Follow Us On
Interviews
Interviews

Written by dwight normile    Friday, 02 February 2018 15:10    PDF Print
Daughter & Mother: Interviews With Morgan Hurd And Her Mother
(11 votes, average 4.09 out of 5)

The March 2018 issue of International Gymnast magazine includes a feature called “Daughter & Mother,” comprised of interviews with Morgan Hurd and Sherri Hurd.

We asked Morgan if she was nervous during qualifications at the 2017 World Championships.

She replied, “I mean, the nerves are always there, so I was a little nervous. But I thought it was a pretty good standing (sixth place) considering I had some mistakes.”

And what skills worried her the most at those Worlds?

“Probably the most worrisome was my standing full on beam, just because I had a little bit of trouble with that throughout the year.”

We asked Sherri what her emotions were like after Morgan won the all-around.

“I was in shock. People around me were crying and I just kind of had to take a minute to really, like, realize my kid just won Worlds. You have to remember — I mean, to me she’s still just my kid who won’t put her laundry away. She’s just regular Morgan, so I kind of was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’”

And what makes Sherri most proud about her daughter?

“Her professionalism when she’s doing her gymnastics. That makes me very proud the way she can communicate with the press and other adults. Of course, her dedication and commitment makes me very proud.”

Read the full interviews in the March 2018 issue of International Gymnast.

 
Written by John Crumlish    Monday, 29 January 2018 08:34    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Jeremy Bartholomeusz (Canada)
(8 votes, average 3.75 out of 5)



After twice landing on the medal podium with Japanese star Kenzo Shirai at the Toyota Cup in December, Jeremy Bartholomeusz of Canada is ready to reach new global goals in 2018. Pictured: Bartholomeusz and coach David Kikuchi at the Halifax ALTA club in Nova Scotia

After twice landing on the medal podium with Japanese star Kenzo Shirai at the Toyota Cup in December, Jeremy Bartholomeusz of Canada is ready to reach new global goals in 2018.

Bartholomeusz' international career might just be starting, but his background covers continents. He was born in Dubai on April 19, 1997, to an Indian mother and Sri Lankan father of Dutch Burgher descent. His family moved to Canada in 1999 "to give my brother and me more opportunities and to experience a different part of the world," he says.

In September 2015, Bartholomeusz moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to attend Dalhousie University. He has since been training at the Halifax ALTA club under two-time Olympian David Kikuchi and his father, Tak Kikuchi. "From time to time, though, I'll get some help from a fellow coach at our gym, Vaughn Arthur," says Bartholomeusz, a neuroscience major. "In terms of who coaches me where, both Dave and Tak coach me on all the events."

Bartholomeusz made his FIG World Challenge Cup debut last May in Koper, Slovenia, where he finished eighth on vault. His ended 2017 with a strong showing at the Toyota Cup in Japan in December, where he won bronze medals on floor exercise and vault. Shirai, the 2017 world champion on floor exercise and vault, placed first on both events in Toyota.

In this IG Online interview, Bartholomeusz reflects on his late-2017 international breakthrough and forecasts his plans for continued success from now until the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.



Jeremy Bartholomeusz training on rings at Halifax ALTA

IG: Medals on floor and vault in Toyota was a great way to end your year, especially twice sharing the medal podium as Kenzo Shirai. You did not have as much success earlier in the year, at the Canadian championships or the World Challenge Cup of Koper. To what do you attribute your big successes in Toyota?

JB: It was absolutely thrilling to be on the same podium as the Kenzo. I would definitely say that I felt more confident with my routines going into Toyota Cup than Koper or nationals. Koper was my first Challenge Cup, and competing with such a high-caliber group of gymnasts definitely added some pressure. I feel having had the experience competing against some of the world's best in Koper, and Canada's best at the National Championships; both really prepared me for Toyota.

IG: As for Shirai, what do you think of your or anyone's chances to challenge him for gold, especially on floor? What will it take?

JB: This is definitely a tough one. Having the opportunity to have watched Kenzo compete live at the world championships in Montreal, as a spectator, and then again at Toyota Cup, as a competitor, was unreal. Going into Toyota, I was more focused on hitting my routines and building up my consistency for the upcoming competitive season. Just to compete against Shirai was an absolute privilege, but to have made it onto the same podium as him is something I didn't see coming. It's tough to say if I think anyone can challenge him for gold at this point in time. He really has set the bar quite high for those looking to challenge him, but I think having an athlete like Kenzo will inspire and motivate others around the world to strive for more.

IG: At the 2017 Canadian Championships you tied for ninth place all-around, and then you had the individual breakout at the end of the year in Japan. For 2018 and heading toward Tokyo in 2020, what plans do you have for remaining an all-arounder, as opposed to sticking with your best events?

JB: At the moment, I'm still planning to continue as an all-around competitor. My main focus for this year has been to increase my difficulty everywhere, something I know I need to do if I wanted to still contend nationally and internationally. I love training all six events. I find it keeps things fresh and keeps me motivated. There are always days where training for my better events isn't going as well as I would want, so having the option to just step back and focus my effort on other events or weaker areas is super helpful.

IG: Neuroscience is an impressive major. What do you enjoy about it, and what do you plan to do with it?

JB: I love every aspect of neuroscience. Exploring the different dimensions of the human brain, learning about how it operates at the physical level, and how this manifests into human perception is something I've been interested in since I can remember. At the moment, I'm just taking it year by year, hoping to finish my undergraduate degree in the next two to three years. I have definitely considered medical school, but I think I'd like to do my Master's first before I pursue medicine. But who knows, I change my mind every week, so I guess we'll see where I am in five years!

IG: This year the competition will be tightening up, not only in Canada, but among all of the teams who are trying to qualify for Tokyo. How do you plan to not only stay on pace, but boost your program in order to stay near the top in Canada and eventually get to Tokyo?

JB: My biggest focus for this upcoming season is to up my difficulty as an all-around competitor, while also maintaining good execution. All my routines this year are new for me, so the main goal is to increase my consistency throughout the competitive season. Hopefully, I'll be able to get some more international exposure this season, something I think would really help me to stay a contender in Canada and potentially internationally as well. At this point, I'm just taking things year by year, trying to maximize and make the best of every competitive season.

