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Written by Amanda Turner    Tuesday, 30 January 2018 12:30    PDF Print
Texas Governor Requests Criminal Investigation into Karolyi Ranch
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)



Texas Governor Greg Abbott formally requested a "full and thorough investigation" on Tuesday into the allegations of sexual abuse at the Karolyi ranch, the former U.S. national gymnastics training center where former team doctor Larry Nassar sexually assaulted an unknown number of gymnasts.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott formally requested a "full and thorough investigation" on Tuesday into the allegations of sexual abuse at the Karolyi ranch, the former U.S. national gymnastics training center owned by Bela and Marta Karolyi where former team doctor Larry Nassar sexually assaulted an unknown number of gymnasts.

After statements by 156 survivors of his sexual abuse, nearly all committed under the guise of medical treatment, Nassar was sentenced from 40 to 175 years in prison last Wednesday in Ingham County, Michigan, the location of Michigan State University and Geddert's Twistar's Gymnastics club. He faces a second sentencing Wednesday in Eaton County, Michigan, for three additional charges related to sexual assaults of a child at his former home in Holt.

Calling the statements made by the athletes who trained at the ranch gut-wrenching, Gov. Abbott sent a letter to Col. Steven C. McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, requesting that the Texas state police force, known as the Texas Rangers, open an immediate investigation.

"The recent, shocking allegations of sexual assault of athletes at the Karolyi Ranch in Walker County are deeply disturbing and demand thorough and swift justice," Gov. Abbott wrote.

The Walker County Sheriff's Office is actively investigating the allegations at the ranch, which is situated in the Sam Houston National Forest near New Waverly, Texas.

The statements of the survivors shocked the world as each described a manipulative doctor who took advantage of vulnerable young girls whose lives were severely damaged by his depravity. Nearly all accused institutions and individuals of enabling Nassar or ignoring his abuse, including accusations against coaches of creating physical and psychologically abusive training conditions that allowed Nassar to groom his victims by sneaking them food and offering emotional support as a ploy. In heartbreaking testimony on January 23, Mattie Larson, a 2010 world team member, broke down as she described injuring herself to avoid attending the monthly national team camp at the ranch, which she compared to a prison. He pleaded guilty in November 2017, one year after he was first arrested and 14 months after The Indianapolis Star reported the story of Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual assault. Its September 12, 2016, article also included the news that a 2000 Olympian (later identified as Jamie Dantzscher) had filed a Jane Doe lawsuit against Nassar and USA Gymnastics in California, and that a third former gymnast, (later revealed to be former rhythmic national champion Jessica Howard) had also contacted the newspaper to report being assaulted by Nassar.

The Karolyi ranch, originally established as a summer camp by the Hungarian-Romanian coaching couple, had served as the U.S. national team training center for the women's artistic gymnastics team since 2001. Designated an official United States Olympic Training Center, the ranch was later expanded to add training facilities for rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline and tumbling. USA Gymnastics leased the facility from the Karolyis.

In June 2015, coach Sara Jantzi overheard her gymnast, Maggie Nichols, discussing Nassar's "treatments" with Aly Raisman and a third gymnast. Alarmed, she confirmed that Nassar's treatments included vaginal penetration of the gymnasts that he claimed was a legitimate medical act to help injuries. She reported him to USA Gymnastics and Maggie's mother, Gina. USA Gymnastics claims it reported Nassar to the FBI in July 2015, five weeks after Nichols' report. Nassar left USA Gymnastics in September 2015, announcing he was retiring.

In July 2016, USA Gymnastics' then-President/CEO Steve Penny announced it was purchasing the ranch, despite knowledge of the sexual abuse that had occurred there. After allegations against Nassar became public, USA Gymnastics announced it would not finalize the purchase of the ranch. However, the organization failed to take any solid action to end its relationship with the ranch or find an alternative training center until January 18, several days into Nassar's sentencing hearing, when it announced it had abruptly terminated the lease with the ranch, which finally occurred only after massive public backlash. A developmental camp, the second of the year, was in process at the time of the announcement.

On January 16, the day before Nassar's sentencing hearing began, four-time Olympic champion Simone Biles came forward and revealed for the first time that she too had been abused by Nassar, and was traumatized at having to return there. The first senior national training camp was scheduled to begin January 22.

