Australian gymnast reveals that coaches almost drove her to suicide, while others proclaim ‘toxic abuse’
A former Australian gymnast has revealed how violent coaching almost led her to take her own life when she joined fellow athletes to evoke a ‘toxic’ culture in the sport.
Chloe Gilliland, now 29, said her coaches repeatedly told her she was ‘stupid’ and ‘overweight’ because she was fighting bulimia and anxiety.
She is one of more than 20 ex-gymnasts who have taken to social media in recent days to describe the emotional and physical abuse they sustained after their sporting dreams.
At the age of 15, Gilliland, then known as Chloe Sims, won a gold medal at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, but said by the time she was 17 she considered suicide.
Chloe Gilliland imagined how she won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2016. She has said that sports abuse almost led her to take her own life
Ms. Gilliland said in an emotional Facebook post (photo) that her coaches repeatedly told her she was ‘stupid’ or ‘overweight’
Gilliland (pictured left) won a gold medal at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games at the age of 15
“I felt it was easier to end my own life than to give in to what they wanted me to be,” Gilliland said in an emotionally charged Facebook post.
“They never called me ‘fat’, but commented that I was ‘overweight’, so I repeatedly couldn’t get through my bar routine or the reason behind my stress injuries.”
She claimed that coaches told her she was “overweight” and a “danger to her own body.”
Many of those who shared their experiences said they did in response to the Netflix documentary Athlete A, which premiered last month.
The program documented the crimes committed by Team USA physician Larry Nassar – who was sentenced to 175 years in prison in 2018 for harassing young athletes at a training center in Michigan.
None of the athletes who have shared their stories, many of which have been posted using the hashtag #gymnastalliance, have made allegations of sexual abuse against the coaching staff.
But Mary-Anne Monckton, a silver medalist at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, wrote on Monday that the documentary brought back painful memories so deeply that she hoped they “ would never surface again. ”
Gilliland (pictured during the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games) said she was considering committing suicide
“I, like so many others, have suffered from body shaming, withheld food, yelled at me until I cried (even as an adult athlete, which is downright embarrassing), and been manipulated and ‘forced’ to do things which I was not physically ready for or able to do, which ultimately led to career-ending injuries, ‘she wrote.
“For anyone reading this and wondering why these things keep happening and why gymnasts don’t talk about problems when they have them, it’s because in the end it will ‘hurt’ them more than anyone.”
Another 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medalist, Olivia Vivian, said her top-level country representation had left her a “broken athlete and a broken person.”
“I loved this sport so much,” she wrote.
Polish-Australian gymnast Livia Giles also claimed that she did not get food and water in training camps and said she was ‘ugly’ because she started developing hips and breasts.
During her time as a gymnast, Georgia Bonora (photo, center) spoke of a ‘culture of fear created by people in power’
Many athletes have posted using the hashtag #gymnastalliance to stand up to gym abuse
Former Australian gymnast Mary-Anne Monckton (photo, left) wrote the Netflix documentary – discussing the sexual abuse of young gymnasts by Team USA
Georgia Bonora, who represented Australian gymnastics at the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, said her experience with the sport was marked by a “ culture of fear created by people in power. ”
As former athletes hit the social media by the dozen to tell their harrowing stories, Kitty Chiller, CEO of Gymnastics Australia, wrote in an open letter that the body had now set up ‘a robust and confidential complaints procedure’ to report claims of abuse.
“We are aware of the recent conversations about the culture of gymnastics after the release of the documentary Athlete A,” she said.
“We recognize and applaud those who have spoken – their courage and their voice.
“We see the passion people have for the great things about our sport and we are grateful to all of you for helping us make our sport as safe and supportive as possible in the future.”