USA Gymnastics

USA Gymnastics Board: Schwikert Moser selected by Survivors’ Committee

Former gymnast Tasha Schwikert Moser during the Parade of Olympians Celebration at SAP Center.
Kyle Terada USA TODAY Sports
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Tasha Schwikert Moser knew she had a choice.

The 2000 Olympian could continue to work on the outside while attempting to hold USA Gymnastics accountable as it tries to emerge from the rubble of the Larry Nassar scandal. Or she could leap into the void and take her advocacy for the survivors of sexual abuse committed by the former national team doctor — a group that includes Schwikert Moser and her sister, Jordan — to the front lines.

It turned out not to be much of a choice at all.

When the legal settlement between the embattled organization and hundreds of plaintiffs mandated the creation of a dedicated seat on the USA Gymnastics board of directors for a Nassar survivor, Schwikert Moser found her hand metaphorically thrust in the air almost out of reflex.

It’s the least the 37-year-old mother of three could do if she wants to save a sport she loves dearly, even if it means becoming an overseer for an organization she and her sister sued in 2018 for not taking sexual abuse allegations seriously or maintaining a culture of accountability and transparency.

Schwikert Moser’s four-year term began Wednesday. She enters the position with some serious skepticism that the sport’s national governing body can make the changes she believes are necessary. And she’s aware her decision to join the board will raise eyebrows.

“I know some people would say: ‘You shouldn’t care. The organization has been so horrible to gymnasts in your generation, why should you care?'”  Schwikert Moser told The Associated Press. “But someone’s got to care, right?”

Schwikert Moser, who now works for a Dallas-based law firm, feels her experience as an athlete, her legal background and her passion for a sport that carried her to the 2000 Olympics and a pair of NCAA all-around titles have provided her with a skill set that makes her uniquely qualified to keep USA Gymnastics accountable.

“I think I have the tools necessary to make an impact,” she said, adding that her goal is to become “a check and balance on all the decisions made going forward.”

USA Gymnastics has undergone sweeping leadership changes over the last five years, including a restructuring atop the women’s national team program. The old model in which one person served as the program’s high-performance director was blown up this spring. The new paradigm split the position into three equitable positions: a developmental lead, a strategic lead and a technical lead.

Olympic medalists Alicia Sacramone Quinn (strategic lead) and Chellsie Memmel (technical lead) assumed the new roles last week, with Dan Baker taking over as developmental lead.

“To have that position filled by one person, that one person has got to be a unicorn,” Schwikert Moser said. “Given the climate of the sport, that person doesn’t exist. I think it’s better to have a three-person panel, so I think that change from a policy, an outline (from) the position perspective, I think that’s a smart change.”

Still, Schwikert Moser took issue with the decision not to hire Olympic gold medalist Dominique Moceanu for the strategic lead. Moceanu, who raised alarms about abusive coaching practices she experienced at the hands of former national team leaders Bela and Martha Karolyi, has been a staunch advocate for Nassar survivors for years.

While Schwikert Moser stressed she had no issue with any of the hires personally, she called the decision to pass on Moceanu a missed opportunity.

“I believe hiring her would have made a huge statement (because) we have someone here who has been so publicly supportive of the survivors,” she said.

Schwikert Moser noted she was not part of the decision-making process, which hints at one of the major issues she sees USA Gymnastics facing as it tries to plot a new course.

“I think the line of communication between the organization and the community has been so poor,” she said. “I just feel like everything has been so secretive or we can’t talk about this or talk about that.”

USA Gymnastics spokesperson Jill Geer said Thursday the organization was “fortunate to have many strong candidates,” adding that USA Gymnastics reached out to Moceanu last week about “potentially discussing ways we might work together to continue to advance the women’s artistic program.”

Schwikert Moser wants USA Gymnastics to make transparency a priority as it tries to re-establish trust within the gymnastics community.

“Let’s be proactive instead of reactive,” she said.

USA Gymnastics board chair Kathryn Carson called having someone with Schwikert Moser’s background a “tremendous addition to our board” and “critically important to ensuring sustained cultural change at USA Gymnastics.”

A change Schwikert Moser is adamant about seeing through. Despite the personal trauma she went through, she remains passionate about the sport that made her a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic team. She knows what vital roles gyms throughout the country play in the physical, emotional and mental development of tens of thousands of young athletes, from the toddlers in tumbling to those who dream of competing under the Olympic rings.

It’s those athletes she had in mind when she agreed to join the board. She can’t change the past. Neither can USA Gymnastics. The future, however, is another matter.

“I just want to make sure athletes are safe, children are safe, our current and future generation are safe and they have an organization that is doing right by them and the athlete’s interest is the No. 1 priority,” she said.

She remains concerned about coaches who have not changed their philosophy to become more athlete-centric. She said eating disorders produced by coaches who either directly or indirectly body shame gymnasts are “the elephant in the room.”

“If we have coaches who think winning is the only thing that matters and that the well-being of the whole person, if we’re not concerned about that, they need to go,” she said. “You need to get on the train that’s going in the right direction or you’ve got to get off. If that means a lot of coaches leave the sport? I don’t care. We’re not going to keep ruining and destroying the lives of young athletes.”

Alicia Sacramone Quinn, Chellsie Memmel to lead USA Gymnastics women’s program

Olympics Day 2 - Artistic Gymnastics
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USA Gymnastics is turning to two of its most-decorated athletes to help guide its women’s elite program.

Alicia Sacramone Quinn and Chellsie Memmel, teammates on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team that earned silver in Beijing, are part of the new leadership paradigm within the organization.