"It breaks my heart even more to think that as I work toward my dream of competing in Tokyo 2020, I will have to continually return to the same training facility where I was abused," Biles wrote in her statement posted to social media.

Nassar, who began working with USA Gymnastics in 1986 as an athletic trainer, became the national medical coordinator in 1996, three years after qualifying as a doctor of osteopathy in Michigan. He was never licensed to practice clinical medicine in Texas, which means each day he practiced medicine at the ranch, where his duties included diagnosing and treating injuries and overseeing medication, was a felony in the third degree. Harming someone while practicing medicine without a license in Texas is an additional felony in the third degree. Counting the first-degree felonies of sexual assault, it is probable that Nassar committed thousands of felonies at the ranch.

In sentencing Nassar on January 24, Judge Rosemarie E. Aquilina requested a "massive" investigation into how Nassar was able to freely assault so many girls and women over a 25-year period.

Letter from Texas Governor Greg Abbott

January 30, 2018
Colonel Steven C. McCraw
Director, Texas Department of Public Safety
P.O. Box 4087 Austin, Texas 78773-0001

Dear Director McCraw:

The recent, shocking allegations of sexual assault of athletes at the Karolyi Ranch in Walker County are deeply disturbing and demand thorough and swift justice. I understand that the Walker County Sheriff's Office is actively investigating the allegations, and I commend that office for its diligence in the matter.

Considering that criminal action has been implicated across multiple jurisdictions and states, it is essential that the Texas Rangers work with the Walker County Sheriff's Office to comprehensively investigate all potential criminal conduct.

The public statements made by athletes who previously trained at the Karolyi Ranch are gut-wrenching. Those athletes, as well as all Texans, deserve to know that no stone is left unturned to ensure that the allegations are thoroughly vetted and the perpetrators and enablers of any such misconduct are brought to justice. The people of Texas demand, and the victims deserve, nothing less.

Therefore, I request that the Texas Rangers initiate a full and thorough investigation into the alleged sexual misconduct at the Karolyi Ranch. The Rangers' reputation as the state's preeminent law enforcement agency is well known, and I have no doubt that they, together with the Walker County Sheriff's Office, will provide the resources and expertise needed for a successful investigation.

Sincerely,

Greg Abbott
Governor

 
Written by Amanda Turner    Sunday, 28 January 2018 07:17    PDF Print
Óðinsdóttir Thankful For Support After Revealing 2016 Rape
(4 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)



Icelandic gymnast Tinna Óðinsdóttir told IG she has been "shocked" by the outpouring of support she has received since her allegation this past week that she had been raped by a foreign gymnast at an international competition held in November 2016 in Germany.

Icelandic gymnast Tinna Óðinsdóttir told IG she has been "shocked" by the outpouring of support she has received since her allegation this past week that she had been raped by a foreign gymnast at an international competition held in November 2016 in Germany.

"I got so many nice messages, so I'm so thankful for that," Óðinsdóttir told IG on Sunday. "I knew that I had many people around me that cared about me but not that many! So even during hard times like that, I have never felt so loved."

Óðinsdóttir said she was inspired to tell her story by the #MeToo movement in hope to encourage other survivors of sexual assault.

Óðinsdóttir has represented Iceland at several international competitions, including world and European championships, and helped Iceland win the women's team competition for the first time at the 2016 Nordic Cup.

On January 23, Icelandic media site Nútíminn first shared her story. She told IG that she received more interview requests, but agreed to one televised interview with RÚV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.

"I find it hard to say this," she told Nútíminn of coming forward. "But we should not be ashamed of this. This was not my fault. And this is not our fault. I think it's OK to see people say and read that it's a reality that this happens."

Óðinsdóttir, who turned 23 on November 3, said is considering filing police reports in Germany and in the country where the gymnast resides. Óðinsdóttir said the Icelandic Gymnastics Federation (FSÍ), only recently notified of the incident, has been very supportive.

"We will support her in the steps she decides to take next," FSÍ chairman Arnar Ólafsson, told RÚV.

