Chinese Figure Skater Accuses Trainers of Physically, Emotionally Abusing Young Athletes

Chinese Figure Skater Accuses Trainers of Physically, Emotionally Abusing Young Athletes
Chinese pair Sui Wenjing (Top) and Han Cong perform during the exhibition gala at the ISU Grand Prix of figure skating Final 2019 on December 8, 2019 in Turin. Image:Marco Bertorello (Getty Images)

A Chinese figure skater says trainers in China physically and emotionally abused her and the young women she trained with, frequently hurling harmful insults at them and kicking, hitting, and overtraining them when they underperformed.

Jessica Shuran Yu, who skated for Singapore in the in the 2017 world championships, trained in China, and detailed harrowing stories about abusive training sessions to the Guardian. Yu said trainers relied on a “culture of physical discipline,” which started for her when she was fairly young.

From the Guardian:

“The abuse started from the age of 11 when I started being told to reach out a hand whenever I made mistakes,” she said. “On especially bad days, I would get hit more than 10 times in a row until my skin was raw.
“When I was 14 and going through puberty, I started to struggle with my jumps because I was gaining weight. I was called over and kicked on the bone of my shin with a toe-pick of a blade and made to try again. I wasn’t allowed to limp or cry.
“Most of the time such abuse happened in front of other skaters in the rink. I didn’t tell any of my friends, adults at school or my federation, because I was incredibly humiliated. I was made to feel so small. It was dehumanising.”

Yu said that in training sessions, coaches would overstretch young skaters and force them to train on top of serious injuries. Coaches would also hurl insults at athletes, calling them things like, “lazy”, “stupid”, and “fat”.

Yu told the Guardian she wanted to speak out after watching Athlete A, the new Netflix documentary covering rampant sexual abuse in American gymnastics. She wants the International Olympic Committee to protect young women and girls vulnerable to abuse in sports like skating and gymnastics:

She said: “There is a toxicity that plagues aesthetic sports like gymnastics and figure skating, which both have environments in which adults can easily exploit young girls with big dreams. I genuinely believe there’s a correlation between the two sports. In both cases we are judged on our appearances. The costume, the makeup, the body image.
“When there’s emphasis on presentation and perfectionism, you’re taught to care about how others perceive you, especially by judges who have power over your scores. So subconsciously you know that speaking out about being hit would ruin this perfectionism.”

The IOC told the Guardian it stands with its athletes, though it did not elaborate on any further measures it would take to prevent future abuse.

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