Memmel, the 2005 world champion, will be the technical lead for the women’s program. Sacramone, a 10-time world championship medalist, will serve as the program’s strategic lead. They will be joined in the new system by Dan Baker, who will transition from the elite team women’s developmental coordinator to the developmental lead.

All three will begin their new positions on June 1.

The technical, strategic and developmental lead positions were established in March following the resignation of high-performance director Tom Forster, who stepped down last November after leading the U.S. women to gold at the 2018 and 2019 world championships and silver at the Tokyo Olympics.

USA Gymnastics Chief Programs Officer Stefanie Korepin said the organization wanted to get away from a model that left the perception — be it real or perceived — that one person was in charge of the elite program.

Memmel, who retired in 2012 but made a surprising comeback last year at age 32 to compete in the 2021 national championships, “will direct training and skill development at National Team camps and clinics and will travel to clubs around the country to help facilitate streamlined implementation of the program’s high performance strategy,” according to USA Gymnastics.

Sacramone Quinn, the captain of the 2008 Olympic team, will focus on the program as a whole and the overarching strategy for women’s national team.

“I look forward to building personal relationships with all of our National Team athletes and coaches and continuing to cultivate a culture of excellence, where we build up our athletes physically, mentally and emotionally,” Sacramone Quinn said in a statement.

Sacramone Quinn has worked with USA Gymnastics in various capacities since her retirement in 2013. She was on USA Gymnastics’ TOPS development staff from 2013-2014 and served as the head coach of TAG USA Gymnastics & Trampoline from 2014-2018. She has worked as a TV analyst for ESPN since 2015 among other ventures.

Baker, head coach at Stars Gymnastics Training Center in Houston, has been a fixture in the elite world for more than 20 years.

Nassar survivors reach $380 million settlement with USA Gymnastics, USOPC

US Gymnasts Testify As Senate Examines FBI's Handling Of Larry Nassar Investigation
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The legal wrangling between USA Gymnastics and the hundreds of victims of sexual abuse by former national team doctor Larry Nassar, among others, is over after a $380 million settlement was reached.

The fight for substantive change within the sport’s national governing body is just beginning.

A federal bankruptcy court in Indianapolis on Monday approved the agreement between USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the more than 500 victims, ending one aspect of the fallout of the largest sexual abuse scandal in the history of the U.S. Olympic movement.

Over 90% of the victims voted in favor of the tentative settlement reached in September. That agreement called for $425 million in damages, but a modified settlement of $380 million was conditionally approved by the court. More than 300 victims were abused by Nassar, with the remaining victims abused by individuals affiliated with USA Gymnastics in some capacity.

The financial reckoning is just one part of the equation. A series of nonmonetary provisions will make the victims stakeholders at USA Gymnastics going forward. The provisions include a dedicated seat on the organization’s Safe Sport Committee, Athlete Health and Wellness Council and board of directors, as well as a thorough look at the culture and practices within USA Gymnastics that allowed abusers like Nassar to run unchecked for years.

“Individually and collectively, survivors have stepped forward with bravery to advocate for enduring change in this sport,” USA Gymnastics president Li Li Leung said in a statement after the settlement was approved. “We are committed to working with them, and with the entire gymnastics community, to ensure that we continue to prioritize the safety, health and wellness of our athletes and community above all else.”

Hundreds of girls and women have said Nassar sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment when he worked for Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians, and a Michigan gym that’s a USA Gymnastics member.

RELATED: Biles, Raisman, Maroney, and Nichols testify on FBI’s Nassar investigation

He pleaded guilty in federal court to child pornography crimes before pleading guilty in state court to sexually assaulting female gymnasts. He was sentenced in 2018 to 40 to 175 years in prison.

Rachael Denhollander, who in the fall of 2016 was the first woman to come forward to detail sexual abuse at the hands of Nassar, said the provisions were a pivotal part of the mediation process.

“It’s not about money, it’s about change,” Denhollander told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “It’s about an accurate assessment of what went wrong so that it is safer for the next generation.”

Denhollander has been one of the most outspoken Nassar victims from the outset of the scandal. She said it was important to move past the legal proceedings so women can move forward with their lives and get the help they need.

“The frank reality is the longer this goes on, the more difficult it is for survivors,” she said. “So many of these women, they can’t access medical care without a settlement. We had to balance that reality with the length of time it was taking. We felt it was in the best interest of everyone to accept this settlement … so that survivors would receive some semblance of justice.”

Denhollander pointed out some of the medical care required is not covered by certain types of insurance. The settlement will ease part of the financial burden.

The settlement comes nearly four years after an emotional sentencing hearing in Michigan in which hundreds of women detailed their experiences with Nassar and the toll it took on their lives.

USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland said the organization — which is paying $34 million of its own money and $73 million more from insurers toward the settlement — recognizes its role in “failing to protect these athletes, and we are sorry for the profound hurt they have endured.”

Denhollander described the five-plus years from when she first approached reporters at The Indianapolis Star to Monday as “hellish.”

“It’s been hellish for all of us,” she said. “To have to push for so long for the right things to take place, to have to push for so long to have justice happen … it should have never taken five years.”

USA Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy in December 2018 in an effort to consolidate the various lawsuits filed against it. The move also forced the USOPC to halt the decertification process it began against USA Gymnastics.

The organization has undergone a massive leadership overhaul in the interim and revamped its health and safety policies. The settlement will allow it to continue as the sport’s national governing body, though Denhollander stressed that USA Gymnastics has not gone far enough, which is why the involvement of the victims going forward is so significant.

“We need to see for ourselves what reform is taking place,” she said. “The ability to do that provides a level of accountability that hasn’t been in place up until now.”