Óðinsdóttir did not identify the individual she said assaulted her or the precise competition where she said it occurred, but she competed at the FIG World Cup event held in Cottbus, Germany, in November 2016, where she was pleased with her seventh place on floor exercise, her second World Cup final.

"Of course, I had no idea that my life would change permanently," she told Nútíminn.

Óðinsdóttir said she was assaulted at a hotel following the conclusion of the meet.


Tinna Óðinsdóttir (Iceland) at the 2016 Turnier der Meister, an FIG World Cup in Cottbus, Germany, where she finished seventh in the floor final

"After the competition, I was with my friends and was having fun," Óðinsdóttir said. "This was the last competition of the season, and we went to a fun place with all the competitors at the event. It was really fun, and there were guys from another country with us who invited the girls to go back to a hotel when the entertainment center was closing."

The gymnast said they were having fun at the hotel but things changed once people began leaving, and it was just two females alone with the three male gymnasts.

"My friend and I were chatting at the hotel, but all of a sudden, the atmosphere changed and everything was different," she said. "We obviously noticed this and looked at each other and wanted to get away, but that was when it all started."

Óðinsdóttir said in her interview that it was at that moment when a gymnast from another country began trying to kiss her, and her friend fled the room in fear. Two men held her down while a third raped her, despite her repeatedly telling them to stop. A simple "no" should have been sufficient, she said.

"It's supposed to be enough," she said. "They realized what they were doing. I became completely weak and I realized that I was not going to get any (help) soon."

Óðinsdóttir described what happened next as an out-of-body experience in which all her strength had disappeared. This is a paralysis known as tonic immobility, commonly reported in survivors of sexual assault, and is part of the body's normal "fight or flight" instinct.(According to a 2017 Swedish study of 278 sexual assault survivors done over a two-year period, 70 percent reported "significant" immobility during the assault, and 48 percent experienced "extreme" immobility. Sexual assault survivors who suffered tonic immobility were also more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, according to the study, as they felt more blame and anger directed toward themselves for not fighting back harder.

"It was like my brain blocked everything out," she said. "I went somehow out of my body and watched this happen. I simply do not remember how long it took. I was trying to think of something else — stare straight ahead."

Óðinsdóttir said when it was over, she was tossed out of the room and into the elevator, and described feeling numb as she walked back to her hotel. Though she represents the Fimleikafélagið Björk club in Hafnarfjörður, she was then training at a Danish club in Aarhus with Dutch coach Rene Poutsma. She flew back to Aarhus the next day while the majority of the Icelandic team continued to Reykjavík. She did not initially tell her boyfriend, who picked her up at the airport in Denmark, or her parents at home. She described herself as devastated and unable to open up about what happened.

"I didn't understand anyone," she said. "It's usually very easy to express myself, yet I was isolated and kept these feelings deep inside me. The days passed and I became more and more deceitful, and somehow, I was the same on the outside about everything and everyone. I fell ill around my family and friends and began to lie about pointless things. I was so smooth, yet, at the same time, I was nothing at all like me. I felt so empty. I had no emotion and didn't care about anything."

Óðinsdóttir said that she was unable to concentrate anymore and eventually returned to Iceland. Six months after the competition in Germany, she told her parents about what had happened, and from that moment began to receive the support she needed to begin healing.

"The reason I told them about this so late wasn't because I was afraid of the reaction or that they would judge me or anything like that, but simply because I was trying to spare them," she said. "I didn't want to make them feel bad for me and I didn't want to make me feel sorry or let people see me like some kind of victim. And this characterizes me a bit as a person. I don't want people to worry about me and I don't want to be the reason why somebody feels bad."

Though she received immediate support from her family, Óðinsdóttir felt judgment from others, and she still has to answer the same questions, such as, "Are you completely 100 percent sure you said no?", "Why didn't you scream?" and "Why didn't you go down to the lobby and report it immediately?"

"I said 'no' and that's more than enough," she explained. "I didn't scream because I was too scared. I wanted to leave as soon as possible. And when it was done and I walked to my hotel, there was nothing happening in my head. I was nothing. I walked like a ghost. I was a foreigner in Germany, and I didn't know what to do or where to go. I couldn't even cry. I was in so much shock and I was completely empty. I walked the streets at night and was completely lost."

