Valeri Liukin to coach Team USA as she faces abuse investigation – San Bernardino Sun

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Former Olympic champion Valeri Liukin will lead Team USA at a major international competition in Germany this week as she is under investigation by the US Center for SafeSport for allegedly verbally and psychologically abusing several athletes and pushing them to train or compete with broken bones.

Liukin, 55, will be the head coach of the US national team at the DTB Pokal Team Challenge and Mixed Cup in Stuttgart this week, USA Gymnastics and event officials have confirmed.

Liukin, the father and trainer of 2008 Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin, has been under investigation by the US Center for SafeSport since at least January 27, according to US Center for SafeSport emails and documents. obtained by the Southern California News Group.

USA Gymnastics CEO Li Li Leung, USA Gymnastics program manager Stefanie Korepin, and the organization’s vice president for the women’s program, Annie Heffernan, have known about the abuse allegations against Liukin since at least 9 February, according to a series of email exchanges between top USA Gymnastics officials and former gymnasts.

“If (Liukin) is under investigation and they know about it, why are they sending him and minors out of the country?” said McKenzie Wofford, a former U.S. national team member who trained under Liukin at the World Olympic Gymnastics Academy, a Plano. Texas club co-owned by Liukin.

Heffernan is listed as head of the US delegation for the Stuttgart event, according to official documents. Liukin’s wife, Anna, is also listed as an American “coach,” according to official event documents.

“Unfortunately, it’s not at all surprising,” said Megan Marenghi, a former gymnast who alleged to the US Center for SafeSport that she was verbally abused and humiliated by Liukin almost daily while training at WOGA.

“It just goes to show that nothing has really been done to make sure the system is changed with USA Gymnastics. (Liukin) shouldn’t be the national team on international duty. He shouldn’t be in training , at least until the allegations are investigated. The whole gymnastics world will see him coaching again. It’s like (USA Gymnastics) is sending a message: there is absolutely no change here.

Liukin continued to be considered by USA Gymnastics as the Women’s National Team High Performance Director even after Cécile Canqueteau-Landi, coach of four-time Olympic and 19-time World Champion Simone Biles, was told that she was no longer considered for the position. , according to three people familiar with the process.

“We have not offered or hired anyone for the position, and the process is ongoing,” USA Gymnastics communications and marketing manager Jill Geer wrote in an email to SCNG on Monday.

The US Center for SafeSport’s investigation into Liukin is still ongoing. Investigators continued to contact several potential witnesses to Liukin’s alleged abuse as recently as this weekend, according to two people familiar with the investigation.

Liukin’s presence this week in Germany and USA Gymnastics’ consideration for the organization’s top coaching position have seriously undermined Leung’s promise in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal to change a culture of abuse within the organization. American gymnastics that marked the so-called Karolyi era as much as gold medals at the Olympic and World Championships.

“Know that we absolutely believe in and appreciate listening to athletes and giving them a voice,” Leung wrote in an email to Wofford last week.

Few coaches, if any, were more rooted in the inner circle of former U.S. Olympic and national team managers Martha and Bela Karolyi than Liukin.

“Li Li knows everything,” said Marenghi, who is starting a doctorate. program in clinical psychology in the fall. “When she (Leung) took over as CEO, she said she was going to change all the things that led to Larry Nassar. That’s just a lie. She did the absolute opposite of that. She wants American girls win the next Olympics. That’s it. Because being second is not enough. Li Li is not oblivious to what is going on with (Liukin). She does not care about the everything. Not even remotely. His only goal is to start winning again.

Several gymnasts allege that they were regularly berated, belittled and yelled at by Liukin, that he forced them to compete and train on broken bones or when they were sick, and that they were shamed daily, according to SafeSport complaints and USA Gymnastics documents and several interviews by SCNG. Some of the gymnasts were as young as 10 at the time of the alleged abuse.

“To be called fat, worthless, weak, stupid, idiotic, etc. was a normal occurrence,” Wofford wrote in a complaint filed with the US Center for SafeSport. “Walking into the gym I was terrified of what was going to happen that day. While there were multiple incidents which were traumatic.”

