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Written by Amanda Turner    Wednesday, 22 November 2017 12:45    PDF Print
Former Doctor Larry Nassar Pleads Guilty, Admits Assault
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar pleaded guilty to sexual assault in a Michigan courtroom Wednesday, admitting for the first time that he had sexually abused underage girls.

Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar pleaded guilty to sexual assault in a Michigan courtroom Wednesday, admitting for the first time that he had sexually abused underage girls.

Nassar pleaded guilty to seven counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct for sexually assaulting girls and one adult in Michigan. Three of the charges applied to victims under the age of 13 years old and three applied to girls aged 13 to 15. As part of a plea agreement, other state charges were dismissed or reduced.

In February, Nassar appeared in court, clutching a Bible, and entered a not guilty plea to sexual assault charges. Nassar, 53, spoke in court Wednesday as for the first time he acknowledged sexually abusing girls, which often occurred as part of what he claimed was a valid medical procedure. His lawyers had previously defended his use of "intravaginal" massage to treat back, hip and pelvic pain. More than 140 victims have joined a lawsuit against him and USA Gymnastics.

"For all those involved, I'm so horribly sorry that this was like a match that turned into a forest fire out of control," Nassar said Wednesday. "I have no animosity toward anyone. I just want healing. ... We need to move forward in a sense of growth and healing and I pray [for] that."

The judge slammed Nassar's horrific abuse of the young athletes who trusted him and praised the bravery of the gymnasts who have come forward, calling them "superheroes."

"You used that position of trust that you had in the most vile way to abuse children," Judge Rosemarie Aquilina told Nassar. "I agree that now is a time of healing, but it may take them a lifetime of healing while you spend your lifetime behind bars thinking about what you did in taking away their childhood. You violated the oath that you took, which is to do no harm, and you harmed them selfishly. ... They are superheroes for all of America because this is an epidemic."

In July, Nassar pleaded guilty in federal court to three charges of possession of child pornography, with each count carrying up to 20 years in federal prison.

For decades, Nassar was a highly respected figure in gymnastics, working with USA Gymnastics, private clubs and with athletes at Michigan State University. He also volunteered with children and ran programs for children with autism.

Nassar quietly left USA Gymnastics in 2015, stating he was planning to run for the local school board. It has been reported that he was fired, but others with knowledge of the investigation have told IG he was allowed to formally submit a resignation. The first allegations of impropriety against Nassar were made public in September 2016 when former gymnast Rachael Denhollander shared her story with the Indianapolis Star. At the same time, a lawsuit filed in California by 2000 Olympian Jamie Dantzscher against Nassar and USA Gymnastics was released, further stunning the gymnastics community. More than 150 women later came forward to make the same allegations against Nassar.

USA Gymnastics had already faced severe backlash after an extensive series of reports by the Indianapolis Star, which in the summer of 2016 revealed the organization frequently failed to act on reports of sexual abuse by coaches, routinely dismissing complaints against dozens of coaches and not reporting the abuse to authorities. In March, USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny resigned under pressure from the U.S. Olympic Committee, reportedly receiving a seven-figure "golden parachute" as his contract was paid out.

USA Gymnastics faced massive backlash after it was revealed the organization did not immediately report accusations against Nassar, but waited several weeks to contact the FBI.

In addition to Dantszcher, 1999 world team member Jeanette Antolin and former rhythmic national champion Jessica Howard spoke publicly about the abuse, which Nassar disguised as treatment.

In the past month, 2012 Olympians McKayla Maroney, Alexandra Raisman and Gabriella Douglas came forward to acknowledge being abused by Nassar. Raisman, who shared her story with 60 Minutes, said she was unaware that Nassar had done anything wrong until 2015, when she was interviewed by the FBI. Raisman and others have said they now recognize that Nassar was grooming them in order to violate them, a tactic frequently used by sexual predators, and exploiting their Olympic dreams.

In total, 125 athletes formally reported assaults to the Michigan State Police. If they choose, they will be allowed to speak at Nassar's sentencing in January.

Watch: Kamerin Moore's account of being abused by Nassar

Watch: Aly Raisman calls Nassar a 'Master Manipulator'

Watch: Jamie Dantzscher, Jessica Howard and Jeanette Antolin – the first to come forward

Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 09 November 2017 10:39    PDF Print
Männersdorfer: 'The Key to My Victory Was Self-Confidence'
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Although several factors contributed to Marlies Männersdorfer's all-around victory at last weekend's Austrian Championships, she told IG that faith in herself carried her to her first senior national title.
Although several factors contributed to Marlies Männersdorfer's all-around victory at last weekend's Austrian Championships, she told IG that faith in herself carried her to her first senior national title.