 
Written by Amanda Turner    Thursday, 25 January 2018 18:14    PDF Print
USOC Demands Resignation of USA Gymnastics Board
(7 votes, average 3.57 out of 5)



The United States Olympic Committee has ordered the USA Gymnastics board to resign immediately or face decertification, as fallout from the Larry Nassar tragedy continues. Pictured: Olympians Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber watch the hearing of former doctor Larry Nassar on Friday in Lansing, MIchigan.

The United States Olympic Committee has ordered the USA Gymnastics board to resign immediately or face decertification, as fallout from the Larry Nassar tragedy continues following his sentencing.

In an email letter sent Thursday by USOC President Scott Blackmun to USA Gymnastics, Blackmun issued a list of demands that USA Gymnastics must comply with to maintain its status as the national governing body of gymnastics in the United States. At the top of the list of the USOC's demands were the resignation of the remaining members of the board, which must be done within a week, followed by the formation of an interim board, which must be done within the next month.

"If USAG cannot or does not achieve steps 1 through 6 above promptly and clearly, the USOC will have no choice but to pursue termination of USAG's NGB status," Blackmun wrote. "In order to avoid immediate termination proceedings, USAG must complete all the steps set out above, including achieving step 1 by January 31, 2018 and step 2 by February 28, 2018."

USA Gymnastics issued a statement but did not state the board members have all immediately resigned, which was the No. 1 item on a list of six requirements the USOC is demanding of USAG. The federation deleted the "Board of Directors" page on its website (which was up until yesterday).

"USA Gymnastics completely embraces the requirements outlined in the Jan. 25, 2017 letter from the United States Olympic Committee and appreciates the opportunity to work with the USOC to accomplish change for the betterment of our organization, our athletes and our clubs," USA Gymnastics said in a statement posted to its website. "We understand that the requirements imposed by the letter will help us enhance our ability to build a culture of empowerment throughout the organization, with an increased focus on athlete safety and well-being. Our commitment is uncompromising, and we hope everything we do makes this very clear."

Following four days of testimony in the Nassar hearing in Lansing, Michigan, Olympic champions Jordyn Wieber and Aly Raisman delivered powerful victim impact statements accusing USA Gymnastics and the USOC of subjecting athletes to an abusive environment that allowed a sexual predator to target vulnerable women. Pressure by the USOC is reportedly what led to the resignations of USA Gymnastics Chairman Paul Parilla, Vice Chairman Jay Binder and Treasurer Bitsy Kelley this past Monday, but the other board members have refused to resign for reasons unknown.

Multiple gymnasts and other women described how Nassar's exploited the cruel and abusive environment at the Karolyi camp and Geddert's Twistars USA Club to groom the young women. He was allowed unfettered access to young girls and apparently challenged by nobody, even drugging McKayla Maroney with a sleeping pill in order to assault her in his hotel room at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo.

On Tuesday, 2010 world team member Mattie Larson shared a heartbreaking story of physical, psychology and sexual abuse so severe she attempted to injure herself to avoid going to the Karolyi ranch for the national team training camp. Nassar helped turn the sport she loved into a living hell, Larson said.

"The shocking and tragic stories surrounding Larry Nassar's years-long abuse of vulnerable athletes are now well known to all of us and the recently concluded Nassar sentencing hearings served to drive home the impact on individual victims in a way we will never forget," Blackmun wrote. "We must take further action to ensure that it cannot happen again."

For some, the USOC action's is too little, too late. During testimonies the USOC was called out repeatedly for its failure to protect gymnasts, some of whom were subject to assaults by Nassar at the Karolyi camp, the women's gymnastics national training center that served as an official U.S. Olympic Training Center, as well as at the Olympic Games themselves. Multiple lawsuits have been filed against the USOC.

At Nassar's sentencing over the last week in Ingham County, Judge Rosemarie E. Aquilina expressed repeated disgust and outrage, and several times she was astonished at the number of felonies that Nassar could potentially be charged with. She asked for a massive investigation at the federal level to look into at failure to stop the predator, who was reported so many times over the years. He was even arrested and subject to investigations, but always escaped with his reputation intact.

Attorney John Manly, who represents many of the women currently suing in state and federal court, called on USOC to decertify USA Gymnastics early last year.

Blackmun's letter praised USA Gymnastics on its achievements in the past year but failed to call out the organization's many failures that have angered athletes and caused all its major sponsors to either flee. AT&T, title sponsor of the American Cup in March, was the most recent to cut off financial support, suspending its sponsorship last week.

Click here to read the letter from the USOC in PDF format.

 
Written by Amanda Turner    Wednesday, 24 January 2018 08:28    PDF Print
Rachael Denhollander, First to Publicly Accuse Nassar, to Close Out Sentencing Hearing
(12 votes, average 4.58 out of 5)



Before Mckayla. Before Aly. Before Maggie. Before even Simone. Before more than 150 women screamed #MeToo, there was one who said to the world, "Me. Larry Nassar assaulted me, Rachael Denhollander." Pictured: Denhollander, right, listens to Jamie Dantzscher at a press conference in 2017.

Before Mckayla. Before Aly. Before Maggie. Before even Simone. Before more than 150 women screamed #MeToo — before that was even a hashtag — there was one who said to the world, "Me. Larry Nassar assaulted me, Rachael Denhollander."

Fittingly, Denhollander will be the last survivor to deliver a victim impact statement in Nassar's sentencing hearing, expected to draw to a close Wednesday in Ingham County, Michigan. But justice is still not done, and nobody has fought longer or harder than Denhollander in a case that has already shaken the world. More than a year before the #MeToo revolution stunned Hollywood and political circles, Denhollander stood up and said, "Me."

The survivors were picked to make statements in a deliberate order over the past week, which was shuffled as more women changed their minds about delivering statements, which Nassar agreed to as part of his plea agreement. Denhollander originally planned to testify on Friday, but it has now been pushed back as more and more women decided they must also be heard. She will be the 156th to speak in court and tell the world what Larry Nassar did to her, and she is expected to call out the individuals and institutions that protected him, enabled him and allowed him to assault her.

