A top gymnastics coach has been banned from training without supervision amid allegations he abused girls as young as nine, dividing them into “fat” groups and forcing them to perform 10-minute handstands.
Qi Han has been the center of grievances for seven years alleging that he physically, emotionally and verbally harassed gymnasts who said they felt ‘brainwashed’ and suicidal as a result of his strategies.
Han, the owner of Everest Gymnastics in North Carolina, is accused of assigning extra workouts to gymnasts he considered “fat” while calling them stupid or unworthy of his attention.
The US Center for SafeSport announced this week that it was under training restrictions while it investigates allegations that it abused at least one of its athletes.
A card shown to the New York Times He said he is prohibited from interacting with gymnasts unsupervised, by phone, text or email.
Accuser Ashton Locklear films himself next to Qi Han in a resurfaced video from 2016. Locklear says Han emotionally abused her while he was her coach
Locklear hugs Han after competing in the 2016 US Olympic Gymnastics Trials
Han runs the Everest center with his wife Yiwen Chen. Both were members of the Chinese national gymnastics team.
The New York Times previously identified three of her accusers as Olympian Ashton Locklear, Taylor Laymon and gymnast-turned-dancer Allee George. Two other accusers remained anonymous.
On Friday, Locklear shared the article on his Instagram stories with the caption “the fact that he’s been a known abuser since 2012…healing.”
In another post, she appeared to share a private post by George who wrote: “I was never good enough for him.”
“I trained 30+ hours a week with him and won it all 3 years in a row and he still told me every day that I sucked, that I was horrible and that I would never amount to anything.
“He would be nice from time to time, and I think he’s the most amazing person there is.
“I always wanted to be the best I could be to impress him, so I hope he doesn’t yell at me or punish me.
Han has been accused of verbally, emotionally, and physically intimidating his gymnasts. Allee George says he would force her to do 10-minute handstands, which made her feel like her head would ‘explode with blood’
Han is pictured celebrating with gymnast Haleigh Bryant at a competition in 2018
“I’ll never forget the 10 minute handstands that made my head feel like it was going to explode with blood and if I fell over I had to start over.”
Locklear, now 25, captioned the post: ‘This is just one of many stories. Why did it take you so long to listen!?’
In a 2018 interview, Locklear said Han would yell at her during workouts, kick her out of the gym, and say things like “your face tells me you don’t want to be here.”
She alleges that she was forced to follow him around the gym for hours, crying and begging him to take her back.
On one occasion, she claims he threw a cell phone at her, while other reports say he pushed girls off high bars when he was on a raised platform. Han has repeatedly denied the allegations.
Locklear alleges that he then reported bad things about her to Martha Karolyi, the former national team coordinator.
“I was constantly saying that I was stupid and that I would tell Martha that I was bad and she would call me out on it,” he told the New York Times in 2018.
‘I had to walk on eggshells. That’s why athletes are afraid to show up. Coaches have this power over their athletes that keeps them scared and silent. I still feel like I’m terrified.
Video footage from a national championship competition in 2016 shows Locklear performing in a pink leotard with matching ribbons in her hair as Han watches.
Locklear, who was also the victim of sexually abusive gym coach Larry Nassar, retired from gymnastics in 2019.
Locklear told the New York Times in 2018 that Han would yell at her and make her follow him around the gym for hours, crying and begging for her forgiveness.
Gymnast Taylor Laymon also accused Han of bullying training techniques.
At one point he puts his arm around a visibly uncomfortable Locklear.
She says she chose to speak out against Han’s behavior following the national scandal involving American gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who was found guilty of abusing hundreds of girls and women.
Nassar is serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison and a 175-year sentence in Michigan State Prison after being convicted of child molestation and possession of child pornography.
Locklear, a two-time national champion on the uneven bars who retired in 2019, was also a victim of Nassar.
The case shed light on a dark part of national gymnastics that thrived in a culture of abuse and fear, inspiring young girls to speak out.
There have been no allegations of sexual misconduct against Han.
Instead, his accusers have focused on his allegedly demanding training style and verbal abuse.
George previously claimed that her behavior was so appalling that it led her to quit the gym.
“Han would brainwash you into thinking all his weird ways of disciplining you were normal, like stretching your shoulders past your breaking point until you screamed, but he still wouldn’t stop,” he said in 2018.
“Once you’re there, it’s hard to get out and it’s a little hard to explain.
‘The people he trains turn out to be good gymnasts. But they are not mentally good.
Locklear alleged that multiple reports had been filed against Han with USA Gymnastics or SafeSport.
However, all the queries remain unresolved, despite dating back years.
The reports against Han came to light after the Larry Nassar case in 2018. Nassar, a doctor for the Olympic gymnastics team, was accused by hundreds of women of sexual assault. No allegations of sexual abuse have been filed against Han.
The girls’ allegations were backed up by Monica Avery, owner and coach of OSEGA Dream Academy outside of Asheville, NC.
In 2016, he reported Han to USA Gymnastics after he saw him kick an athlete in Texas.
He told the Times this week that the “emotional damage that all these girls had to go through is so heartbreaking,” adding that Han should have been “stopped years ago.”
USA Gymnastics turned the case over to SafeSport for investigation.
A parent of a gymnast at Han’s gym previously told The Times they were afraid to speak out against her abuse because they feared it would prevent their daughter from receiving a gymnastics college scholarship.
Han grew up in China and before moving to the US, where he opened Everest Gym.
WhatsNew2Day.com has reached out to Everest Gym, USA Gymnastics and Safe Sport for comment.
Everest told the New York Times: “We do not tolerate any kind of abuse at our facilities.”
“If there are any credible allegations of abuse,” the statement said, “Everest Gymnastics encourages those parties to contact USA Gymnastics.”
Jill Geer, a spokeswoman for USA Gymnastics, said: “Handling cases properly and in a timely manner is in the best interest of everyone involved, from the affected parties to the sport itself.”
He added that the center was investigating the case, not USA Gymnastics.