Australian gymnastics governing bodies face sport’s horrific past

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She said she was forced to report to a judge after landing on her head during a routine, although she couldn’t move for a while and felt an electric tingling in her fingers and his toes. She was then examined by a doctor who, after suggesting that she return home to Perth for treatment, eventually agreed that she go directly to the hospital.

Upon arrival at Alfred Hospital, she was immediately put in a neck brace and then had to undergo two surgeries to repair a broken neck. She never returned to sports.

After the publication of the committee’s report, Gymnastics Australia and the Australian Sports Commission has apologized for the treatment of the athletes under its care. While welcome, it is the first step in rectifying such a dysfunctional and broken system.

A system which, it should not be forgotten, concerns 231,000 registered participants, nearly 80% of whom are women and 91% under 12 years old. In other words, they are mostly young girls. With that in mind, this has to be one of the most shameful episodes in Australian sporting history.

The report presented a series of recommendations, including better complaint mechanisms, overhauling coach education, and improving resources related to body image and eating disorders. It also calls for all complaints to be investigated independently. These are all sensible steps that are essential in restoring the reputation of the sport.

But there is surely a larger discussion to be had. With the abuse of gymnasts so prevalent in so many countries, one has to wonder whether the myopic emphasis on Olympic medals should be dropped as the sole measure of success. How can the pursuit of gold ever justify the actions that have caused so much harm to so many participants.

Editor’s Note

The Age Editor-in-chief Gay Alcorn writes an exclusive newsletter for subscribers on the most important stories and issues of the week. Sign up here to receive it every Friday.


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