Kyle Stephens, the first to testify last Tuesday, was not a gymnast, and thus shattered the preconceived notions a passive public may have had about the case. Stephens, a family friend of Larry Nassar, had been molested by him since she was just 6 years old. Stephens' story was the perfect introduction in this case of horrible abuse, injustice and ruined lives. In 2004, after she learned about what child molestation was, she informed her parents what their friend Larry had been doing to her since 1998. They didn't believe her. They took her to an MSU psychologist, who instead of calling the police as the law required, called Nassar instead. She was not believed. The young girl was forced to apologize to Nassar in front of her parents, who remained angry at her that she would ever dare invent such a lie about their trusted friend, an important doctor. During her teenaged years, she even returned to babysit Nassar's children, wanting to protect them from a monster.

When Stephens' father, who struggled with a chronic medical condition, was finally confronted by the truth, that his daughter had not been lying, he committed suicide.

In an explosive and powerful statement that instantly change the dynamic of the courtroom, and electrified the #MeToo revolution, Stephens stood in front of Larry Nassar and issued the rallying cry heard by millions: "Little girls don't stay little forever. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world."

As Stephens' words stunned viewers and inspired people to demand change, Denhollander was there in the courtroom, watching. She's not an Olympian. She never competed at the national championships, much less the world championships. But her strength and bravery are equal to that of any Olympic champion. A mother of three, Denhollander's name was unfamiliar to the public and the gymnastics world when she first stepped forward in September 2016. The weekend before the hearing began she and her husband, Canadian native Jacob Denhollander, drove from their home in Kentucky to Michigan with their children, who were looked after by her family while she spent each day in Courtroom 5 of Ingham County's 30th Circuit Court. She packed for a week, preparing for daily press conferences, preparing to stand in front of every camera and microphone and demand justice.

Throughout each day, Denhollander has sat in the courtroom stonefaced listening to testimony, documenting and acknowledging each case on social media. The names and ages of the victims. One by one. This was a wholly preventable tragedy, she reminded everyone, noting that all but a handful of the women abused by Nassar occurred after the first known reports about him went ignored in 1997. The world would finally listen to them.

In 2000, Rachael Denhollander was a 15-year-old gymnast from Kalamazoo, Michigan, who was sexually assaulted for nearly a year by then-USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar, who claimed to be treating her back pain. Nassar sexually assaulted Rachael Denhollander because he could. Because Nassar, a depraved pedophile obsessed with gymnasts since his days in high school, knew nobody would believe Rachael Denhollander any more than they had believed Larissa Boyce, who in 1997 had reported Nassar to MSU gymnastics coach Kathie Klages. Instead of reporting Nassar, Klages called her friend up to let him know what was being said about him. Boyce, and her teammates, were told she was wrong, and that it was a legitimate medical procedure. Boyce, Klages told her, would have to face consequences if she persisted in complaining about Larry.

Nassar knew they wouldn't believe Denhollander any more than they had believed Christie Achanbach, an MSU runner who told the athletics coach in 1998 and 1998 that Nassar was sexually assaulting her by penetrating her most intimate areas. Achanbach, too, was told she was mistaken and that it was a legitimate medical procedure.

MSU softball player Tiffany Thomas Lopez complained too, starting in 1998, that this doctor was sexually assaulting her. She was told she was wrong and was forced to return to see him until she finally refused, and in 2000, she was forced to take a medical retirement. Devastated, she dropped out of school.

Only a full criminal investigation, done in Colorado, Indiana, Michigan and Texas may reveal who else was told what he was doing to these girls and when, who else shrugged off the concerns, who else failed to report, who else betrayed the trust and failed every girl assaulted after they ignored what they were told — until Nassar's house of cards came crashing down around him in September 2016.

Denhollander, who later worked as a gymnastics coach, was traumatized by the sexual assault she endured as a teen at the hands of a trusted and admired doctor, whose office wall was covered with framed photos of famous gymnasts and figure skaters. Like so many others who have since shared their stories, she struggled with her own inner doubts about what had occurred and independently researched this supposed procedure. Was it a legitimate procedure known as myofascial release, that can help alleviate pain, supposedly done in the intravaginal and intra-anal areas to treat back, hip and pelvic injuries, as Nassar claimed? Was that what happened to her? No, it was not.

Over the years, Denhollander armed herself. She armed herself by investigating her assault and recording her investigation. She armed herself with a law degree. As she as she was convinced what Nassar had done to her, that is how sure she knew she could not be the only one.


Denhollander speaks at the preliminary hearing against Nassar, prior to his guilty plea.

As we have witnessed the parade of women coming forward to speak at Nassar's sentencing hearing, it is difficult to remember a time when their stories were not believed. One of the most horrifying aspects of the Larry Nassar tragedy is that we will never know how many girls and women he assaulted over the years as possibly the most prolific pedophile known. The victims could be in the thousands. When did he start? Despite his defense that this was a legitimate medical procedure, he never mentioned this "treatment" in any of their charts. Nobody bothered to check.

"Do you even remember what we can never forget?" one survivor asked of him last week. The number of women expected to speak at his sentencing hearing grew from 83 to 95 to 105 to 120 to 140 and 156. The testimony of each one has been reaffirming in its bravery but each one a separate tragedy, of lives and families destroyed, wasted years of anxiety and panic attacks, self-harm, self-medication and eating disorders, suicide attempts. Suicides, plural.

The horror grew as many shared that Nassar not only sexually abused them, but neglected the very injuries he claimed to be treating, leaving the women to suffer ongoing pain and permanent physical damage. Many careers were permanently cut short. Some are still plagued by the pain of those untreated injuries; many spoke of acute anxiety and mistrust of doctors caused by the trauma, leading to neglect and further suffering.

Nassar's modus operandi became clear. Typically, he groomed young girls to trust him as he seemingly sympathized with them and protected them from a harsh training environment. Other women he simply assaulted like it was a matter of routine. Nassar's depravity was so cruel that he routinely and purposely molested girls while their parents were in the room. Positioning himself in a way that blocked the parents from their children, he would continue to talk normally like everything was still routine. The young girls, confused, would think that because their moms were in the room, everything was OK. Likewise, the girls would trade stories about Nassar and his gross or strange treatment, but since he seemed to do it to everybody, they were left to assume that was what doctors did. Sickeningly, these overt acts that one would assume would lead to him getting immediately caught are what helped him get away with it for so long. The lifelong guilt he purposely inflicted upon parents by molesting their children in front of them is a testament to how vile and depraved Larry Nassar is.