Óðinsdóttir said that as more people in her circle were told of her allegation, she realized who her true friends are.

"It surprised me who disappeared, and today I have fewer but much better friends," she said. "People may think that you just 'get over' this, but it's not that easy. You learn to live with this, but it follows you forever. Time heals all wounds — but not memories."

She also said she is grateful for the support she received immediately from FSÍ.

"They were there for me, encouraged me to step forward and wanted to assist me if I wanted to press charges," she said.

Óðinsdóttir told IG that she will be getting additional support from her coach, who will be moving from Aarhus to Iceland next month. She also told Icelandic media that she is a stronger person today because of what she has survived, crediting her mother, Alda Erlingsdóttir, especially.

"I am so grateful for the person I am today and that is largely because of my mother's influence," she said. "She is undoubtedly the strongest woman I know. I've always looked at her as a role model and I'll feel that way forever. I've come so far and I didn't believe I could get to this place where I am today. I made the decision to use this trauma as an opportunity and look at it as an experience. I am a different person today, and I have grown immensely at this time. This happened and I can't undo it, but I can use my experience to help others. The memory lives with you and you learn a lot to deal with trauma like this."

Óðinsdóttir is the second gymnast to come forward since the #MeToo movement began last fall. In mid-October, 1992 Olympic champion Tatiana Gutsu of Ukraine accused fellow Olympic champion Vitaly Scherbo (Belarus) of acquaintance rape at a Stuttgart hotel during the 1991 DTB Cup.

Not only has the #MeToo movement hit Iceland, with thousands of Icelandic women sharing stories of their own sexual assaults and taking part in marches, but so has the news of sexual abuse of athletes, most notably in the Larry Nassar tragedy in American gymnastics. Óðinsdóttir said she is grateful for all the survivors who have spoken out and continue to call for changes in sport and society.

"It's so important that the debate does not stop and the revolution does not die out," she said.


For 24/7 assistance for survivors of sexual assault, visit RAINN in the United States, Rape Crisis UK, Rape Crisis Network Europe, and Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia.
 
Written by Amanda Turner    Wednesday, 24 January 2018 10:59    PDF Print
'One Voice Can Start a Movement': Larry Nassar Sentenced to 175 Years
(5 votes, average 4.20 out of 5)



Former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 175 years in prison on Wednesday on seven counts of sexual assault.

Former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced a minimum of 40 years and a maxium of 175 years in prison on Wednesday on seven counts of sexual assault, 16 months after he was first publicly accused of violating young girls under the guise of medical treatment. The sentence came following a week of gripping testimony of more than 156 victims of the doctor who preyed on vulnerable girls and women, whose allegations against him were ignored for decades, in what has been called a turning point in history.

Calling his acts "calculated, devious, and despicable," Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said it was a privilege to sentence Nassar to from 40 to 175 years in prison on the seven counts brought against him in the county.

"I just signed your death warrant," Aquilina told him.

After addressing the shocking number of sexual abuse statistics in the United States, including how few are actually reported, Aquilina said she wonders how many numbers of victims he truly has. Aquilina, an immigrant who came to the United States as the stateless daughter of a Maltese father and German mother, told Nassar that his crimes had cut to the core of the fabric of the community.

Aquilina first shocked the courtroom when she read portions of Nassar's six-page letter from last Thursday. Originally she had read only the portions related to his complaint about the hearing being too mentally stressful for him, but now she revealed that throughout the letter he had complained he was the victim of a witch hunt and in which he again asserted that he was a legitimate doctor who had performed real treatment instead of sexual assault, labeling his victims as ungrateful for everything he had done for them.

"Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," Nassar wrote to Aquilina in his letter accusing the women of "fabricating" stories after being influenced by the media, eliciting gasps and boos from the courtroom. He claimed that his guilty plea was an act of kindness to spare everyone the trouble of a trial but that he was merely being victimized for his possession of child pornography, which he minimized through various excuses.

"Would you like to withdraw your plea?" Aquilina snapped at Nassar, who replied meekly, "No, ma'am." "Because you are guilty, aren't you?"

