Normally I try to avoid producing articles where the content is simply repeating what others have said on Twitter, but in this instance I’m doing exactly that. There were three Tweets regarding Li Li Leung which I felt were insights that were so well put, they needed to be seen by a larger audience. The Tweets were written in response to the following statement by Li Li Leung regarding the death of John Geddert. I’ve bolded the portion gymnastics fans are taking issue with. The statement itself was made as part of media days ahead of the 2021 Winter Cup.
“Like many of you, we had hoped that criminal charges brought against him would lead to some degree of resolution and justice. And also, like so many of you, we were then shocked to hear just hours later of his death by suicide. It goes without saying that this news brings up a lot of complex emotions for many in the community, particularly those he hurt and our thoughts are with them. And while I don’t want to downplay the seriousness of what occurred yesterday, we are here today to celebrate so many incredible, dedicated athletes competing on the national stage for the first time in over a year, and I want to make sure we keep the focus on them.“
The first Tweet was part of an exchange between two high profile gymnastics parents. Lynn Raisman is the mother of 2x Olympian Aly Raisman, whereas Katherine Dunne is the mother of Olivia Dunne. The NCAA gymnast who competes for LSU and has generated significant fame for herself thanks to her popular social media accounts.
The part of the conversation I want to highlight is Katherine Dunne saying:
“…is she actually trying to imply that victims speaking out are looking to take attention away from other athletes?”
Katherine Dunne is correctly pointing out that this statement can be interpreted as an attempt by Li Li Leung to drive wedge between survivors speaking out and current national team members. Thereby repeating a tactic that has been commonplace under previous USAG regimes. Lynn Raisman responded by calling it:
“Absolutely appalling and designed to silence victims and survivors.”
For those who don’t know the Pamchenkova Twitter account, you are missing out. At 5,000+ followers, it is arguably the best account on Twitter for gymnastics code of points analysis and highlight reels. I’d confidently call the person behind it one of the most insightful and intelligent contributors to the Gymternet. What Pamchenkova did was to point out the absurdity of Li Li Leung stating she wished the trial of John Geddert would bring survivors closure. What makes this so absurd is Li Li Leung is currently denying survivors that very same closure/justice by refusing to commit USAG to an independent investigation.
It is extremely hypocritical to tout the merits/benefits of working to find closure for abuse survivors, and openly advocating for that process to be played out, while at the same time stifling such a process within your own organization. The only saving grace of Li Li Leung’s opening statement was that she said the right things regarding accountability and closure, but did she actually mean it? Or is Li Li Leung simply pretending to care.
The last Tweet came from @giuliettadriver who pointed out that there are multiple gymnasts in this competition who had to upend their lives and change coaches in an Olympic year as a direct consequence of abusive coaching. Not only is dealing with an abusive coach part of their experiences, but for them the 2021 Winter Cup will be a defining moment of their athletic careers. It will mark a major step in their recovery process, and their debut under a new coach.
Yet Li Li Leung thinks we should avoid having a conversation on John Geddert and the implications of coaching abuse being a widespread problem in the sport that his story represents. Li Li Leung doesn’t want you to think about that. Instead, she wants you to “keep the focus” on the gymnasts and not have a conversation on abusive coaching. Ignoring that for two of them, they had to overcome abusive coaching just to get here.