Once an upsetting statistic, over the past 10 days, we saw their faces, heard their pain, felt collective guilt, and vowed to change the institutions and laws that made this tragedy not just possible, but inevitable.

Assured individually and sensitively by Judge Rosemarie E. Aquilina, each woman has reclaimed her power and strength as surely as she embraced the term "survivor," not "victim." It brings comfort, but the pain will never end. The justice is not Nassar behind bars.

When they first spoke up, they weren't the victims. They were the accusers. The Nassar accusers, who were publicly and privately mocked and belittled and shamed by his friends, colleagues, supporters and legal team. USA Gymnastics was silent in what it knew. Only after the truth began to emerge and the public began to demand accountability did USAG's tone change to one of sympathy for the victims. Only then did they begin to call him a monster.

USA Gymnastics, which quietly parted ways with Nassar in September 2015, did nothing that led to his conviction. USAG did not stand up to support Rachael Denhollander when she showed tremendous courage, at personal sacrifice, to come forward and reveal who Larry Nassar really was.

Just prior to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, The Indianapolis Star began a series investigating troubling accounts of USA Gymnastics' handling of sexual abuse in the sport over the years. Denhollander saw her chance and took it, realizing now, finally, someone might believe her. And she fired the first shot that wounded Larry Nassar, who was still practicing medicine and assaulting women and girls despite numerous law enforcement and institutional investigations that ignored his behavior, or worse, excused it. Even the FBI couldn't, or wouldn't, stop Larry Nassar, despite supposedly being notified in July 2015 by USA Gymnastics's President/CEO Steve Penny of his "concerns" about Nassar, or however he described rampant sexual assault of young girls. ("Concerns" being the word Penny used when he called Gina Nichols, the mother of Maggie Nichols, to comment on the "concerns" the gymnast had in June 2015, when her coach, Sarah Jantzi, first overheard her discussing "treatment" Nassar inflicted on her.)

As much as USA Gymnastics would like you to believe that Nichols' statement and Penny's report to the FBI in July 2015 are what led to Nassar's conviction in Michigan — a preposterous claim which USAG has purported both in public statements and in legal filings — this is a lie.

It was the The Indianapolis Star, which had a dedicated team of investigative journalists backed by a supportive publisher, that had the courage to print troubling accusations and fight USAG in court to find out more. They opened the door that let in Rachael Denhollander, who went to the Michigan State University Police Department in August 2016 and filed a report of sexual assault against Larry Nassar. Denhollander told IG she was armed with the following:

Rachael Denhollander: What I Brought When I Reported Larry Nassar to Michigan State University in August 2016
    • • Medical records showing what he alleged he did for treatment (none of which involved techniques with penetration or adjusting the ribs or tailbone)
    • • Medical records from 2004 where I disclosed in detail what he'd done to a female nurse practitioner. She charted everything I told her, so there was an old written record confirming I'd been saying the same thing ever since it happened. This written medical record of my disclosure in 2004 included my allegations of penetration, genital massage and breast massage.
    • • The names of three pelvic floor specialists I had been disclosing the abuse to since around 2001. Before coming forward, I described in detail what he did and sought their professional opinion on whether any of it was legitimate. All three had provided their contact info to speak to investigators and explain why what Larry did to me bore no resemblance to real pelvic floor therapy.
    • • The name of a fourth pelvic floor specialist who had recently treated me who they could also contact for additional expertise.
    • • A letter of reference from a neighboring Chief Assistant Prosecuting attorney who has significant seniority in his community. He was testifying to my character and truthfulness, and stated in his letter to investigators that he was willing to speak as a character witness on my behalf. He also asked investigators to take my claim seriously.
    • • The name of a USAG certified coach who I and my mom had disclosed to in 2004.
    • • An index of current national and international medical journal articles demonstrating what legitimate pelvic floor techniques involve, and why Nassar's technique was far outside the bounds of medical treatment.
    • • A legal memorandum citing the relevant statutes and providing specific facts as to how each element of the statute was met.
    • • An email chain with reporters at the Indianapolis Star revealing that two other unnamed women had also contacted them alleging sexual abuse by Larry Nassar.

Despite all of this, MSU still refused to listen. Ingham County, where MSU is located, refused to bring charges against Nassar for assault.

"Despite all the evidence I brought forward with me, (MSU Medical School) Dean William Strampel and Larry's colleagues immediately refused to listen," she explained. "Dean Strampel emailed Larry and told him 'Good luck, I'm on your side.' He then mocked my video testimony, saying it was the 'cherry on the cake of his day.' When he finally did fire Larry, he apologized and said things were 'moving outside of his control.'"

Just think of that. While, over the past 16 months, the still-emerging truth has led to some in power to "retire" or "resign" instead of facing the public humiliation of being fired, the only person who has faced real accountability in the Larry Nassar tragedy is Larry Nassar. And when he was finally fired from MSU in late September 2016, he actually received an apology from his boss. People still believed him and defended him.

Jamie Dantszcher also said "Me" in a lawsuit filed in California's Sacramento County Superior Court on September 8, 2016. She filed it as a Jane Doe against other Does, but everybody knew their real names. Jane JD Doe — a 2000 Olympian from California who was on the U.S. national team from 1994-2000 before becoming an NCAA champion — was Jamie Dantzscher. Even the initials matched. And Doe 1, the osteopathic physician who had worked with USA Gymnastics as a trainer in 1986 before becoming the team doctor in 1996, was Larry Nassar. Further, the suit alleged that this physician had routinely sexually assaulted other members of the national gymnastics team.

Dantzscher was also an accuser. After a tremendous career competing at UCLA, she gradually withdrew from the sport. She coached, including a year at Arizona State University, but she struggled. She suffered from anxiety, depression, self-destructive behavior. Unlike Denhollander, she had blocked out what she had endured, only knowing she didn't feel proud of anything she had accomplished as an elite gymnast. While attending the U.S. Olympic trials in San Jose in July 2016, she began trading stories with teammates. Everything suddenly became clear, including the absence of Nassar, who had retired suddenly less than a year before the Olympic Games, claiming he planned to concentrate on running for the local school board. It was a retirement mysteriously not mentioned by USAG.