"It was not medical," continued Aquilina, who reminded Nassar again that her father and brother are doctors. "It was not treatment. There is no medical evidence that was ever brought to support that. There is no treatment here."

Aquilina said she would not release the whole letter because of the hurt it would cause, indicating its contents likely included further insults and absurdities about the woman who brought him down. She added her voice to those demanding a federal investigation into the circumstances that allowed Nassar to evade justice for so long. Nassar's letter claimed he was investigated and "cleared" by the FBI in 2015, a shocking claim that confirms the urgent need for the FBI to itself be investigated.

"There has to be a massive investigation as to why there was inaction, why there was silence," she said. "Justice requires more than what I can do on this bench."

Aquilina sentenced Nassar after three more women delivered gripping victim impact statements and Michigan Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis delivered her closing argument, condemning Nassar for methodically and sadistically abusing young girls and women for his own enjoyment. Povilaitis praised the bravery of the women who came forward and the investigative journalists who shared their stories, but excoriated the system that let Nassar evade justice for decades.

Povilaitis expressed her outrage that it took so much for the women to finally be believed, and that even after the historic sentencing hearing that began last week, streamed live around the world, that people are still scorning the survivors of Nassar's abuse and claiming they are there for money and fame. Nobody should be above suspicion, she said, simply because of their reputations.

"Anyone can be a perpetrator," Povilaitis said. "Anybody can be a serial sexual predator. Anyone can be an abuser."

Povilaitis called Nassar possibly the most prolific child sex offender in history who hid behind his false reputation, and that he was able to groom so many young girls precisely because of the harsh treatment many gymnasts suffered at the hands of their coaches. Povilaitis reminded

Former gymnast-turned-lawyer Rachael Denhollander, the 156th and finally woman to speak against Nassar since the sentencing hearing began last Tuesday, delivered a truly gripping closing statement that struck out at Nassar, Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and even Shannon Smith, one of Nassar's attorneys. Smith had personally attacked Denhollander's early on in the case during a preliminary hearing, accusing Denhollander of lying for fame and fortune. Denhollander criticized so Smith so bitingly that Smith stood up to object, only to be met with a chorus of jeers from the gallery.

Denhollander thanked Aquilina and asked to deliver a sentence that will send a message across the country.

"How much is a little girl worth?" Denhollander asked. "How much is a young woman worth?"

With a skill of a seasoned prosecutor, Denhollander patiently called out MSU, going over each and incident when the university's handling of allegations against Nassar was so clearly botched.

"Was that the right way or the wrong way to handle a report of sexual assault on MSU's campus?" Denhollander asked of the institution that has continued to deny it failed in any way.

Before Denhollander, two more stood up to speak. Sterling Reithman, the first to speak Wednesday morning, shared with the world that the trauma Nassar inflicted upon her still "haunts her every day." Reithman explained that, as a devoted fan of shows like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, she thought she knew what sexual assault was and how to defend herself from violent attackers, until her notions were destroyed by Nassar.

"I never once considered I'd be sexually abused with acupuncture needles in my spine," said Reithman, who added, "I can not blame myself for trusting my physician."

Like nearly every other woman who had spoken before her, Reithman demanded accountability from USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, and also reinforced that the time of apathy in response to sexual assault would no longer be tolerated.

"This army doesn't have a white flag to wave," she said. "We are here to show you MSU, USA Gymnastics and the world that there is no white flag to wave when it comes to protecting young girls."

Kaylee Lorincz, 18, spoke before Denhollander, and shared how Nassar has assaulted her when she was just 11, and how details about her case made her identity clear to everyone who knew her, despite her name not being used. She told Nassar to confess the truth as to who enabled him.

"Look at me," said Lorincz, who was previously known as Victim E. "(Tell us) who knew what and when they knew it."

Povilaitis, her voice wavering with emotion, praised Denhollander repeatedly, as well as the journalists at The Indianapolis Star, who opened the door by their investigation into USA Gymnastics in August 2016. Povilaitis praised MSU Police Chief Jim Dunlap and Det. Andrea Munford, who supported Denhollander and lobbied for charges to be brought against him by Ingham County while Gretchen Whitmer did not move forward.

