practices ("it's not really just her, but the whole system")

Sylvia

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"Estonian Anti-Doping and Sports Ethics Foundation (EADSE) has received petitions from former students and parents alleging figure skating trainer Anna [Kondrashova] Levandi of mental and physical abuse. Elite coach Levandi conceded she is not perfect but termed most of the claims slanderous and absurd."

ERR News -- English-language service of Estonian Public Broadcasting -- article (February 21, 2024):
EADSE forwarded the information to the Estonian Skating Union (ESU), which replied that the matter had been taken up, but it was decided to leave it to the federation's board. "We have established a committee to hear from all parties involved to resolve the complaint," Maire Arm, the president of the ESU, wrote to ERR. "It would be premature to talk about the outcome of the process at this time, but we are working within the ESU to provide clarification as soon as possible."
The first written complaint against Levandi was received just before Christmas. "And then there were more complaints, but we had heard such signals before as well," she said.
Henn Vallimäe, a member of the EADSE board, told ERR that according the information they have received, the ESU wants to resolve the issue in-house: "This is a decision of a sports union, and there is nothing exceptional about it."
"It's a question of possible abusive behavior by an elite coach, and our position is that we see a problem with it," Vallimäe added.
"It is serious because it is an accusation against a very high-ranking, highly respected, and esteemed coach. There have always been such conflicts with younger or less experienced coaches, but this is an exceptionally distinguished trainer."
Vallimäe emphasized that the injury does not have to be physical, and that what is important is whether there is a pattern to the individual episodes. "It's an assessment of a pattern of behavior, whether it's within the boundaries of the coach's code of ethics, the kind of behavior described in the coach's code of ethics."
According to ERR, several of the cases involve Eva-Lotta Kiibus, who has trained under Levandi for 12 years. According to a statement submitted to EADSE, Levandi increased the training load at the beginning of the Olympic season, and the skater's legs could not cope, leading to nerve damage that required surgery after the Olympics. "We took a week off in the summer, but it wasn't enough to get our legs back on track and make it through the season. On top of that, there was constant pressure not to tell anyone that something was wrong with you. But when my leg wouldn't stand up because of pain during training, she would yell at me and humiliate me. She also advised me to go to the doctors less, because the pain should be between the ears, and the doctors make you sicker with their nagging."
The severity of the inflammation was also confirmed to ERR by the athlete's physiotherapist.
Pealtnägijaga ('Eyewitness') is a widely watched Estonian investigative journalism television program and I believe this story will be broadcast tonight (ETA link to watch the first 20 mins. of Season 25 Episode 891 - includes an interview with Anna Levandi): https://etv.err.ee/1609247576/pealtnagija

ETA #2 - link to the original article in Estonian (includes clips from the Levandi interview):
 
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Frau Muller

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Eva-Lotta Kiibus is among Levandi’s former students, I believe. Not that there’s a specific relation here.
 

Trillian

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My Sergei was written like 3-4 "eras" ago. It was Anna's story to tell :(

I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen Anna in recent years and thought, “I can’t believe they published her name.” I wasn’t old enough then to be aware of the prevailing journalistic standards, but since there was no outcry at the time that I remember about her being named, I’m assuming they’ve changed a lot.
 

overedge

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This story actually made the "sports briefs" section in our local paper today. A couple of years ago, before the Canadian junior hockey case, the Sorensen allegations, and the like, figure skating coaching in Estonia wouldn't have even been a blip on the editors' radar.

It's very sad what has happened to now make this newsworthy, but more public attention to these things is ultimately a good thing IMO.
 

Coco

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I have to say, since we unfortunately have so many articles to compare it to, that article seemed exceptionally well written. Articulate witnesses help, to be sure, but the writers really described the significance of mental abuse in a thorough and effective manner. Even a person who thinks 'that's just the way it is," might think twice. One can hope, I suppose.
 

Sylvia

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@Karen-W, Niina Petrokina is coached by Svetlana Varnavskaja.

Pealtnägijaga ('Eyewitness') is a widely watched Estonian investigative journalism television program and I believe this story will be broadcast tonight (ETA link to watch the first 20 mins. of Season 25 Episode 891 - includes an interview with Anna Levandi): https://etv.err.ee/1609247576/pealtnagija
I watched this segment and quite a bit of old footage of Eva-Lotta Kiibus training with Levandi, along with interview clips, were shown. Kiibus was not interviewed for this story (understandably). Levandi was given ample time to respond to the allegations in her sit down interview.

Another article excerpt:
ERR also spoke to many of Levandi's former students or their family members, as well as several coaches. A similar pattern emerges from all of them - athletes leave Levandi's care mentally or physically broken, mostly moving on to other coaches, but in many cases ending their careers. For fear of retaliation or harassment, most are only willing to speak anonymously.
Zoya, the grandmother of Levandi's former protégé, Yegor Marchenko, who turned 18 earlier this year, agreed to comment under her own name [both in the article and for Pealtnägijaga].
Jegor Martsenko (spelling of his name in his ISU bio) is scheduled to compete at Junior Worlds next week as the second Estonian man to Arlet Levandi. Martsenko's current coaches are Irina Kononova (who also coaches the Selevko brothers) and Katsiaryna Kalenda.