As The Indianapolis Star investigation stunned the gymnastics community, Dantzscher sought out a lawyer and filed her anonymous lawsuit. Jamie Dantzscher was maligned horribly, her allegations treated with skepticism by some. USA Gymnastics was convinced she could be discredited, as their lawyers began to investigate her own personal sexual history, even telling her attorney that they would be prepared to put her on trial, despite the fact USA Gymnastics knew that every word she said about Nassar was true. Dantzscher was hurt, but not fatally wounded by what she now had to suffer through, and she prepared herself for battle, too.

On September 12, 2016, The Indianapolis Star went ahead and printed Denhollander's account of being assaulted by Larry Nassar, and the paper also simultaneously reported that an unnamed former gymnast, a medal winner at the 2000 Olympic Games, had filed suit against him in California. They had also been contacted by a third former gymnast, later revealed to be rhythmic national champion Jessica Howard. Denhollander was the only one prepared at that time to use her real name. Hers was not an anonymous accusation.

The Indianapolis Star article was a bombshell. But even that wasn't enough to worry Nassar, who quickly responded to the newspaper's request for comment and welcomed an interview. He cheerfully told them why it was all a misunderstanding, offering an explanation so calm and confident and rehearsed, it is haunting to imagine just how many times he has said it before.

Jamie Dantzscher didn't know Rachael Denhollander then, but together they marched out in front, leading two armies of one that united and grew stronger and larger as more and more girls and women appeared by their sides. One by one. "He did it to me, too."

MSU Police Chief Jim Dunlap believed Denhollander, as did MSU Police Special Victims Det. Andrea Munford. They knew that predators came in all forms, and that nobody should be above suspicion because of a reputation. More and more calls were received, and the accusers reached double digits. The numbers continued to climb even after a search warrant uncovered child pornography at Nassar's home in Holt, Michigan, in neighboring Eaton County. But still, it wasn't enough.

Ingham County Prosecutor Gretchen Whitmer still did not want to bring assault charges for the assaults reported at MSU and Twistars. Even though Whitmer believed the victims, she didn't seem to see the point of charging him with assaults, offering assurance that he would be going away on the child pornography charges. Outraged, in October, Chief Dunlap sought help from Michigan's Attorney General Bill Schuette, who agreed to open a criminal investigation into Nassar for sexual assault. Though Whitmer, who has since announced she is running for governor of Michigan in 2018, denies she didn't want to charge Nassar with assault, the facts are hard to dispute. On 11 a.m. on November 22, 2016, Attorney General Schuette stood up alongside Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis, Chief Dunlap and Det. Munford, and announced, "Today MSU Police Chief Jim Dunlap and I are officially announcing criminal charges against Dr. Larry Nassar."

Because of Rachael Denhollander.

Exactly one year later, Nassar would plead guilty to seven counts of felony sexual assault charges in Ingham County. But for that year, Nassar insisted he was innocent, and the women remained the accusers. There was no massive outpouring of support at what they had been through. Nassar even got more than 2,000 votes in the school board election in early November 2016, more than 10 percent of the vote. Though Nassar's supporters shrank after he was indicted in December 2016 for the child pornography, he still had his supporters. The "Nassar accusers" were scorned by many, accused of making it all up, conspiring, for fame and fortune. Klages continued to support him, even claiming the files on his computer were possibly planted there by one of the women suing him.

While Nassar and his attorneys were still claiming he was a misaligned and misunderstood doctor, Denhollander, the Commanding General of the Army of Little Girls Who Grew Up, filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging the violation of her civil rights. Federal case 1:17-cv-00029-GJQ-ESC, better known as Denhollander et al v. Michigan State University et al is the federal suit filed that has since been joined by more than 140 other plaintiffs, who are suing Michigan State University and its board of trustees, USA Gymnastics, Gedderts' Twistars and Larry Nassar (who eventually defaulted in the case by inaction).


Former national team member Mattie Larson confronts Larry Nassar in court on Tuesday in Ingham County, while Rachael Denhollander, on the left, watches from the front row of the gallery, and Michigan Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis, standing behind Larson, observes.

As Nassar hired new attorneys and continued to claim innocence, it was clear he wasn't expecting the power of one woman to stand up in public, show her face, tell her name and say, "He assaulted me." Soon the number reached triple digits, and Denhollander continued to fight, speaking to untold media outlets, granting interviews, meeting with lawmakers, facing Nassar and his condescending lawyers in court. Her willingness to speak openly and fiercely encouraged more to come forward in public, until Nassar's lawyers complained and were granted a gag order temporarily prevented her from speaking. Through preliminary hearings and repeated legal motions, she charged forward, until the wrath she had brought down on him resulted in this increasingly weak and pathetic man surrendering.

Because of Rachael Denhollander.

Nassar pleaded guilty to assault charges on November 22, 2017, but even then he thought he wasn't beaten. He still seemed to think his reputation could be restored as he assured the community that he didn't hold "any animosity against anyone," a glimmer of the delusional mind of the real Larry Nassar. In December, his request for leniency on federal charges related to child pornography was nearly comical as his lawyers described what a giving and caring man he is, devoted to his autistic daughter, helping others in prison with their injured ankles and earning their GEDs: "Mr. Nassar is a kind, compassionate, hard-working man of faith who would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it."

There will be some justice for Nassar on Wednesday, as the judge is expected to give him the maximum on the seven counts of sexual assault in this case. But the larger justice that so many have screamed for is still to come.

"There is nothing, NOTHING that would have made MSU listen absent intense public pressure, a groundswell of victim voices, and a relentless media presence that didn't let them run," Denhollander said. "And there still is not."

Dr. Larry Nassar, who since April 2017 has become known as former doctor Larry Nassar, has over the past week frequently been referred to as Inmate Nassar. Inmate Nassar, the only title he deserves, as a policeman, a father of a survivor, so succinctly told him to his face in court. Yes, Nassar even sexually assaulted the daughter of policemen. He was not afraid of anybody because he knew he had an excuse: his "medical procedure" and these young girls didn't understand what actually occurred. It was an excuse that let him get away with his depravity for years, while basking in his fraudulent reputation as a "miracle worker" with gymnasts, because nobody would believe the word of a little girl against his.

