Warning: Comprises descriptions of abuse and self-harm.
The U.S. Middle for SafeSport has quickly barred U.S. Olympic pairs determine skating coach Dalilah Sappenfield from having any contact with a dozen determine skaters and from teaching different athletes with out one other grownup current to oversee whereas it continues an investigation into allegations of misconduct.
Sappenfield, winner of the 2008 Skilled Skaters Affiliation/U.S. Determine Skating coach of the 12 months award, coached three-time nationwide champions Alexa and Chris Knierim on the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, the place they completed fifteenth within the pairs competitors and received a staff bronze medal.
She was the coach and good pal of John Coughlin, the two-time national pairs champion who died by suicide at 33 on Jan. 18, 2019, someday after he obtained an interim suspension from SafeSport due to three allegations of sexual abuse.
One of many skaters whom Sappenfield, 50, is prohibited from contacting, 2016 U.S. pairs champion Tarah Kayne, advised USA TODAY Sports activities about a number of allegations she reported to a SafeSport investigator, together with one through which the coach’s fixed verbal abuse, full of sexual feedback, led her to chop her left wrist with a razor blade in the summertime of 2019 in her dorm room on the U.S. Olympic Coaching Middle in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“She was consistently speaking about intercourse, about who I used to be courting, about my intercourse life,” mentioned Kayne, 28, who lately retired from aggressive skating. “It was utterly inappropriate, however that’s what Dalilah does. She makes use of gossip from different skaters within the rink in opposition to you. She knew I used to be fighting my psychological well being, however as an alternative of serving to me, she selected to make enjoyable of me. She even went to different skaters and advised them about it, calling me names and asking the fellows why anybody would need to date me.”
When requested for remark, Sappenfield texted USA TODAY Sports activities on Thursday night time, “Thanks for reaching out to me. Right now I’ve no remark.”
Kayne mentioned Sappenfield referred to as her on the telephone one night time in July 2019 and threatened that she would lose her partnership with Danny O’Shea, with whom she received the 2016 nationwide title, “not due to my talent set, she mentioned, however due to the type of individual I used to be,” Kayne mentioned.
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That was the night time Kayne mentioned she minimize her wrist. As she began to bleed profusely, she mentioned she went to O’Shea’s room within the dorm to ask for assist. Kayne feared a visit to the emergency room would additional anger Sappenfield, so she and O’Shea used tremendous glue to carry her pores and skin collectively, Kayne mentioned.
“In my head, I believed I used to be going to die,” Kayne mentioned, “however I used to be afraid to go to the hospital as a result of I didn’t need Dalilah to find out about any of this.”
Over the following couple of weeks, Kayne mentioned that she tried to cover the scar by sporting lengthy sleeves and wrapping her wrists with athletic tape throughout her follow periods with Sappenfield.
However the coach discovered and as an alternative of worrying about her well-being, Kayne mentioned, Sappenfield pulled her apart whereas on the ice in a follow session and mentioned, abruptly, “Why don’t you simply exit and (expletive) the complete males’s gymnastics staff?”
Like Kayne, the U.S. males’s gymnastics staff additionally was working towards and residing within the Olympic Coaching Middle.
Kayne additionally mentioned that within the remaining months she was coached by Sappenfield, in the summertime of 2020, Sappenfield forbade her from talking on the ice, shutting her out and talking solely to O’Shea, regardless that all of them had been on the ice collectively, typically only a few inches aside.
“She advised me to not converse, that I ought to stay silent,” Kayne mentioned. “This made me very tense and anxious so I might maintain my fingers down by my waist, cupped collectively, left hand over proper, and I might take my proper hand and dig my fingernails into my left wrist and would make myself bleed on a regular basis. Then I might go to the toilet to attempt to relax earlier than going again to the ice.”
By way of textual content message, O’Shea mentioned, “I assist Tarah in each method, as I did whereas we had been companions for 9 years. Tarah is a powerful lady and I’m happy with her for coming ahead and hope that her power is a beacon for others. Collectively we selected to go away a coaching setting that had change into unhealthy for us. I stand by Tarah, and I assist SafeSport and their ongoing investigations.”
O’Shea, 30, is competing this season with a brand new accomplice and new coaches in Southern California.
Kayne mentioned she had deliberate to proceed skating with O’Shea by means of the 2022 Winter Olympic 12 months.
“However that each one modified due to Dalilah,” she mentioned. “These terrible experiences pressured me out of the game I really like. Dalilah mentioned a number of instances that she needed to finish my profession, and he or she succeeded.”
As an alternative, Kayne will likely be touring with a skating present in Europe beginning in November.
Kayne’s mom, Maria Kayne, advised USA TODAY Sports activities that she mentioned all the incidents along with her daughter across the time she mentioned they occurred. USA TODAY Sports activities has additionally reviewed pictures of Kayne’s wrist taken on the time of her harm.
SafeSport opened in March 2017 to analyze and resolve allegations of bodily, emotional and sexual abuse in Olympic sports activities. On Sept. 3, it issued momentary measures in opposition to Sappenfield, together with a no-contact directive prohibiting her from contacting in any method the dozen skaters or their rapid households, a ban on touring with a minor athlete with out different adults within the rapid journey social gathering and a requirement that one other grownup have to be current to instantly supervise when she is teaching athletes.
Aside from itemizing the momentary measures on its web site, SafeSport wouldn’t focus on the standing of its investigation of Sappenfield.
“The Middle doesn’t touch upon issues to guard the integrity of the method and the events concerned,” spokesman Dan Hill mentioned Wednesday.