Johanna Allik, a former student of Levandi's, speaks briefly in English and an excerpt from her The Book of Figure Skating [more info at https://jivsport.com/product/the-book-of-figure-skating/] was highlighted (shown on the screen) in Pealtnägijaga after the 11-minute mark as follows:
At 13, warming up for a Junior Grand Prix short program, my coach suggested a disturbing method: inducing vomiting by sticking my fingers in my mouth. Apologies for the stark portrayal, but that was the reality. Shocked by the advice, I nonetheless respected my coach, akin to a second mother, and reluctantly adopted the habit, keeping it a clandestine tool to maintain the desired thinness crucial for executing triple jumps.
If anyone can understand Estonian, I would be interested to know what Anna Levandi said in response to this part in particular (ETA that I've since replied to my own question in my post #22 below).
 
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AngieNikodinovLove (ANL)

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ignosk8er

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Fear of the abuser doing worse things to you and/or losing all you worked for to that point.
Or doing worse things by others. As an SA survivor, all the abuser had to do was tell me, a child, that if anyone found out what had transpired, they would no longer love me. That's all it takes.

Predators and abusers - the practiced ones especially - hone their methods of covering their tracks no matter who they target. Shame and fear are potent tools.
 

Sylvia

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I was just going to ask, the woman in the photo who is the coach that’s not Niina’s current coach. Correct?
Yes, I named Petrokina's coach in my post #14.

I noticed that the original article in Estonian (link is edited into my post #1 now) omits the section -- machine translated subtitle is "A coach should be strict, but not harsh" with quotes from Daniel Albert Naurits: https://sport.err.ee/1609259115/end...-iluuisutreener-anna-levandit-vaarkohtlemises
Machine translated excerpt:
Naurits confirmed that the statements made in the complaints made to EADSE about the Levandi language are also true based on his experiences. "The coach must be quite strict, but not strict. This line is thin. I wouldn't say that Anna is strict, I would say that she is strict, she goes over the line," stated Naurits. ... You can't curse a small child with different words, insult him. You're a full-grown woman and you insult children."
"Okay, during training he is an athlete for you, not a child. But you don't have to insult him, you can also explain strictly," continued Naurits. "For example, Alexei Mishin (who was the coach of Yevgeny Plyushchenko, Alexei Yagudin and Alexei Urmanov, among others - ed.) is a very good example. He never says a dirty word or starts insulting you. He can poke you severely or make fun of you. For example, he sees, that nothing comes out, comes to you and starts talking, takes your thoughts elsewhere and then you can continue working with a fresh head and then maybe things will start to work out. This kind of method works. Not if you tell the athlete that you are bad, you don't know anything, you're behind on everything, etc. It doesn't work at all and it doesn't help, it's not sustainable."
Naurits ended his competitive career after the 2019-20 season and his Instagram profile says he graduated from the University of Tartu in 2021 and the Graduate School of Economics and Management at France's Univ. of Cote-d'Azur last year.
 

Sylvia

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Today's article/interview published in English:
Remo Perli, chief investigator at the Estonian Anti-Doping and Sports Ethics Foundation (EADSE), recommends that the Estonian Skating Federation involves people from outside in the committee investigating the Anna Levandi case. In an interview on ETV show "Terevisioon," Perli expressed hope that the law will move in a direction whereby the EADSE will also be able to deal with misconduct cases in all sports in Estonia.
In this case, we checked, and since we do not have the power to initiate proceedings ourselves and can only do so in cooperation with the associations, which [is the process that] has worked so far whenever there have been cases like this. We also approached the Skating Federation, came together and passed on the content.
We offered to help if they wanted to involve us in the proceedings. The skating federation discussed the matter among the board and decided we would not be involved and that our help was not needed.
... My recommendation would definitely be to involve people from outside, to make it as transparent as possible. At the moment, it makes me a bit uneasy.
ETA:

The original article in Estonian includes Perli's video interview and has been updated on Thursday afternoon - "the president of the Estonian Skating Union, Maire Arm, sent her own comment on Remo Perl's statements, which we will add unchanged" [at the end]: https://sport.err.ee/1609260615/remo-perli-uisuliidu-komisjoni-koosseis-teeb-noutuks
 
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Sylvia

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This article in Estonian from yesterday recaps the Pealtnägija / "Eyewitness" episode and Anna Levandi's interview ("Levandi: You can't have sport without pain, but pain gives results") and includes her on camera denial of Allik's claim that was published in her book:
Machine translated excerpts:
Levandi, ... Estonia's only figure skating coach of the eighth category and the head of a skating school named after herself rejects the accusations in "Paeltnägija". The topic is passionate and at times delicate, but the broader question is - where does performance-oriented effort cross over into abuse? And has this limit changed over time?
...
On the one hand, Levandi apologizes for all the hurt and offense that may have been caused, and confirms that she did not want to hurt anyone. On the other hand, she feels that instead she is being mistreated - she gave her all, but now the critics are stabbing her in the back. "I make a very big decision for myself not to want more than an athlete. Not to. Let them want as much as they want, let them achieve as much as they are meant to," said Levandi. "Actually, I'll probably change my attitude towards sports a lot. It's not worth burning yourself out, especially when such setbacks come."
After the investigation began, nine parents of his skating school, six coaches and former Olympians Elena Glebova and Viktor Romanenkov wrote letters in support of Levandi. There is no time limit on whether and when the ice skating union must do or say something.
 
