Gymnastics star Pauline Schafer had been harassed by her trainer for years, but when she decided to "no longer just be the little gymnastics robot", it had become "particularly bad". At least that’s what the former balance beam world champion says in the magazine "Der Spiegel".
The 23-year-old shepherd says she is tired of being silent. With five other gymnasts, she makes serious allegations against a trainer at the federal base in Chemnitz.
It’s about training beyond the pain threshold, mental humiliation, diet compulsion: According to this, shepherds and co. – even as minors – were exposed to psychological violence during training, inappropriate methods were used and medication was administered without a doctor’s order.
As a gymnast you can take a lot, Schafer told the "Spiegel": "But to be humiliated every day – that leaves its mark at some point."
DTB wants "immediate and independent" clarification
The German Gymnastics Federation (DTB) "condemns all forms of violence and distances itself from any training methods described in today’s issue of SPIEGEL," it said in a statement on Friday. If the allegations are confirmed, "this would in no way correspond to the values of the DTB and the framework conditions for responsible training".
The association takes the "allegations raised extremely seriously and will immediately have the facts in question independently clarified in order to then be able to decide on possible consequences". The trainer’s lawyer spoke to the "Spiegel" of a "multitude of untruths and baseless accusations".
Chicane for years
Schafer reported that she had been tortured for years. The training exceeded the limits of her physical and mental resilience. "Most of the time we didn’t dare to say if something was hurting us, because then it was said: pull yourself together, others can hold out too," said Schafer, who did gymnastics for Germany at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
Again and again she had to listen to hurtful sayings because of her figure, her weight. "Such remarks did not slip out of her, so she deliberately wanted to keep me down," said Schafer, speaking of "psychological terror". The pressure was so great that three other girls in the boarding school "even" scratched themselves for a while, "said Schafer – injuring themselves, possibly to relieve stress.
Schafer is not just anyone into gymnastics. She won seven German championship titles, bronze on the balance beam at the 2015 World Cup and gold two years later.
Accumulation of scandals
Recently, the scandals in gymnastics had accumulated, in the USA, England and Switzerland athletes reported abuses. This also gives Schafer and her colleagues the courage to go public and report on how they were allegedly treated or driven into eating disorders. "Many wounds have not yet healed," said Schafer, but her old trainer had "not managed to break me".