Skaters report abusive training environments

text_skate

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Here is the most recent article on the DEU-Fajfr* situation in taz (13th Dec.). The newpaper and the journalist have reported on this matter regularly (posts in the German news thread. Post 20th Aug., Post 30th Aug.). The article covers many aspects, it's an intersting read. It highlights, how complicated things can get, and how difficult to provide help resp. how long it can take just to help.
* How to deal with a freelance coach who is is accused of verbal and physical violence during training


It's quite complicated and involves a lot of legal issues, there will be very likely a civil case (Droysen), and there is a preliminary investigation against Fajfr by the public prosecution office, if there'll be an indictment has still to be decided.

The DEU have to tread lightly because they can't afford to pay damages.

Google translate, excerpts:
Reinhard Ketterer, the Vice President of the German Ice Skating Union (DEU), went to Oberstdorf last month with big plans: he wanted to get the controversial figure skating coach Karel Fajfr in a personal conversation so that, according to the wishes of the sports association, he no longer trains national squad athletes.
[....]

Both men agreed that they had agreed to maintain confidentiality about their conversation. Fajfr's lawyer’s letter to taz suggests that Fajfr may have had legal arguments against the project. "A possible decision of the DEU e. V., which would prohibit our clients from training federal squad athletes and / or taking measures from DEU e. Before a criminal conviction and before clarifying the civil law procedures (...) V. would be massively prejudicial and therefore illegal per se. "
Fajfr is working as a freelance coach. There are parents, who want Fajfr as coach for their son/daughter.

Ketterer: "The mother of this athlete has informed the association that her daughter will continue to train at Fajfr in the future. She justifies this with her educational sovereign right. "
DEU Vice President Ketterer also says something else: After his conversation in Oberstdorf, he spoke to external experts about the conflict. Including a psychologist who confronted the sports official with the view: "You have already prejudged Fajfr." Ketterer: "That made me think. As a sports association, we have a duty of care not only for athletes, but also for coaches. ”
The DEU now offers prevention courses on dealing with violence, with the aim of sensitizing athletes, parents and clubs to the topic. In addition, she wants to provide legal assistance to former athlete Isaak Droysen. So far, the 19-year-old ex-figure skater, who is a student, pays his lawyer himself. And it looks like there are still a number of civil and criminal proceedings pending.
I keep my fingers crossed, that DEU will provide Droysen with legal assistance.
 
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Tinami Amori

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Kira Korpi..... true meaning.
I am tall beautiful blond, a classic European, caucasian, who did not achieve anything significant as far as results in skating. But because i was beautiful, statuesque and thin... I got lots of endorsements, because i am the "essence" of a Beautiful White Girl...... and i did not refuse those endorsements..... Even the pure white milk.....


.. heck, even the "unhealthy junk food" McDonalads

.. and no problem advertising a fatty desert, while straw skinny, to a striptease music....

.. but now she is "passe", and no-one hires her...... so what's the choice? become politically correct and hype herself on current hot issues.... :D girl's got to make money and a career after all.
 

ErikWilliam

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Finally this is widely spoken about! I love this sport, but I do not want anyone to suffer because they want to be the best. We need more sport psychologs and nutritionists to keep the balance.
Except this is par for the course in every sport.
 

Tinami Amori

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Except this is par for the course in every sport.
I wonder what would people say if they addressed the dangers and injuries in Freestyle Aerials on Skiing and Boards.

Do people even know what competing in high level moguls competition and preparing for them does to skiers' spines and hips with constant pounding?
 

Sylvia

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.. but now she is "passe", and no-one hires her...... so what's the choice? become politically correct and hype herself on current hot issues.... :D girl's got to make money and a career after all.
FYI, since you respect skaters who pursue higher education after their competitive careers are over... Kiira Korpi has been studying The New School in NYC for a BA degree in Psychology since last year.
 

trouble77

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I think one of the first testimony of abusive training environment was given by Katia Gordeeva when she mentioned how lucky she was to have Sergei as partner because other female pair skaters were treated very poorly by their male partners every time they made mistakes. She talked about witnessing girls being emotionally and phisically abused during practice and discovered how her couch was molesting female skaters when one female skater pretty much told Katia she was stupid and naive because she didn't understand what went around her.
 

marbri

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Kira Korpi..... true meaning.
I am tall beautiful blond, a classic European, caucasian, who did not achieve anything significant as far as results in skating. But because i was beautiful, statuesque and thin... I got lots of endorsements, because i am the "essence" of a Beautiful White Girl...... and i did not refuse those endorsements..... Even the pure white milk.....


.. heck, even the "unhealthy junk food" McDonalads

.. and no problem advertising a fatty desert, while straw skinny, to a striptease music....

.. but now she is "passe", and no-one hires her...... so what's the choice? become politically correct and hype herself on current hot issues.... :D girl's got to make money and a career after all.

And blonde, beautiful, statuesque and thin women are a dime a dozen in Nordic countries. And they eat dairy products. What you are trying to imply with your comments is just stupid. I knew about Kiira's problems long long before they were public. She is a woman who experienced what she says she experienced and through study, experience, maturity and what she is witnessing today is speaking out.

There is a reason the girls you admire so much are able to do what they do. You can stick your head in the ground if you like but that won't change the reality no matter how hard you try.
 

VGThuy

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Kira Korpi..... true meaning.
I am tall beautiful blond, a classic European, caucasian, who did not achieve anything significant as far as results in skating. But because i was beautiful, statuesque and thin... I got lots of endorsements, because i am the "essence" of a Beautiful White Girl...... and i did not refuse those endorsements..... Even the pure white milk.....


.. heck, even the "unhealthy junk food" McDonalads

.. and no problem advertising a fatty desert, while straw skinny, to a striptease music....

.. but now she is "passe", and no-one hires her...... so what's the choice? become politically correct and hype herself on current hot issues.... :D girl's got to make money and a career after all.
Wait, @Tinami Amori, you’re using her race, hair color, skin color, and beauty as reasons why she was privileged to get endorsements? I just want to make sure I preserved that quote in case you argue that stuff doesn’t matter in other contexts and dismiss it as “PC” or “leftie” rubbish.
 

TAHbKA

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I think one of the first testimony of abusive training environment was given by Katia Gordeeva when she mentioned how lucky she was to have Sergei as partner because other female pair skaters were treated very poorly by their male partners every time they made mistakes. She talked about witnessing girls being emotionally and phisically abused during practice and discovered how her couch was molesting female skaters when one female skater pretty much told Katia she was stupid and naive because she didn't understand what went around her.
`I would gladly murder if I could get away with the said murder'. The beating of the pairs/dance girls, dropping them off the lift etc seemed to be a norm in the 80s-90s. Then it became too transparent and those who beat can't get away with it anymore. So either it stopped or became very invisible. Again, don't recall a single interview by Moskvina skater claiming beatings, do remember several interviews where Averbukh was being called `weird' or `an outsider' for not beating his partners.
 

starrynight

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Again, don't recall a single interview by Moskvina skater claiming beatings,
This was discussed at length in the book 'The Second Mark'. Elena Berezhnaya spoke about how in her previous coaching arrangement it was allowed for the boys to beat the girls (almost like it was a training technique). Then when she moved to Moskvina, it was not allowed there. In the early trainings, Shliakhov dropped her off a lift and kicked her and the other skaters at Moskvina's rink came over shouting telling him to stop. Unlike the previous rink, Shliakhov wasn't allowed to act like that at Moskvina's trainings.

When Berezhnaya started pairs, she was coached in an environment where every mistake was the girl's fault. Which we all know is crazy -- particularly when we see some pairs boys who cannot seem to do a straight throw.

There was so much written about Berezhnaya's first abusive partnership and her skull being sliced open by Shliakhov's blade and him abusing her. I think that placed a lot of attention onto the issue.
 

nimi

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Meanwhile in Finland, a female synchro coach has been accused of inappropriate behavior (verbal abuse, bullying behaviors) by 10+ former skaters. The Fed's disciplinary board has been looking into the situation and will decide soon whether they'll take action, e.g. issue a warning or a ban: https://www.mtvuutiset.fi/artikkeli/suomalainen-muodostelmaluistelun-naisvalmentaja-rajujen-syytoksien-kohteena-tutkinta-kaynnissa/7592058#gs.a5w3yh
The coach got a 1 year competition ban (subject to appeal), although it's still TBD whether the ban will cover domestic competitions only or whether the rules & regulations allow her to be banned from ISU competitions, too.

Another coach was issued a warning, for failing to intervene etc.

It's up to the skating club to decide whether they want to keep working with the coach... Apparently the Fed or SUEK have no say in that matter.