The voices of the survivors who stepping forward into the light have echoed like gunfire at an execution, that has exposed the secrets and the truth, that Nassar never acted alone, but he abused them because he was promoted and protected by his own army of supporters. Their names were heard, sometimes just once, but often over and over. The institutions like USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University and the U.S. Olympic Committee. Individuals like Steve Penny, Lou Anna Simon, Marta Karolyi, John Geddert, Kathy Klages, Dr. Brooke Lemmen, Dr. Alison Arnold, Kathy Kelly, Debbie Van Horn. The survivors, finally able to speak to the world, said their names, too.

And over and over they begged for real justice, for criminal investigations, not just civil lawsuits. The State of Texas has done nothing for Maggie Nichols or Aly Raisman or Simone Biles or McKayla Maroney or Mattie Larson or any of the girls who were repeatedly sexually assaulted by a doctor who was not even licensed in the state of Texas. The number of felonies is in the thousands, and Nassar is not solely responsible.

If there were so many complaints at Michigan State University that went ignored — reportedly at least 14 MSU employees were aware of the complaints — imagine how many there could have been at USA Gymnastics. USA Gymnastics' record of handling of sexual assault cases was so abhorrent that it led to the original Indy Star investigation that uncovered the monster that preyed on young gymnasts for more than 20 years, and used his reputation as the USA Gymnastics and U.S. Olympic Committee doctor to prey on countless women (and at least one boy) in Michigan. The State of Indiana, where USA Gymnastics is headquartered, has failed to initiate an investigation, despite very public calls to do so. Neither has Colorado, where the U.S. Olympic Committee is located.

The FBI, which is apparently accountable to nobody, has never explained why it failed to act when USA Gymnastics reported Larry Nassar. The FBI has refused to release any information related to the case. But the silence from the Federal Bureau of Investigation cannot explain away its failure to execute even a basic search warrant against Nassar. The federal case against him, after he was charged in relation to more than 38,000 files of child pornography, was because of a warrant the MSU Police Department executed in September 2016. Because of Rachael Denhollander.

The tone-deaf and weak responses of these institutions, whose leaders react only when forced, show they are confident they will not have to admit liability or responsibility. They have refused accountability. They have lied.

As the sentencing continued, the survivors' demand for accountability grew so strong that they even turned to Nassar, one final time, for help. On Monday, 15-year-old Emma Ann Miller stood in front of Nassar and begged him that the only good act he can do is to reveal the truth for once.

"Tell us who knew what and when," Miller said. "Tell us about who had the opportunity to stop you."

Nassar, when he is sentenced, could choose to cooperate, as a final act of redemption. But it would be highly unlikely of such a man so narcissistic that last week he had the gall to write a letter of complaint to the judge that listening to the survivors' testimony was too mentally taxing on him.

Nobody knows what to expect when Rachael Denhollander finally stands up on Wednesday. She will close out the case and have the final word until the prosecutor and the judge speaks. Now, the world will be listening as these three powerful women deliver not one, but three closing arguments, in a case poetically tried by women.

But the fight will go on, for this will never be over for the women and families destroyed. Surviving is a daily challenge. Denhollander will still be there, leading the army of powerful and empowered women ready to change sports, change medicine, change universities, and change the world by demanding justice.

Time's up.

 
Written by Amanda Turner    Friday, 05 January 2018 18:15    PDF Print
IG Online Interview: Alyssa Baumann (USA/Florida)
(10 votes, average 4.00 out of 5)



Five-hundred fifty-five days after a freak fall derailed her dreams and delayed her plans, 2014 world championships gold medalist Alyssa Baumann (United States) will march out on the competition floor for the first time for the University of Florida. The freshman spoke with IG about the struggle and strength behind her incredible comeback to gymnastics.

Five-hundred fifty-five days after a freak fall derailed her dreams and delayed her plans, 2014 world championships gold medalist Alyssa Baumann (United States) will march out on the competition floor for the first time for the University of Florida. The freshman spoke with IG about the struggle and strength behind her incredible comeback to gymnastics.


Baumann on beam during team finals at the 2014 World Championships in Nanning, China, where she helped the U.S. women win the team gold medal

This evening, Baumann will resume her competitive career, this time as a member of the University of Florida team, which begins its season on the road against the University of West Virginia at WVU Coliseum in Morganville. The Dallas native, who will turn 20 in May, arrived in Gainesville last August one year later than planned, but is overjoyed to be back after undergoing major surgeries on both arms that required extensive and painful rehabilitation.

On June 29, 2016, 10 days before the U.S. Olympic Trials, Baumann was training on uneven bars at WOGA in Plano, Texas, where she began gymnastics at age 3. Baumann didn't catch the bar completely on a Shaposhnikova and fell hard, landing on her stomach and left arm.

Cécile Canqueteau-Landi, who had coached Baumann alongside her husband, Laurent Landi, since 2007, said she didn't realize what she had seen.

"It was scary and looked like a 'good' fall, but then she screamed and I ran to her," Canqueteau-Landi told IG. "She was looking at me, screaming 'NO!' and holding her elbow. Her elbow looked good, but she was in so much pain we knew something was wrong, but we had no idea how bad. A day later her mom called and all she said, in tears, was 'It's over.'"

Scans had revealed that Baumann had torn several ligaments and muscles in her elbow and needed immediate surgery. Her lifelong dream of competing for a spot on the Olympic team was not going to be realized. She shared the news on Instagram herself the next morning.

"This is obviously not how I wanted things to end, and I'm still in shock and completely devastated," she wrote. "I can't thank everyone enough for (their) support and for always believing me. My coaches have put absolutely everything into me and it kills me that I can't show off their hard work."

Canqueteau-Landi, who represented France at the 1996 Olympics, said Baumann pushed aside her pain to support clubmate Madison Kocian, who was favored to make the team to Rio if she hit at trials.

"It was a very difficult moment for all of us, but we had to rally for Maddie," Canqueteau-Landi recalled. "Alyssa was so supportive — it was amazing to see."