Whitmer, who has been outspoken against MSU over its handling of Nassar, is a leading candidate for governor of Michigan in the 2018 race. Whitmer, a Democrat, has denied that she refused to prosecute the case against Nassar for assault, despite the fact that she failed to file charges against him. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette launched a state-wide investigation upon the request of Dunlap.

Before Aquilina exposed the contents of his letter, Nassar spoke before the judge. The 54-year-old former doctor, who spent the last week largely avoiding eye contact with the women who came forward, stood by quietly when his lawyers defended themselves and claimed he was a broken man. Speaking quietly, he finally turned around several times during a short statement.

"Your words these past several days, your words, your words, have had a significant emotional effect on myself and have shaken me to my core," he read. "I also recognize that what I am feeling pales in comparison to the pain, trauma, and emotional destruction that all of you are feeling."

In December, Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for charges related to child pornography. He remains to be sentenced next week in Eaton County, Michigan, on three additional charges of sexual assault.

The next fight is for justice, Lorincz said.

"I want answers, and I want accountability," she said.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Wednesday morning, a pretrial conference was held for the federal civil case Denhollander brought against MSU, USA Gymnastics, Twistars and Nassar. Except for Nassar, who has lost the case already by failing to challenge, the defendants have all filed motions to dismiss on various grounds. As the civil case moves ahead with more than 140 plaintiffs suing, the focus will move to how many claims can stand up as the defendants' challenges. Attorney John Manly, who represents many of the plaintiffs, says he will continue to push move forward with a trial.

Povilaitis said her office is still taking reports in the case and will continue to pursue justice for the survivors. To contact the Michigan Attorney General's office, call (517) 373-1110.

 
Written by Amanda Turner    Tuesday, 23 January 2018 11:47    PDF Print
AT&T Flees USA Gymnastics Amid Nassar Scandal
(5 votes, average 4.60 out of 5)

Telecommunications giant AT&T has suspended its sponsorship of USA Gymnastics, the company announced Tuesday, as the sentencing hearing of former team doctor Larry Nassar continued into its sixth day in Lansing, Michigan.

AT&T is the fourth major sponsor to flee the organization amid its continually botched handling of the largest sex abuse scandal in history. Since 2016, Procter & Gamble, Hershey's and Under Armour had either canceled or declined to renew sponsorship of USA Gymnastics.

"We notified USA Gymnastics today that we are suspending our sponsorship of the organization until it is re-built and we know that the athletes are in a safe environment," AT&T said in a statement Tuesday. "The terrible abuse suffered by these young women is unconscionable. We remain committed to helping these young athletes pursue their dreams and hope to find other ways to do so. We stand ready to step back in when USAG has fully addressed these tragic events."

AT&T had been the title sponsor for USA Gymnastics' premier international event, the AT&T American Cup, scheduled for March 3 in Chicago. Held every year since 1976, the American Cup is one of the oldest international competitions in the gymnastics and has been an FIG World Cup event for the past several years.

Since 2016, USAG has been accused of reporting sex abuse of coaches in the sport, and then covering up and outright lying as it attempts to distance itself from Nassar, who was first alleged in September 2016 to have sexually abused young girls in his role as a doctor with USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University.

USA Gymnastics' leadership has been criticized for its poor handling of the scandal involving Nassar, who was allowed to publicly "retire" from the federation in 2015, despite the fact that three gymnasts had revealed that he had been sexually abusing them under the guise of "treatment." USAG, which failed to report Nassar for five weeks after first learning of the allegations against him, has been accused of being tone-deaf, ignoring pleas to make changes and failing to make substantial changes or address major issues in the sport.

USA Gymnastics president and CEO Steve Penny resigned in March 2017 after ignoring calls for him to resign, and full pledges of support from USAG Chairman Paul Parilla, Vice Chairman Jay Binder and Treasurer Bitsy Kelley who likewise ignored calls to resign until Monday. Both resignations reportedly came only after major pressure from the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Likewise, USA Gymnastics failed to take any action to close the Karolyi ranch as the national team center, despite backing out of a plan to purchase the ranch in 2016, after Marta Karolyi's retirement as national team coordinator. Only when Olympic champion Simone Biles came forward as a survivor of Nassar's abuse and shared her trauma of being forced to return to the ranch to continue training for 2020, did USAG take action and terminate its lease with the ranch.

USA Gymnastics has denied all liability for Nassar's action, even claiming it has no legal duty to inform Michigan State University or Twistars, the Michigan club where Nassar served as a longtime team doctor, after USAG had fired Nassar in September 2015.

 
Written by Amanda Turner    Tuesday, 23 January 2018 05:41    PDF Print
Ponor, Petrounias Win Inaugural UEG Honors for 2017
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)



Cătălina Ponor (Romania) and Eleftherios Petrounias (Greece) have been selected as the top athletes of 2017 in the European Gymnastics Union's inaugural "European Gymnast of the Year" honors, which included five categories.

Cătălina Ponor (Romania) and Eleftherios Petrounias (Greece) have been selected as the top athletes of 2017 in the European Gymnastics Union's inaugural "European Gymnast of the Year" honors.

With five categories — Female Gymnast of the Year, Male Gymnast of the Year, Team of the Year, Rising Star of the Year and Performance of the Year — the candidates were nominated by the 50 member federations belonging to the UEG (Union Européenne de Gymnastique), along with the UEG's eight technical committees. The top six in each category were presented to the public to vote for 10 days, garnering more than 25,000 votes from fans this month.

Ponor, who won her fifth European title on balance beam in 2017, won by the largest margin, garnering more than 70 percent of the vote in her category.

Still rings king Petrounias was a double winner, winning in the men's category and the "Outstanding Performance of the Year" for 2017. Since his sixth place on rings at the 2014 Worlds in Nanning, Petrounias has been undefeated on his specialty, winning three consecutive European titles, back-to-back world titles and the 2016 Olympic gold medal.

Greek club Olympiada Thrakomakedonon, whose team competes under the Gymnastics of All discipline, was awarded the team title. Danish tumbler Rasmus Steffensen, 18, won the Rising Star of the Year award.

Tina Gerets, head of media at UEG, helped initiate the concept of an annual award for European gymnasts, an idea that will hopefully spread to other continental bodies, including the Asian Gymnastics Union (AGU) and the Pan American Gymnastics Union (PAGU), as well as the overall governing body for the sport, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG).

"The idea behind the awards is [to give] the spotlight to the athletes and their fantastic achievements," Gerets told IG. "They deserve it. Also, I wanted to mix the different disciplines so fans got to know more about gymnasts they don't really know."

The awards will be presented to Steffensen and Petrounias at the 2018 European championships for tumbling and artistic gymnastics, held in April in Baku and in August in Glasgow, respectively. Gerets said the UEG is arranging an appropriate venue to present awards to Ponor, who retired at the end of 2017, and Olympiada Thrakemakedonon.

While a financial award for the winners had not been allotted in the budget for the first edition of the awards, Gerets said it is on the agenda for 2019.

Petrounias, who has largely self-funded his training amidst the Greek financial crisis of the past decade, said a financial prize would be "amazing." The additional recognition will provide inspiration for gymnasts, he said.

"I think it's a good idea for an athlete to have some more reasons to try to succeed," he told IG. "It will make the sport more competitive."

Petrounias was delighted with his double victory.

"I want to say a special thanks to the UEG, for this brilliant idea of the European Gymnastics Awards and for giving me the opportunity to be a candidate in two categories," Petrounias told the UEG. "These awards are something which our great sport needed, in order to gain even wider exposure. It is a perfect opportunity for the gymnastics fans to come closer to gymnastics through their vote and I just hope that this initiative will grow stronger and bigger each year. I wish to congratulate Olympiada Thrakomakedonon and the rest of the UEG Awards Winners, as well as all the candidates in each category. And of course, my gratitude goes to the thousands of fans who voted for me and elected me as a double UEG Award winner. Their support gives me a lot of strength ahead of the new season. I will try to be worthy of this honor and make happy all these people every time I can. Thank you all!"

Ponor, who turned 30 in September, was thrilled with the award which caps her remarkable career.

"Thank you so much, everyone, for voting for me!" Ponor said. "I feel loved and appreciated! Thank you, thank you, thank you all!"