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sap5

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:unsure:


Working according to Zhuk's methods

Last fall, speaking on ERR podcast "Spordis ainult tüdrukud" about becoming a coach, Levandi said that 80 percent of what she knows she has picked up from coaches she worked with during her career.

"I remember myself very well as a child, how coaches treated me and I know what I definitely wouldn't want to do. There were all sorts of things going on in the Soviet system. Humiliation is definitely something that should never be allowed to happen to children, especially young children, it gives them such trauma for life," she said in the podcast.

"I'll give you an example of how I was given skates by the club - there was nowhere to get them, I was successful, I was good, so I was allocated some. But then I ended up with a coach who didn't think I fit in, somehow he didn't want me. The head of the department was called, and there the head of the department, just in front of everybody in the changing room, just ripped the skates off me. That's out of the question now, I'd probably end up in jail, I'd definitely lose my license anyway."

"It's absolutely unthinkable. Not just in sport even, but in my view, just in life," Levandi added. "Sport has to be healthy, it has to be positive. It can be physically and psychologically tough. There's nothing wrong with that if we can overcome those difficulties and move on. But humiliation and insulting people doesn't get you anywhere, it ruins a person.
 

bladesofgorey

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The quotes in the articles by former skaters/people who have witnessed Levandi's abuse are so damning. There's no way this isn't true. People can be so self-delusional- she knows abuse and humiliation is wrong having been on the receiving end herself, but reverts back to it when she gets frustrated. Reprehensible.

Weirdly right after finishing Gracie Gold's book I searched for Eva-Lotta's name because I wasn't sure if she was still skating, and from the outside looking in at her performance arc and struggles she reminded me of Gracie's before she took a break, and it made me worried for her mental health. Not two days later I saw this posted. :(
 

Karen-W

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She’s competing this weekend at the challenge cup along with Niina

As far as I know, Estonia has not named their women’s entry for worlds. It will be one of them.
Estonia has two entries for Worlds. Eva-Lotta needs to re-earn the SP TES min. Niina as well as Langerbaur & Lisovskaja have the Worlds TES mins.
 

AngieNikodinovLove (ANL)

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Estonia has two entries for Worlds. Eva-Lotta needs to re-earn the SP TES min. Niina as well as Langerbaur & Lisovskaja have the Worlds TES mins.

Oh, really? When I was asking about short program world start orders, people were telling me if Eva lotta gets it is going to bump Amber up a spot, and if it goes to Niina is going to bump her down. Multiple people told me that, I wonder why

And also that Niina was recently injured and that’s why they were not naming the world spot yet
 

skatingguy

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Oh, really? When I was asking about short program world start orders, people were telling me if Eva lotta gets it is going to bump Amber up a spot, and if it goes to Niina is going to bump her down. Multiple people told me that, I wonder why
Because starting orders are based on groups created by world ranking, and Eva is behind Amber, and Niina is ahead of Amber.
 

AngieNikodinovLove (ANL)

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Because starting orders are based on groups created by world ranking, and Eva is behind Amber, and Niina is ahead of Amber.

Lol I know, but people were telling me that if Estonia goes to Eva lotta, it will go bump Amber up to 12 and if the only spot goes to Niina is going to bump her down to 13. Now Karen said they have two spots when others a few weeks ago were telling me they only had one. And that once Estonia made up their mind, we would know where Amber start order would be.

I was curious if Amber was going to make the pentultimate group for the short program and people said she’s either going to be 12 or 13th depending on who Estonia sends. and if I recall correctly, I think Karen was even one of the people who was explaining that to me
 
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Karen-W

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Lol I know, but people were telling me that if Estonia goes to Eva lotta, it will go bump Amber up and if the only spot goes to Niina is going to bump her down. Now Karen said they have two spots when others a few weeks ago were telling me they only had one. And that once Estonia made up their mind, we would know where Amber start order would be.

I was curious if Amber was going to make the pentultimate group for the short program and people said she’s either going to be 12 or 13th depending on Estonia
Well, people were assuming that Estonia only had 1 spot for Worlds but they have two. One has to presume that Niina will be named to the team regardless of how her recovery is going. And I'd guess that Eva-Lotta would get the 2nd spot if she can earn the SP TES min but she was pretty far off at the one comp she had earlier this month, so I expect it to go to either Lisovskaja or Langerbaur, neither of whom are going to bump Amber into a lower group, lol.
 

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