Photo: MARC HERREMANS -VUM
ALSO READ.Ex-coach of Aagje Vanwalleghem: “I abused and humiliated young gymnasts”
Vanwalleghem, 32, worked with Beltman for several years during her career. “In my last years, there was still hammering on excess weight,” she explained at VTM News. “We trained for four hours on Sunday. Then I went to the sauna for an hour and a half beforehand, so that I would certainly not have too much weight recorded on the scales. I then started my training completely dehydrated, to satisfy my trainer. ”
During those training sessions, according to Vanwalleghem, there was often abuse. “Just before the 2004 Olympics, he sent me to the dressing room, shouting at me, ‘Fat cow,’” she tells about Beltman in the VRT News. Vanwalleghem was barely 16 years old at the time. “I sat down on the sofa. He stood against the wall with his two hands and his face near me. He clenched his fist and lunged right next to my face. He told me I was a terribly bad person. That does something to someone who is still relatively young. ”
“I’ve forgiven him, especially for openly apologizing for himself. I think that shows a lot of respect, ”says Vanwalleghem, who claims that there is still psychological abuse today. “There are many other coaches who are currently in the field who know well enough that they act just like Gerrit. Hopefully the federation realizes that they should not close their eyes to those situations that are still present today. ”
According to Vanwalleghem, the humiliations had a serious effect on herself and other gymnasts, some of whom also received trauma therapy or mental counseling after their careers.
“Gym federation drops stitches”
According to Vanwalleghem, there should be more emphasis on the entourage of young gymnasts. She also indicated that many ex-gymnasts will be heard. They want to offer support to gymnasts, trainers and their parents.
“Just because there are many young people in gymnastics, that entourage is so important. It is there where the gymnastics federation drops serious stings. BOIC and Sport Vlaanderen are very important players in checking whether everything is running correctly within the gymnastics federation. That must be the start to enter into effective dialogue with all parties. ”
“I hope that the news of the past few days will not be looked back on. That really wouldn’t be okay, ”concluded Vanwalleghem.
Gaëlle Mys also responds
Gaëlle Mys, who represented Belgium as a gymnast three times at the Olympic Games, also breathed her heart on Instagram on Saturday. Mys, 28, says she quit after the Rio 2016 Games because she was tired of the intimidation, harassment and accusations, and not because she was physically on her limit. “I was finally mentally strong enough to step away from this unhealthy environment. I chose my own happiness over my passion, ”she writes.
“I’ve had fantastic coaches, some of which I still cherish. Thanks to them, I am who I am today and have made it this far. But not all of them were like that. There were coaches who misused their power. I still can’t look back on my career with a good feeling. It was a constant fight: I was bullied, lies were told, the girls were turned against each other. At the slightest mistake you were called lazy, fat, a tourist, self-centered, a princess, … You were nobody and you meant nothing in the gymnastics world. ”
Mys also turned to the gym federation several times, without much success. “During my career, I spoke to the president of the federation several times. I called for help and begged this to stop, but nothing has changed to this day. Only results and points counted. ”
“You couldn’t ask for help from your parents, because then you would feel the consequences of the next training,” Mys wrote. “I can’t imagine how hard it must be for a parent to watch helplessly from the sidelines and see how a coach can destroy your daughter’s dream. We need to realize how great the impact of this type of behavior can be during such an important development phase for the future well-being of these young athletes. ”
ALSO READ. Belgian gym federation responds after testimony about abuse of former coach Beltman: “His approach was not in line with our policy”
Read the full article by Gaëlle Mys below, in English: