Gymnastics: A Sport of Scandals


Ginger Schmidt

Practice Makes Perfect: Gymnast Katie Wetmore practices on beam at Gymnastics and Cheerleading Academy in Fairfield.

Ginger Schmidt, Staff Writer

     The gymnastics community has been shaken up over the past few years, after many scandals, including the conviction of national gymnastics team doctor, Larry Nassar and hundreds of accounts of abuse in gymnastics, both verbal and physical. USA Gymnastics has claimed it is working to change its culture. Whether they are doing enough to end this cycle of abuse remains to be seen. 

     There are two sides to every story; many coaches want nothing but the best for their gymnasts and have created a safe and protected space within the gym. 

     Former University of Bridgeport Gymnastics coach, Becky Ferraro, has worked to build trust and safety within her team by promoting healthy ways of living and working through stress such as journaling and building bonds with teammates. 

     “It is important to build a safe culture and environment within the gym…to push young women to be the best athletes they can, while still being cautious,” says Ferraro.

     Many coaches have begun to prioritize their gymnasts and their mental health over their abilities and performance. An increase in trust and communication between coaches and gymnasts can help to stop the abuse that has been instilled in gymnastics culture. 

     But, there are still many coaches and officials abusing or covering up the abuse of their gymnasts. With such a long history of abuse in the sport, it is difficult to break the cycle. 

     “It is sad to say that it is uncommon to meet a high level gymnast who hasn’t been faced with some sort of abuse in her lifetime,”says ex-gymnast and Foran graduate Brianna Laggis. Although these coaches and doctors are the ones who bear the most responsibility for this, it could be said that the main culprit is the organization that allows for it to happen and chooses to protect its reputation and money over it’s athletes. 

     In her testimony against Larry Nassar, Olympic Gymnast, Aly Raisman described USAG as an “organization that I feel is rotting from the inside.” Many associated with the sport doubt that USAG has changed their priorities to put their gymnasts and their safety first. 

     With the latest chapter in the Larry Nassar scandal, gymnasts testified about the manner in which the FBI handled the case, many feel that we can now put this horrific tragedy and scandal behind us. However, similarly to the Me Too movement, after the media attention fades away, it is likely that the progress made will regress. 

     “We can make sure to always report any issues and listen. We can also continue to educate each athlete and family that walks into a gymnastics facility, as awareness can only help protect everyone,” says Amanda Rose, local gymnastics coach at Gymnastics and Cheerleading Academy.

     Protecting athletes has become a priority for many after the numerous scandals in the sport. Actions taken by USAG and coaches to protect gymnasts resulted in the sport changing for the better, but many within the sport believe this is not enough, and there is still work that needs to be done. 

     As long as there are corrupt beings within the gymnastics community, the safety of athletes will continue to be an arising issue.