Friday November 27, 2020
Pauline Schäfer is gymnastics world champion – and apparently a victim of the more than just questionable methods of her national coach. Injurious comments about weight were the order of the day, she says. In addition, drugs are said to have been administered without a doctor’s order.
Gymnastics star Pauline Schäfer had been harassed by her trainer for years, but when she decided to “no longer just be the little gymnastics robot”, it was “particularly bad”. At least that’s what the former balance beam world champion says in “Spiegel”. The 23-year-old says she is tired of being silent. Together with five other gymnasts, Schäfer is making serious allegations against a trainer at the federal base in Chemnitz.
It is 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, Schäfer told Spiegel: “But being humiliated every day – that leaves its mark at some point.”
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. 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 “allegations raised are taken extremely seriously and the facts in question will immediately be clarified independently in order to then be able to decide on possible consequences”.
The list of scandals in gymnastics
The trainer’s lawyer spoke to Spiegel about a “multitude of untruths and baseless allegations”. Schäfer 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 Schäfer, 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, with that she wanted to deliberately keep me down,” said Schäfer, speaking of “psychological terror”. The pressure was so great that three other girls in the boarding school “even” scratched themselves “for a while,” said Schäfer – injuring themselves, possibly to reduce stress.
Schäfer 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. Recently, the scandals in gymnastics had accumulated, in the USA, England and Switzerland athletes reported abuses. This also gives Schäfer and her colleagues the courage to go public and report on how they were allegedly treated or driven into eating disorders. “A lot of the wounds haven’t healed yet,” said Schäfer, but her old trainer “didn’t manage to break me.”