Marenghi said in an interview that she saw Liukin “dragging (Nastia Liukin) into her office and yelling at her. She walked out, squealing her eyes.

She also claims to have seen Liukin pushing her daughter “against the wall”.

Liukin routinely forced gymnasts to run on a treadmill or in the Texas summer heat in tracksuits if he deemed them overweight, even though some of the girls weighed less than 80 pounds at 14, 15 or 16, according to complaints and SafeSport interviews.

Valeri Liukin did not respond to multiple phone messages and emails seeking comment over a two-week period, including an email detailing the issues and allegations discussed in this report.

Nastia Liukin did not respond to an email seeking comment. Several attempts to reach her by phone were unsuccessful.

Valeri Liukin previously served as the national team leader. He was named Martha Karolyi’s replacement as the U.S. national team coordinator shortly after the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Less than 18 months later, he stepped down amid growing demand from Olympians and gymnastics fans for USA Gymnastics to undergo a complete overhaul in the wake of the Nassar scandal.

“Valeri Liukin will be part of the delegation as a personal trainer to several team members,” Geer wrote in his email to SCNG, referring to the Stuttgart event. “All other delegation (non-coaching) personnel, including medical personnel, are selected by USAG. All delegation members, including personal trainers, must be professional USAG members in good standing. They are accredited by the (local organizing committee) based on the list of delegations submitted by USAG.

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Liukin coaches Team USA headliner Konnor McClain at WOGA. McClain won the all-around at the recent Winter Cup. There are two other WOGA gymnasts in the senior US team in Stuttgart, two WOGA athletes in the junior team in the US team. All four are coached by other WOGA coaches, according to their biography.

“For the men’s and women’s teams, there is a ‘head coach’, which automatically means that he is the designated personal coach of the athlete with the highest score in each of the senior, junior and mixed divisions” , Geer wrote. “For the senior women’s division, that coach is Valeri Liukin, as Konnor McClain’s coach. Head coaches work with team leaders to determine practice schedules and lineups. Because no member of the delegation is currently suspended or restricted by the Center, USAG does not interfere with an athlete’s ability to choose who they designate as a personal trainer in the delegation.

Sarah Jantzi, however, was named head coach of the United States women’s team at the Olympics last summer, although she did not coach Biles or ultimately all-around gold medalist Suni Lee. .

“It doesn’t matter that he’s the coach of their club,” Marenghi said. “The whole point of filing these complaints with the (US Center for) SafeSport and writing to USA Gymnastics was to protect the girls he coaches.

“What if Konnor catches the flu there?” Look what happened to (Wofford). If Konnor gets sick, will the same thing happen?

Marenghi was referring to one of the most disturbing allegations against Liukin filed with the US Center for SafeSport.

One of the most alarming accusations against Liukin stems from an alleged incident during a training camp at Karolyi Ranch.

Wofford, 15 at the time, became “extremely ill” shortly after arriving for the 2011 U.S. national team training camp at the Karolyi Ranch in remote central Texas, a training facility Olympic Games, owned and operated by Martha Karolyi, the US National Coordinator through the 2004-2016 Olympic cycles, and her husband Bela, also a former US National Team Coordinator and Olympic Team Coach for the United States. United and Romania.

“I had a stomach bug that he didn’t seem to care about,” Wofford wrote in his complaint to the US Center for SafeSport, referring to Liukin. “I had diarrhea every 30 minutes or so. I had to stop in the middle of ‘check-in’ routines (for Martha Karolyi and national team staff) to run to the bathroom. All the while he accused me of being a wimp and pretending. They checked my temperature and I had a fever so they stuck me in the back of the gym to condition me. The next day I was back, still having diarrhea at least every 30 minutes. He always called me a baby (because his daughter had competed on broken bones. But me too was different) Then he FORCED me to show the coach my diarrhea after I went once in front of everyone. It was MORTIFY.


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