Laurie Hernandez gave her first TV interview, while former coach Maggie Haney offered her first public comments, after Haney was banned eight years after verbal and emotional abuse of gymnasts.
“It’s a really big step for gymnasts and USA Gymnastics just to go ahead and do the right thing and make sure people know that kind of treatment isn’t OK. It’s not OK,” Hernandez said on TODAY on Monday while promoting the “Stronger than you think” initiative to help teens through mental health.
Hernandez said that the process that ended up suspending Haney took too long, about three and a half years after she first told her mom.
“I mean, the case was opened late 2019/early 2020,” she said. “In all that time, they could have prevented a lot of athletes from having to go through the same thing that I went through, but I’m just glad that we were able to do something about it.”
Haney, who coached Hernandez to Olympic gold and silver medals in Rio, issued a statement.
“My coaching techniques were at all times, well-intended; meant specifically to lead her to her personal goal of achieving Olympic gold,” Haney said, according to TODAY. “If the pursuit of excellence and the rigor of my coaching style has resulted in any harm to any gymnast that has been a part of my team, I am truly sorry.”
USA Gymnastics CEO Li Li Leung said the organization vows to do better.
“To respond more empathically, to resolve complaints more efficiently, and to be more vigilant,” she said in a statement last week. “We will keep improving this process until our athletes and our community can trust it. And we will keep working with our community to improve the culture within our sport, so that abuse like this is no longer tolerated.”
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Olympian @LaurieHernandez talks to us about overcoming mental abuse in the gymnastic world and how she's using her experience to help teens with mental health through #STYT. pic.twitter.com/zC8YqJywVP
— 3rd Hour of TODAY (@3rdHourTODAY) May 18, 2020