If somebody is interested in the details of the case, feel free to ask questions.

ETA: Found a twitter thread in English providing some additional info
 
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Finnice

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I am out of words of this. And it is still possible they can continue coaching, if the club does not kick them away.
 

Elka

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I just heard today that the coach in question was taking part in some of the latest competitions (there is a Synchro-mom at my workplace and she mentioned it today. I did not pay enough attention to remember which competition). She did keep a low profile though and e.g. did not go to the Kiss and cry.
 

nimi

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And it is still possible they can continue coaching, if the club does not kick them away.
There's discussion about this (from the employment law perspective etc.) on Kiira's twitter, e.g. in this thread:
 

cs.berlin

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I keep my fingers crossed, that DEU will provide Droysen with legal assistance.
Scepticism is probably the order of the day when you have to read something like this: "And there is something else DEU Vice President Ketterer says: after his meeting in Oberstdorf he spoke with external experts about the conflict. Among them a psychologist who confronted the sports official with the opinion: 'You've already prejudged Fajfr.' Ketterer: 'That gave me food for thought. As a sports federation we have a duty of care not only for athletes but also for coaches.'"

The psychologist does not seem to register that Fajfr has already been prejudged or judicially convicted several times. And the Ketterer then uses this deaf analysis as an excuse to think about a duty of care for coaches as well? With this thinking staff at the top of the DEU decision-makers I see little prospect of the DEU supporting its former athlete (one also reads strangely little to nothing of the statements of those parents, who have reported that the coach attacked their own children)
 
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Willin

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The coach got a 1 year competition ban (subject to appeal), although it's still TBD whether the ban will cover domestic competitions only or whether the rules & regulations allow her to be banned from ISU competitions, too.

Another coach was issued a warning, for failing to intervene etc.

It's up to the skating club to decide whether they want to keep working with the coach... Apparently the Fed or SUEK have no say in that matter.

If somebody is interested in the details of the case, feel free to ask questions.

ETA: Found a twitter thread in English providing some additional info
The thread is interesting given that it suggests her team might lose out on a Worlds spot, which, if it's a team like Unique that only gets spots once every few years could be something of a punishment for her. Still, she probably deserves more.
That being said, I see her situation more in line with US college football/basketball coaches than US skating coaches: synchro is a HUGE deal in Finland, and those top Senior team coaches (If she is MIU or Rockettes, especially) are probably seen as irreplaceable or otherwise untouchable due to their coaching. Especially with synchro moving closer to the Olympics I'd bet Finland's skating federation is trying to "protect" their synchro prowess by protecting this coach not realizing they have two other top Senior teams and dozens of other qualified coaches and skaters that would happily take the job. There's even a lot of really good Finnish coaches coaching outside of Finland (including the Haydenettes' coach) that they could probably lure back for the right price. They don't need to protect this person.
 

Elka

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I would not say that synchro is a HUGE deal in Finland and I also do not think that synchro is moving closer to the Olympics. The synchro clubs having nothing to do with the matter have stated so on their websites so there is no need to speculate about it.
 

Willin

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@Elka I mean, synchro's likely a huge deal to their skating federation right now given how it drives most of their revenue and sales. I would also posit that a sport that isn't a big deal in some sense would get the try out numbers (I've heard 100+ for top teams) or dedication (a skater I know had a finnish coach that was replaced on her team because she needed 4 weeks off for the year - during the offseason - due to a family illness; most of their athletes train 20+ hrs/week year round from what I've heard) that synchro gets.
And even if I agree that it probably won't go Olympic, that doesn't matter as long as the synchro community and ISU keeps negotiating with the IOC and changing rules to make it Olympic.
 

synchrogirl17

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I would not say that synchro is a HUGE deal in Finland and I also do not think that synchro is moving closer to the Olympics. The synchro clubs having nothing to do with the matter have stated so on their websites so there is no need to speculate about it.
Finland put Marigold IceUnity on a postage stamp a few years back and the President of Finland attended Synchro Worlds in Helsinki last year... Skaters compete like crazy to be on those top teams. Synchro may not end up in the Olympics, but it’s pretty damn big in Finland.
 

bcash

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This thread is supposed to be about skaters reporting abusive training ENVIRONMENTS. Could we please not single-mindedly focus on young skaters' bodies and BMI instead because a) that debate has been waged many many times on this forum and b) it always turns really ugly and toxic and unproductive and c) it basically posits the skaters bodies themselves as the source of all problems, while conveniently glossing over cultural issues and power structures that enable unhealthy training methods and coaches behaving in an abusive and/or inappropriate manner.

