USA Gymnastics has seen better days lately. Despite having a record year in 2016 at the Olympic Games when they won 12 medals, the organization is in trouble. With the team’s former doctor sentenced to prison, questions have come to light about the program.
Now USA gymnastics is under scrutiny and many wonder about its practices over years, which came about through gymnasts’ accusations. While the supposed harsh training methods often result in success at the Olympics, it appears to be taking a toll on athletes.
We‘re going to look at secrets USA gymnastics would want to keep under wraps that they can’t keep hidden forever due to recent revelations from the gymnasts themselves (usagym.org).
20 They Tried To Shush Up Their Athletes
There may be a reason for why so many points on this list have remained unknown for years; it may have to do with the organization wanting to keep things on the down-low.
According to NBC News, when gymnasts raised concerns over the team doctor, the organization purportedly kept them from going to law enforcement.
19 Some Get Permanently Bruised Feet
There’s a physical toll that can result from training as a US gymnast. For example, having permanently bruised feet—reports The Guardian—is one ailment that can plague gymnasts even after they've hung up the towel.
That’s just one problem former US gymnast Jennifer Sey and others have had to deal with.
18 They Trained With Injuries Against Their Will
If gymnasts ever had an injury while training, their situation could get a lot worse. NBC News reports that gymnasts claimed the Karolyis made them continue training even if they had an injury.
While it’s ideal for an athlete to rest and recover after an injury, the Karolyis supposedly took a different approach that doesn't bode well for USA Gymnastics’ image.
17 The Demanding Training Conditions At The Karolyi Ranch
USA gymnastics arguably wouldn’t have its history of success without the Karolyis. The coaching duo trains gymnasts at what’s dubbed the Karolyi ranch in a forest outside of Houston.
There, athletes have to live, breathe and sleep gymnastics while working alongside others with hopes of fulfilling their Olympic dreams (NBC News).
16 Coaches Spoke Profanely Towards Gymnasts
Gymnasts spilled the beans on their intense training, even claiming that the coaches wouldn’t use nice words to get their point across.
In a report by NBC News, lawsuits brought forth by gymnasts state that the Karolyis swore at them. As per the same source, McKayla Maroney once said of Martha Karolyi, “She just said horrible things to me.”
15 Many Gymnasts Have Eating Disorders
One of the outcomes of competing, according to Jennifer Sey—a former US gymnast—are the disorders that can develop.
With weight and diet being a major component to gymnastics, Sey notes in her book “Chalked Up” that many come out of the sport with eating disorders. Many gymnasts still pay the price of competing long after they leave the sport (The Guardian).
14 The Coaches Go Into Their Rooms And Confiscate Snacks
From certain reports by US gymnasts, it sounds like the Karolyis played a bigger role in athletes’ lives beyond just training. According to The Detroit News, they would even go into the girls’ rooms and confiscate any food they kept there.
The same source notes that these reports emerged out of recent lawsuits.
13 Gymnasts Face Lots Of Pressure
A lot rides on how well gymnasts perform. They’ve spent a majority of their lives preparing for only so many events and competitions.
Time, money and reputation are all at stake. That explains why the organization’s culture—at least according to its gymnasts—can be intense and difficult to train in (NBC News).
12 They Splurge On Desserts After The Olympics
It may not seem like a big deal to the average individual who’s free to eat sweets on a daily basis to their heart’s content, but US gymnasts don't have the same luxury. Since they tend to eat healthy to maintain their peak shape, they don’t get to indulge as much.
After the Olympics, however, it’s a different story, as US gymnast Aly Raisman claims to “splurge” on sweets once the games wrap (YouTube channel WebMD).
11 They Spent Days Apart From Their Parents Training Hard
Those selected to train at the Karolyi ranch get taken out of their comfort zones. They don’t have distractions or even family and friends to keep them company.
According to NBC News, they often have intense training at the ranch for multiple days at a time. Their parents aren’t even there to help them get through the severe training.
10 Some Gymnasts Become Crippled
Illnesses aren’t the only possible consequences of being a gymnast. With athletes going through demanding training that pushes their bodies to the limit, many come out of it with debilitating scars.
According to The Guardian, former gymnast Jennifer Sey in her book, “Chalked Up,” she reports on gymnasts who became crippled years after.
9 Gymnasts Call The Karolyi Ranch “Torture Camp”
Those who have gone through training at the ranch don’t have the nicest things to say about it. In a quote provided by NBC News, McKayla Maroney said, “Me and the girls used to call it torture camp.”
That alone speaks volumes to the extent at which coaches push athletes there.
8 Athletes Didn’t Speak Up About Conditions For Fear Of Getting Cut From The Team
The harsh training that many athletes went through put them in a tough spot. Many wanted to speak up about how tough it was while training but were ultimately scared to do so.
They didn’t want the coaches to cut them for speaking poorly of program, its methods or the conditions (NBC News).
7 Gymnasts Fixate On Their Weight
In any sport where an athlete’s weight is crucial, such as in boxing, wrestling or gymnastics, it can take a toll on the athlete. In watching their weight, they can become too focused on their diet, eating and shedding pounds.
According to former US gymnast Jennifer Sey, in a report by The Guardian, some become consumed with losing weight.
6 Coaches Manage Gymnasts' Eating
Part of being a gymnast is monitoring weight and keeping track of what one eats. Not only have gymnasts complained about the food at the Karolyi ranch, but they also claim the coaching duo played a role in monitoring what they ate.
Even the amount of food a gymnast eats is all scrutinized, which made for less than ideal conditions there (NBC News).
5 Gymnasts Can Develop Mental Problems
The long-term damage many gymnasts claim to inherit after being a gymnast isn’t limited to physical ailments alone. In a piece by The Guardian, former gymnast Jennifer Sey alluded to some experiencing psychological issues.
She wrote about this and other issues they face in her book “Chalked Up,” which details her and others' experiences as US gymnasts.
4 They Kept A Gymnast To 800 Calories...Per Day
Even a US gymnast’s weight was closely watched, according to recent lawsuits against the organization. In addition to working out, in a report by The Detroit News, one gymnast couldn’t exceed 800 calories when it came to what they ate.
This claim sheds light on the rigid lifestyle gymnasts have had to live through.
3 Gymnasts Are Veterans Of The Sport At Twenty
There’s only a brief window of time for gymnasts to be on top, at least according to Jennifer Sey.
She’s a former US gymnast who reports, as per a piece by The Guardian, that gymnasts tend to be on the decline by the time they reach just twenty years old.
2 Training Comes At An Emotional Cost
Training as a gymnast takes a physical toll, but there’s another component that affects many. In a report by NBC News, many gymnasts admit that being a gymnast also has an emotional impact that’s not often visible on the surface.
Supposedly they trace it back to the rigorous demands the trainers expect of gymnasts.
1 Some Develop Premature Arthritis Years Later
Former US gymnast Jennifer Sey is living proof of consequences that can result from the sport's demands.
The Guardian reports that Sey herself developed premature arthritis as a result of competing in gymnastics. Sey’s book remains eye-opening for many who are both on the inside and outside of the sport.
Sources: usagym.org, NBC News, The Guardian, YouTube, The Detroit News