Although several factors contributed to Marlies Männersdorfer's all-around victory at last weekend's Austrian Championships, she told IG that faith in herself carried her to her first senior national title.

Marlies Männersdorfer (Austria) in Montreal

"Before the competition started I was pretty nervous, because I wanted to win and I wanted to get rewarded for my hard work," said Männersdorfer, whose score of 48.700 points placed her ahead of silver medal-winning defending champion Jasmin Mader (48.500) and bronze medalist Tamara Stadelmann (46.200) at the 71st annual Austrian Championships held November 4-5 in Mattersburg. "During the competition I was focusing on my performance, not on the outcome, so I stayed focused. The key to my victory was my self-confidence. I knew I did a lot of training this season and I felt pretty good that day, so I knew I had a chance to win."

Männersdorfer, who turned 20 on September 7, said important training and logistical changes contributed to her improvement from the 2015 and 2016 Austrian Championships, both at which she finished fourth all-around.

Until February 2015 she trained 2.5 hours daily, five days per week in Gänserndorf in northeast Austria, just outside of Vienna. "I knew this was not enough and the gym was too small," she said. "We didn't even have a floor area, and on vault we just had 15 meters to run."

Männersdorfer then got an invitation from the national coach to train with him in a larger gym. She accepted and moved to Vorarlberg in western Austria. Two months after Männersdorfer graduated high school in June 2016, she joined the army so she could focus on training.

The ability to concentrate on gymnastics has enabled Männersdorfer to train and compete with more frequency and composure.

"I participated in many more competitions this year than in 2015 or 2016, so I had the chance to gain experience and self-confidence," said Männersdorfer, who is coached by Daniel Rexa (vault, uneven bars and floor exercise) and Katka Rexa (balance beam, floor exercise) at Turnerschaft Jahn-Lustenau at LSZ Dornbirn. "This helped me during the Austrian Championships. Another contributing factor is that I'm doing specific strength training with the help of the coaches of the Olympic Center Vorarlberg."

Männersdorfer's performance in Mattersburg marked a 3.401-point improvement from her all-around result at last month's world championships in Montreal, where she struggled on uneven bars and elsewhere. She said an elbow injury in late July hindered her preparation and hurt her self-confidence heading into Montreal, but she was able to devote the time between Montreal and Mattersburg to bettering her routines.

"I had to take a break for three weeks, so I didn't get the chance to prepare very well for Worlds, and my bars routine wasn't practiced that well," Männersdorfer said. "I was under pressure because I knew I didn't practice as much as I would have needed to. After worlds, I had one spare month in which I could practice normally so I could improve not only my bars routine but also work on my execution."

Männersdorfer's win in Mattersburg has made her even more inspired for important international events of 2018.

"I'm so happy that I won this competition, and I got a lot of motivation out of it to prepare for the next season," she told IG. "I performed well, and therefore I am confident that I am capable of also doing so on Europeans or worlds next year."

Written by John Crumlish    Thursday, 19 October 2017 10:31    PDF Print
U.S. Junior Braunton Takes Aim At 'Big Dogs'
(4 votes, average 4.00 out of 5)

Featured in the October 2017 issue of International Gymnast magazine, U.S. 15-16 junior all-around champion Garrett Braunton told IG he is eager to add difficulty to his routines so he can keep pace with the best.

"Now that I know I can hit those routines, I need up up my D-scores a little bit so I can compete with some of the big dogs," said Braunton, who recovered from a back injury last fall to place first all-around, first on floor exercise and first on still rings in his age group at the P&G (U.S.) Championships in August.

Read a profile on Braunton in the October 2017 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To subscribe to the print and/or digital editions, or order back issues, click here.

Written by John Crumlish    Friday, 29 September 2017 08:10    PDF Print
Dudnik on Life: 'You Have To Push Yourself Through It'
(9 votes, average 4.11 out of 5)

Featured in the cover story of the October issue of International Gymnast magazine, former Soviet star Olesya Dudnik told IG that, through the triumphs and sorrows she has faced during and since her competitive career, she remains determined and faithful.

"Life gives you many things, and you have to push yourself through it," said Dudnik in a revealing sit-down interview with IG's John Crumlish in Marina del Rey, Calif., to where she recently relocated. "You cannot sit down and cry, and feel sorry for yourself. In my life, through many difficult situations, I think God has helped me, so I will continue the same way."