With beautiful extension, flexibility and artistry, Alyssa Baumann's gymnastics has long been amazing to see. She first shot to national attention in 2010 when, just shy of her 12th birthday, she won the all-around, bars and beam titles at the Level 9 Western National Championships. She made the leap to elite that summer, skipping Level 10 and qualifying to the U.S. junior national championships in Hartford, Connecticut. In December 2010, she traveled to Moscow to compete at the Voronin Cup, where she finished fifth all-around and fourth on bars and beam.


Baumann at the 2013 U.S. Junior Championships

Baumann's road was never an easy one, and every achievement came through hard work and belief in herself. Over the next five years, she fought her way through battles with injuries and illness, all while somehow steadily improving and upgrading her gymnastics from each competition to the next. After qualifying as an elite in 2010, injuries kept her out of competition the next two years, but she returned in 2013 to make the U.S. junior national team following a seventh-place finish in the all-around at the U.S. junior championships in Hartford. The next year, her first as a senior, she placed fourth all-around at the U.S. championships in Pittsburgh and won the silver medal on balance beam. Days later, a hyperextended elbow knocked her out of the Pan American championships in Canada, but Baumann fought through it once again.

Following a training camp in mid-September, Baumann earned a spot on the U.S. team to the 2014 World Championships in Nanning, China. The youngest member of the American team in Nanning, she competed three events in qualification (vault, beam and floor), scoring among the top 10 on vault and floor and in the top 15 on beam. In team finals, she was chosen as the leadoff gymnast on balance beam for the Americans, earning 14.500 for the second-best score for the team on that event behind Simone Biles' 14.966. The Americans trounced the Chinese by nearly 7 points to take the gold medal.

In 2015, Baumann finished seventh all-around at the U.S. Classic in July and national championships in August. Following a training camp, she was named a non-traveling alternate to the world championships in Glasgow. What few knew was how rough of a year she had had. Chronic illness, including bouts of bronchitis and mononucleosis, left her barely able to train. But she didn't bounce back like a healthy teenager, and she was too fatigued to even flex her muscles. Eventually, further tests revealed she had a chronic condition called Celiac disease (gluten-sensitive enteropathy), an allergy to gluten that triggers an immune response, which can cause severe exhaustion, headaches, joint pain, anemia and many other symptoms.

Baumann reclaimed her health with a special diet and was ready to go all out in 2016. In June, she finished third all-around and second on balance beam and floor exercise at the U.S. Classic. Two weeks later at the U.S. championships, she had a solid competition. She missed her toe-hecht on bars on the first day and stumbled back out of bounds on floor exercise on the second day, but hit cleanly elsewhere to place a solid seventh, easily qualifying to the U.S. Olympic Trials two weeks later in San Jose, California.

"Had so much fun competing tonight and the journey continues...OLYMPIC TRIALS BOUND!!!" Baumann tweeted on June 26. "So excited for this amazing opportunity!"

The next part of the plan was to peak in San Jose. With four solid, clean events and world championship experience under her belt, Baumann had a chance of making the U.S. team to Rio de Janeiro or earning one of three spots as an alternate. Whatever the outcome at trials, the way from San Jose would ultimately end up in Gainesville in August to join the Florida Gators gymnastics team, fulfilling another long-term goal.


Baumann with coaches Laurent Landi and Cécile Canqueteau-Landi following the 2014 World Championships

Neither plan was realized. The fall changed everything, including Baumann. After undergoing major reconstructive surgery on her left elbow, it did not take long to realize what lay ahead and that trying to recover in time for the spring of 2017, while attending classes full time, was not realistic. On July 15, she announced she was going to defer for one year to recover completely. That August, she watched the Olympics on TV and cheered for the Americans in Rio, especially Kocian, who helped the U.S. win the team gold medal and then won an individual silver on uneven bars.

On August 31, Baumann underwent a second surgery on her right wrist to fix an issue that had pained her for some time. The rest of 2016 was spent in rehabilitation therapy, devoted to healing an injured body and injured soul, fighting the frustration and pain while finding light in the darkness. Still limited, she returned to WOGA in January 2017, a world champion unable to do a handstand, a kip, a chin-up or even a back tuck. The new plan was to be 100 percent ready for today, in January 2018, when Florida begins its new season. It would be several more months before she was medically cleared to start training full-time.

It was a struggle Baumann documented in October for her Educational Technology course. She chose to tell her own story for a video assignment, showing training footage of her slowly coming back, improving a little bit every day and never giving up. She got an A. (Her younger sister, Rachel Baumann, a former elite who competed Level 10 last year and who has committed to Georgia, also made a montage dedicated to Alyssa's comeback.)

"She came back slowly to the gym, and it was hard, but she had new goals, which was to be the best for Florida," said Canqueteau-Landi, who along with her husband is now coaching Biles and other gymnasts in Houston. "I'm so proud of her and how determined she was and is! I can't wait to see her compete and shine!"

Baumann's unique shine is apparent from a quick visit to her official website, alyssabaumann.com, which is noticeably different than the typical gymnast website. She maintains a blog, but there's no photo gallery or links to videos yet. Instead, she has a gallery of her favorite inspirational quotes, and a section about Celiac disease to help educate others about a condition that frequently goes undiagnosed. "I hope to help people overcome their own obstacles by seeing what I did to come back from my injuries and illnesses," she explains in a note on the front page.

At Florida, Baumann has been in good hands under Jenny Ester Rowland, who is in her third year as head coach. Rowland, an alternate on the 1989 U.S. world team, was forced to retire from elite gymnastics because of a serious back injury, but came back to compete in college. The team's assistant coaches are Adrian Burde, a former Romanian team member who coaches vault and tumbling; and Owen Field, who coaches bars. Florida is ranked No. 2 behind reigning national champion Oklahoma in the preseason coaches poll.

Baumann found time to catch up with IG as she traveled to West Virginia. She opened up about her long recovery, the importance of self-care and self-confidence, where she sees herself in Florida's deep lineup, and some unexpected adventures her time off afforded her.



IG: Alyssa, first of all, congratulations on your comeback! You look amazing in all the training videos. A lot of fans may not know that you also had surgery on your right wrist. What was the recovery like for that? Is your right wrist much better than before the surgery?