Or do you really think that if only all the elite skaters were exactly the right weight/shape (as defined by random posters on a forum with no real expertise on sports nutrition and biomechanics etc.) there would be no coaches on a power trip insulting underage skaters and making them train while injured, etc.? If not, why solely focus on skaters weight and bodies? Is it just easier to focus on something concrete (like the weight and body shape of a young person) rather than more nebulous things like culture and power differentials that you'd rather just ignore?

I mean... Claire started this thread posting an article translation that detailed things like a coach forcing skaters to train and compete while injured, against medical advice, leading to lasting harm and a skater feeling "mentally destroyed" years after he quit. So, why make it all about skaters not being naturally thin enough? Are people here seriously insinuating that if only the skaters in question had "naturally" the "right" BMI and body shape, this coach would have been mindful of skaters' mental and physical well-being and listened to medical advice? And later in the thread, when I posted a link to an article about an (allegedly) abusive coach in synchro skating, the very next comment states as a fact that being "Uber-thin" is important to scoring high and not because of the aesthetics. Um... Even if you didn't bother to google translate the article, have you ever watched synchro? How is staying naturally "rail thin" the key to performing synchro elements in a way that maximizes the points? So now being "rail thin" is not only the key to jumping better, but apparently "rail thin" skaters automatically have better skating skills and synchronization too, and also are better and stronger at lifting other skaters in order to perform really spectacular synchro lifts that maximize the lift GOEs? WTF? So, is it basically the fault of the skaters who (presumably) were not naturally "rail thin" enough but didn't "get out and enjoy figure skating at a non-elite level", yet continued to train anyway (oh the horror!) that this poor synchro coach had no other option but to resort to bullying and humiliating underaged skaters? :rolleyes:
Can you not be so triggered? Neither of the posters above you were ill-intentioned. 🙄
 

Tinami Amori

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The weight issue is very problematic and figure skating is not the only sport at which the thin ones often do better. Should the ISU decide on a minimal BMI?
... why not just do a knee-wack to each skater who wins.... this way next time "others can win"..:rolleyes:
 

Finnice

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The synchro team keeps competing as nothing had happened. Of course you can say it is not the skaters fault. And the FFSA says the club should make decisions considering the coach, not FFSA. The club has not commented at all.
Very good crisis management, is not it?
 

Margarete77

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The synchro team keeps competing as nothing had happened. Of course you can say it is not the skaters fault. And the FFSA says the club should make decisions considering the coach, not FFSA. The club has not commented at all.
Very good crisis management, is not it?
That also triggers me tremendously. If I understood correctly the coach is just banned from being accredited as a coach but she can probably just by a ticket to the competition and continue almost as always. So I'm not at all optimistic that something will change for the better for the skaters.
 

Elka

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The club has not commented at all.
It has actually. They answered questions of Yle news (Google translation):

We confirm that these coaches work for us. As an employer, we cannot comment on individual employees' employment relationships, even when they have been punished for a serious violation, a club spokesman said.

A representative of the club did not answer directly the question of whether the coach in question would continue in her job.

- We will continue to focus on developing the club's activities and coaching for the skating children and youth. We have already begun this work as soon as the suspicions become aware of the club's renewed administration, and we are committed to this work so that we can better and more effectively address misconduct in the future.

(A total of 13 former formation skaters said in a story released by Yle Sports on Friday about the coach's humiliating and humiliating behavior and years of mental violence.)

- We are particularly sorry that the skaters in our club have experienced discrimination, bullying and harassment. We do not tolerate harassment, bullying or discrimination within the club. In this situation, we need to look at the decision and its background and discuss it with the staff involved, the club spokesman told Yle Sports.

- The issues raised in the media yesterday and today are serious in nature and we take them very seriously as a company. All matters brought to our attention will be dealt with properly and carefully. It is important for the club to ensure that every child and young person has a safe and inspiring environment to practice and compete.
 

nimi

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A major Swedish news outlet has covered the story: https://www.expressen.se/sport/forodmjukande-och-till-och-med-sadistiskt/

The Expressen article linked above also recaps a couple of points that Kiira Korpi made in her 12 min video about the case & about institutional failure and dodging accountability when it comes to protecting children's rights and wellbeing in sports in general.