After a promising junior career, Dudnik, a native of Ukraine, made her biggest international marks in 1989. She tied for first place on balance beam at the 1989 European Championships in Brussels. She scored four 10s (compulsory floor exercise, optional vault, optional balance beam, vault final) at the 1989 World Championships in Stuttgart, where she finished first with her team, first on vault, second on balance beam and fourth on floor exercise.

On balance beam, Dudnik performed three combinations that are rare even today: side aerial, layout, layout; round-off, layout full; and round-off, flip-flop, triple twist dismount.

Dudnik said she was pleased to see her her side aerial, layout, layout series performed at the P&G (U.S.) Championships in Anaheim in August, which she attended.

"When I see girls do something like this, and they do it nicely, I am very happy because I understand it's not very easy," Dudnik said. "It takes hard work. By practice, you feel the elements. You feel everything, and it feels good. When people perform it now, it's what I felt before."

On floor exercise, Dudnik tumbled varied passes at the 1989 American Cup, 1989 European Championships, 1989 Soviet Championships, 1989 Worlds and 1990 Soviet Championships. Her glorious interpretation of Gershwin's "Second Rhapsody" in 1989 included an Arabian double front, 2-1/2 twist-punch barani and piked full-in at the 1989 Soviet Championships and her exuberant, poignant performance in the event finals at the 1989 Worlds.

Read "Higher Power," a four-page cover story in which Dudnik describes the personal, professional and spiritual challenges she has faced and overcome during her life, in the October 2017 issue of International Gymnast magazine. To subscribe to the print and/or digital editions, click here.

Written by dwight normile    Friday, 01 September 2017 12:33    PDF Print
Scott Hann Interview in September IG
(1 vote, average 5.00 out of 5)

The September 2017 issue includes an interview with Scott Hann, who placed two gymnasts on the 2016 Olympic team: Max Whitlock and Brinn Bevan.

A former gymnast at Bush Harlow Gymnastics Club, Hann (shown here with Whitlock) is the Director of Coaching at South Essex Gymnastics Club.

In Rio last summer, Whitlock won the all-around bronze and gold medals on floor exercise and pommel horse. Great Britain qualified fifth in prelims and climbed to fourth in the team finals. Hann said Whitlock will not enter the all-around at the 2017 World Championships, but will focus instead on floor and pommels.

Hann, meanwhile, will receive the MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in October. Whitlock received the same honor in the 2017 New Year Honors.

Hann commented on what Whitlock's all-around success in Rio meant to both of them. "The all-around bronze medal in Rio was probably the proudest medal for Max and me, as we have both committed and sacrificed so much to get it."

He also described the differences between Whitlock and Bevan: "Max and Brinn are two very different characters who come from very different backgrounds. Max came to SEGC to work with me after trying to train in Slovenia with his first coach, who moved back there to start a family. Max’s family lived some 50 miles from the club but committed to making the journey every day until Max learned to drive, and later moved closer to the club.

"Max has always approached his gymnastics methodically with precision, accuracy and efficiency. A true gent, his forte has been his calm-natured approach to competition and ability to deliver under pressure at the right time.

"Brinn, whose mum and dad were equally as committed and supportive, started at the club as a preschool gymnast and has moved through the system from day one. But his upbringing has been tough. At times his family struggled for money, meaning he would miss meals. We combatted that by offering his mum a job at the club. Brinn then lost his father, who was his role model, which had huge psychological effects on him. He then suffered from multiple stress fractures as a junior before breaking his leg as a senior.

"Adversity I believe has helped Brinn get to where he has. His character is fiery fierce and he enjoys trying things and performing in front of an audience. His forte, like Max, is his ability to compete, but he is more of an animal who will take the event head on.

"Both are remarkable athletes and young men. I am privileged to work with them both and to be a part of their lives."

IG also asked the humble Hann if he had any coaching role models: "I have had many influences from coaches, mostly what not to do or say. A big role model for me was Paul Hall MBE, coach to Daniel Keatings and Louis Smith MBE, as he had a different mindset and approach to anybody else at that time. But after being inspired by him, I worked hard until my idol became my rival.

"I do not claim to be the best technician within our sport. I believe the gymnasts are the experts; we have to just provide them with the tools to do the job. I’m good at that. I do that by creating an inspirational environment to thrive and learn, develop and feel valued. I try to build the gymnasts’ confidence and ability to adapt to situations, rather than focusing on how hard you must work, and the techniques you must practice. If you inspire the gymnasts they will apply themselves. Simple."

Read the complete interview in the September issue of International Gymnast. To subscribe to the print and/or digital editions or to purchase back issues, click here.


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