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Gymnastics coaches apologize after abuse probe in Belgium

April 16, 2021 GMT

BRUSSELS (AP) — Two elite gymnastics coaches apologized Friday after an independent commission in Belgium concluded that athletes were exposed to abuse within the Flemish federation.

The commission was set up after accusations surfaced last summer. It said the federation, known as Gymfed, was aware of athletes’ complaints and did not do enough to tackle them.

“The gymnasts felt that their complaints were not heard. The pursuit of performance was prioritized, to the detriment of athletes,” Bart Meganck, the chairman of the commission, was quoted as saying by local media.

Last year, the Flemish body said it had made significant efforts since 2016 to develop a more respectful collaboration between athletes and coaches. But some gymnasts said serious problems remained as highly successful French coaches Yves Kieffer and Marjorie Heuls faced bullying accusations.

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“We recognize that our approach was perceived as psychologically transgressive, and we realize that some gymnasts were deeply hurt as a result,” Kieffer and Heuls said in a statement. “We regret that.”

The two coaches have received the support of double world champion Nina Derwael, who trains under their guidance.

The Flemish federation acknowledged that “mistakes were made.”

“Our job is to ensure that the mental and physical well-being of gymnasts is guaranteed at all times,” the federation said in a statement. “We have not always succeeded in that. We failed there.”

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