AB: Thank you very much. That surgery was an ulnar osteotomy. Basically, I had a piece of my ulna taken out because the bone was too long and was taking pressure that it shouldn't be. They put in a plate and six screws (which are still in my arm).

The recovery for that was actually very rough. For the first part of that recovery, my arm wasn't healing. When I first started running, one of my screws began to back out. To avoid another surgery, I had to go a while without any sort of physical activity. That was extremely difficult for me, as I haven't ever been that restricted in my career. It finally started healing once I stopped moving it and now that it is fully healed, it feels much better than before.


Baumann following her second surgery on her right arm

IG: Recovering from elbow surgery is really hard for any athlete but especially for a gymnast. How long did it take before you were able to fully straighten your arm? When were you first able to put weight on it?

AB: I had full range four months post-op (end of October). I was able to start weight bearing a little after I had full range, but because of complications with my second surgery (wrist) I waited until I was about six months out to start weight bearing. I was released after nine months, but was careful until I was 12 months out.

IG: After your surgeries, did you take a few months off from the gym while just doing physical rehab, or did you still go to do any leg conditioning or whatever you could? When were you able to return to full-time training?

AB: I took the first couple months off completely while I was first recovering from my elbow surgery. For a long time I was doing several hours of therapy every day — that was my main focus. The next couple months after that I went in a few times a week to do what conditioning I could and stay mentally in the gym. I would go over my skills mentally because I think that can be just as beneficial as doing the skills. I returned to full training after I was released from both my wrist and elbow, around May.

IG: You have video of you attempting a handstand and not getting very close. That must have been so frustrating and painful. Did you ever have any doubts that you would fully be able to come back on all four events?

AB: Coming back from these injuries was unlike anything I have ever done before. I couldn't do very basic skills such as a kip or handstand. It was very frustrating, especially since I am a perfectionist. Luckily, I had people, like Laurent and Cécile, who were there to support me and remind me that it would be a slow process and to be patient. Even though the doctors and many people around me told me that I probably wouldn't be able to do everything that I was able to do before, I never thought that. I believed in myself more than anyone else and knew that I could do it.

IG: What you went through in 2016 must have been a psychological trauma as much of a physical one. Everything changed in an instant, but you had to forge ahead with the unexpected, very difficult challenge of recovering physically while dealing with your disappointment. Can you tell us some things that helped you cope? For example, were there any particular books, songs or quotes that inspired you, or really good advice you got that you'd like to share?

AB: These injuries were just as mentally challenging as they were physically. My whole life was changed, I went from training for the Olympics to not being able to do basic activities. During this time I realized that I couldn't control what had happened, but I could control how I handled the situation. I chose to set a new goal for myself, to overcome this obstacle and inspire other gymnasts/athletes to never give up. I watched lots of motivational videos and read many quotes to get me through this time. Shortly after I injured my elbow I posted a quote on Instagram that really helped me. It said that unexpected things are always going to happen in life and the only thing we can control is how we handle them.

Some advice I want to give is, especially in rehab, to focus on your everyday accomplishments, which helps keep you motivated and moving forward. Recognize your progress, look at what you did today that you couldn't necessarily do yesterday or last week. Most of all, you cannot control the things in life that might happen but you can control how you chose to deal with them.


Baumann with Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols during their May vacation to Turks and Caicos

IG: Since you deferred your enrollment to recover completely, you did get a "bonus" year at home to train with Cécile and Laurent, and your sister Rachel, but not under any pressure from the elite schedule or academics. Did you get to do anything fun in your downtime? How often did you check in with your future coaches (and teammates) at Florida?

AB: I took many trips and went on vacations that I could never do before. I visited Simone for New Years, I visited Florida in the fall and again in February, I went to California, and in May I went to Turks and Caicos with Sydney Ewing, Maggie Nichols, and Aly Raisman. That was my favorite trip. It was great to be able to spend time with my close friends outside of gymnastics. We got to do so many fun things including snorkeling, jet skiing, and horseback riding in the ocean. Also, before I came to school I went to Boston to see Aly.

I checked in with my coaches often to let them know how my recovery was going. My teammates at Florida also would check in on me and ask how things were going with rehab. I kept up with all their meets and I am happy to finally be a part of the Florida family.

IG: You committed to Florida when you were 14. What led you to decide on Florida? Is there any aspect of being a collegiate gymnast that has surprised you, or was it an easy transition from elite to NCAA?

AB: There are so many reasons why I loved Florida. Florida's combination of great academics and athletics is almost unbeatable. Also, I fell in love with the atmosphere when I visited the campus. For me, it was a fairly easy decision and even though I committed when I was so young, I haven't regretted it a day since.

The only thing that was different about college gymnastics is the emphasis on conditioning, and I think that will be essential to be able to make it through a season that is much longer than what I'm used to.

IG: You're about to return to competition for the first time in 18 months and you look great. On which events do you feel you can contribute to Florida's lineup this season?

AB: I feel like I can contribute on beam and floor right away, and hope to be contributing on bars and vault by mid- or post-season. The coaches and I are trying to be smart about bars and vault so that I don't rush anything or risk any injuries. I'm excited to be competing this season as it has been so long since I last competed and I overcame a lot to get to this point.

IG: You deferred a year to properly rehab your injuries because you wanted to be 100 percent for Florida. Do you feel you've reached that goal? If so, what is the next goal ahead of you?

AB: Deferring a year was not an easy decision, but I feel like it was the best one. I do feel like I reached that goal of being 100 percent for Florida. By staying home and focusing on rehab I am in a much better place now and I'm ready to give everything I have to this team.

My new goal is to do everything possible so that I give my team every opportunity to win our meets. Also, I want to enjoy gymnastics more than I ever have before. This Florida team is special and I expect that we will accomplish big things this year.

Update: Baumann competed two events in her NCAA debut Friday evening to help the Florida Gators top West Virginia, 195.90-194.425 . She scored 9.900 on balance beam (tied for first) and 9.750 on floor exercise (sixth).


Baumann performing a Shaposhnikova on bars in December 2017 during an intrasquad competition for the Florida Gators
 


Page 2 of 36