It has actually. They answered questions of Yle news (Google translation):

We confirm that these coaches work for us. As an employer, we cannot comment on individual employees' employment relationships, even when they have been punished for a serious violation, a club spokesman said.

A representative of the club did not answer directly the question of whether the coach in question would continue in her job.

- We will continue to focus on developing the club's activities and coaching for the skating children and youth. We have already begun this work as soon as the suspicions become aware of the club's renewed administration, and we are committed to this work so that we can better and more effectively address misconduct in the future.

(A total of 13 former formation skaters said in a story released by Yle Sports on Friday about the coach's humiliating and humiliating behavior and years of mental violence.)

- We are particularly sorry that the skaters in our club have experienced discrimination, bullying and harassment. We do not tolerate harassment, bullying or discrimination within the club. In this situation, we need to look at the decision and its background and discuss it with the staff involved, the club spokesman told Yle Sports.

- The issues raised in the media yesterday and today are serious in nature and we take them very seriously as a company. All matters brought to our attention will be dealt with properly and carefully. It is important for the club to ensure that every child and young person has a safe and inspiring environment to practice and compete.
Here's the link to the news story translated in Elka's post above, in case somebody would like to see the source: https://yle.fi/urheilu/3-11165062

In today's news:
  • the club has decided to suspend the coach for the time being
  • the Fed has asked the club to seriously (re)consider whether the coach should be allowed to continue coaching and has set a one week deadline for the club to provide a report about what kind of measures they are going to take

The coach still denies the accusations via her lawyer.
 

Elka

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Now it is all over in the news and the minister responsible for culture and sports commented that she cannot see how the coach could continue in her work, or something like that, writing from memory. I think Kiira made the difference, taking up the matter. The club was trying to just blame the old Board and wait for it to go away.

I am angry that the synchro coach's behaviour is making all skating coaches look bad. I have never heard anything like this in singles and dance (following quite closely in decades), but when I heard about this synchro case last autumn, I also heard that such behaviour is quite common in synchro, just not in that extreme as in this case.

They just said in the news that the coach has been suspended and the first time mentioned that it is the head coach of Team Unique so I am writing it here.
I think this information should have been released earlier since the coaches of MIU and Rochettes have been under suspicion for no reason.
 

synchrogirl17

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I am angry that the synchro coach's behaviour is making all skating coaches look bad. I have never heard anything like this in singles and dance (following quite closely in decades), but when I heard about this synchro case last autumn, I also heard that such behaviour is quite common in synchro, just not in that extreme as in this case.
:huh:
I have been involved with synchro for 20 years and never seen/heard of this horrific abuse. As a current synchro coach, reading the allegations made my stomach turn. Do not paint us all with the same brush.

Abusive coaches exist in every sport and I am glad this coach has finally been reported. My heart goes out to all of the skaters who have suffered.
 

Elka

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:huh:
I have been involved with synchro for 20 years and never seen/heard of this horrific abuse. As a current synchro coach, reading the allegations made my stomach turn. Do not paint us all with the same brush.

Abusive coaches exist in every sport and I am glad this coach has finally been reported. My heart goes out to all of the skaters who have suffered.
I am sorry, I should not have said that. But as they mentioned in the news it was going on a long time. The coach in question is still denying she did anything wrong and has a lawyer to defend herself. IMO such sports were there are not measurable selection criteria (and even where there are) who gets to the team and who is reserve there are people using their power.
 

Finnice

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This is a very big thing in Finland right now. My feelings are a bit mixed. It is of course very important, that this kind of abusive behavior will end. I also think that Kiira's video made the difference and now even cabinet ministers are interested.
OTOH Synchro has been one of the most succesful sports in Finland, winning several World Golds and other medals, and the general public has not been interested. It is very sad that negative news, not the positive, wake the public up.
It is also very important to understand that not all the synchro coaches have behaved badly. My heart goes to coaches of MIU and Helsinki Rockettes, who got their part of the s**t in the net before their reputation was cleared.

I hope everyone involved (the skaters, parents, club board members, coaches) will get help. This is a traumatic situation to all parties. I still continue to be proud of the Finnish synchro, but try to not look away from its dark sides. I guess most of us want to believe the best, and sometimes it is just b***dy naive.
 
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