Rasmus Steffensen, who will turn 19 on May 8, helped Denmark win its first world championships medal in tumbling last fall in Sofia when he, together with Rasmus Gaarde, Adam Matthiesen and Anders Wesch, won the World Cup team bronze and finished fourth as an individual, .2 behind the bronze medal.

"Thanks a lot!" Steffensen said. "It means everything."

Olympiada Thrakomakedonon was the world group champion at the 2017 World Gym for Life Challenge in Norway, winning with a routine called "The Wolves and the Moon." Olympia Dragouni, the head coach of the Athens club, told the UEG of her excitement over the award for Team of the Year. Greece, where gymnastics originated, fittingly won three of the five trophies in these inaugural continental awards.

"I'm excited for this result!" Dragouni said. "I want to say a big 'thank you' to all gymnastics fans that honored us with their vote and gave us such a distinction: Our 'Wolves' have been chosen as the best European gymnastics team of the year, against very strong candidates! From the bottom of our heart, we thank you all for your support and your love! This is not just a victory for Olympiada Thrakomakedonon and for Hellenic Gymnastics. It is an achievement for the whole discipline of Gymnastics of All, which has gained an important place among the other disciplines of our sport, thanks to the vote and acknowledgment of the gymnastics fans. I want to congratulate all winners of the voting and especially Eleftherios Petrounias, but most of all I wish to congratulate the UEG for this exceptional idea of creating these European Awards for the first time. I hope that this idea will continue and will become a very successful and long-lasting tradition in gymnastics."

1st European Gymnastics Awards
2017 Female Gymnast of the Year
3,240 total votes

AthleteDisciplineVotesPercent
1.Cătălina PonorArtistic gymnastics2,28970.65%
2.Ellie DownieArtistic gymnastics2969.14%
3.Linoy AshramRhythmic gymnastics2517.75%
4.Nina DerwaelArtistic gymnastics1614.97%
5.Giulia SteingruberArtistic gymnastics1484.57%
6.Pauline SchäferArtistic gymnastics662.04%
7.Tatsiana PiatreniaTrampoline gymnastics290.90%

2017 Male Gymnast of the Year
8,681 total votes

AthletesDisciplineVotesPercent
1.Eleftherios PetrouniasArtistic gymnastics5,27760.79%
2.Marian DrăgulescuArtistic gymnastics2,54529.32%
3.Tin SrbićArtistic gymnastics4395.06%
4.Oleg VernyayevArtistic gymnastics1261.45%
5.Dániel BaliAerobic gymnastics1051.21%
6.Mikhail ZalominTrampoline gymnastics1001.15%
7.Pablo BräggerArtistic gymnastics891.03%

2017 Team of the Year
2,952 total votes

AthletesDisciplineVotesPercent
1.Olympiada ThrakomakedononTeam Gym1,70357.69%
2.Danish TeamGym senior men's teamTeamGym58619.85%
3.Israeli rhythmic junior groupRhythmic gymnastics51817.55%
4.Efi Sach, Yannay Kalfa, Lidar Dana & Daniel UralevitchSports acrobatics1454.91%

2017 Rising Star of the Year
1,544 total votes

AthleteDisciplineVotesPercent
1.Rasmus SteffensenTumbling78250.65%
2.Mélanie de Jesus dos SantosArtistic gymnastics39425.52%
3.Tin SrbićArtistic gymnastics19212.44%
4.Florentina Gruber, Melanie Trautenberger and Victoria LoidlSports acrobatics875.63%
5.Artem DolgopyatArtistic gymnastics613.95%
6.Vinzenz HöckArtistic gymnastics281.81%

2017 Outstanding Performance of the Year
8,921 total votes

AthletesDisciplineVotesPercent
1.Eleftherios PetrouniasArtistic gymnastics7,79887.41%
2.Samir Aït SaïdArtistic gymnastics3714.16%
3.Sara Moreno and Vicente LliSports acrobatics2873.22%
4.Lina SjöbergTrampoline gymnastics2332.61%
5.Dina and Arina AverinaRhythmic gymnastics1501.68%
6.Marina Chernova and Georgiy PatarayaSports acrobatics590.66%
7.Tatsiana PiatreniaTrampoline gymnastics230.26%
 


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