In what will be an unusual arrangement, rather than being led by a single coach, USA Gymnastics has instead decided to divide the top coaching role for its women’s gymnastics team into three separate roles. One of those roles will be filled by Chellsie Memmel.
For most gymnastics fans, they are under the belief that Chellsie Memmel is the perfect choice for such a role. She is widely viewed as a gymnastics figure with no past problematic behavior. The perceived lack of a troublesome past is what made her an ideal candidate.
This article is to remind gymnastics fans that this narrative is simply not true.
Back in 2021 Chellsie Memmel was caught up in a controversy where her name and likeness was used to promote a gymnastics club with major abuse allegations. The club in question was Legacy Elite Gymnastics which fans know as the gym coached by Wu Jiani and her daughter Anna Li. Both are former gymnasts who had highly successful careers and are veterans of major international competition.
Legacy Elite Gymnastics currently has more than 30 complaints that have been filed with SafeSport and these allegations have been known to the general public via media reports since the Summer of 2019. The allegations forced the resignation of Anna Li in early August of 2019 from her post on USA Gymnastics’ athlete council.
This chain of events was a major incident at the time and virtually all gymnastics fans are familiar with this particular story. The scandal is still ongoing with SafeSport reportedly conducting investigations as recently as Fall 2021 and it remains to be seen precisely how these events will end.
The connection to Chellsie Memmel pertains to an episode from April 8, 2021 when Scott M. Reid reported a story on Legacy Elite Gymnastics hosting a camp that cost $600 per each gymnast attending. In order to encourage parents to sign up (and pay) for this camp, the central attraction was the participation of numerous coaches representing various NCAA programs.
The outcry that NCAA programs were empowering and promoting one of the most notorious clubs in the country caused enough controversy for most college teams to pull their support. But in the same article that highlighted the issue of NCAA programs aligning with a gymnastics club embroiled in SafeSport allegations, it was also noted that Legacy Elite Gymnastics had another camp in the works.
Rather than being aligned with NCAA coaches, it would be headlined by Chellsie Memmel.
In April of 2021 Chellsie Memmel was at the peak of her popularity as she was engaging in a legendary Tokyo Olympics comeback attempt. Memmel had achieved significant media attention for herself, was one of the most talked about athletes in the sport, and one of the most valuable figures any club could hope to align with as a way to draw greater attendance figures for their camp.
Chellsie Memmel having one of the largest and most influential brands of any athlete is what made it so egregious that she put her support behind a gymnastics club with SafeSport allegations. Paradoxically, Chellsie Memmel having a large brand and being such a respected figure is what spared her criticism over her association with Legacy Elite Gymnastics.
Memmel not only was on the flier as part of the 2021 edition of this camp, but she also participated in the 2020 edition of this camp. Legacy Elite Gymnastics posted a photo of her in attendance and thanked her for coming on their Facebook page. The Safesport allegations were public knowledge in 2019.
Back in 2021 Scott M. Reid wrote about this, I shared the story to my social media account noting the mention of Memmel’s involvement. But few wanted to like, share, or retweet a scandal that killed what was a great feel good story. Chellsie Memmel was a mother in her early 30s making a successful comeback in a sport ruled by teenagers and young 20 year olds. The positive attributes of her story made few fans want to damper it with tales of ugly behavior.
But now Chellsie Memmel is formally affiliated with USA Gymnastics and is in a position of power over child athletes. It is incomprehensible that an incoming program lead for the women’s program was aligned with one of the most infamous gymnastics clubs with 30 SafeSport complaints to its name. And this connection came as recently as last year when said allegations were ongoing and public knowledge.
If it was anyone else, the gymnastics community would immediately be in uproar over this. Which is why I implore the gymnastics fanbase to not let history repeat itself by ignoring the story in 2022 as it did in 2021.
You can not have a program lead who treats 30 complaints of SafeSport allegations as inconsequential. In an era where a new culture is being built and we are trying to set up an environment where gymnasts feel they can trust the USAG figureheads and safely approach them with allegations of misconduct, having a program lead like Chellsie Memmel with a recent past history of expressing disregard for the severity of SafeSport allegations on her record directly contradicts that.
Below are the last four paragraphs from Scott M. Reid’s article from from April 8, 2021:
But the scandal finally seemed to catch up to the gym this week. Legacy had been actively promoting “beLIeve College Camp,” which the gym said would feature some of the nation’s top college coaches in early July. A flier for the event under Legacy’s logo, the Olympic rings, multiple university logos and mascots, and the slogan “Where Success & Fun Is One!” said the camp is “Featuring College Clinicians from” UCLA, Cal, Florida, Washington, Michigan State, Utah State, Towson and Northern Illinois.
For a $600 fee, gymnasts will train for two days with the coaches and participate in a question-and-answer session with the college coaches, according to the flier.
But on Friday Legacy removed all references to the colleges after at least five schools including UCLA, Li’s alma mater, told SCNG their coaches or representatives would not be attending the camp.
Legacy is also promoting an elite performance camp at the gym in July featuring Chellsie Memmel, the 2005 World individual all-around champion. Memmel is also a judge certified by the FIG, the sport’s international governing body.
Memmel did not respond to a request for comment.