Moutia: Abuse still hurts

> Nathalie Moutia, now 40, has twice re­ported bul­ly­ing in the past and is fu­ri­ous the sport’s cul­ture seems to be un­changed

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Molly McEl­wee

For­mer Bri­tish cham­pion rhyth­mic gym­nast Nathalie Moutia has re­vealed the ex­tent of the abuse she suf­fered as a young com­peti­tor as the sport’s bul­ly­ing con­tro­versy deep­ened. Moutia, who is now 40, rep­re­sented Bri­tain from the age of nine to 17, says she has suf­fered Post Trau­matic Stress Dis­or­der be­cause of her ex­pe­ri­ences.

‘It’s ac­tu­ally in­con­ceiv­able that this is still go­ing on,” Nathalie Moutia says, the pain au­di­ble in her voice. At the age of 40, she has only re­cently come to terms with the abuse she suf­fered as a Bri­tish cham­pion rhyth­mic gym­nast. “This will never, ever leave me, it’s a part of who I am, and that’s what makes me so up­set with Bri­tish Gym­nas­tics. They don’t con­sider the im­pact on gym­nasts, whether low, medium or high level. It ru­ins peo­ple’s lives – it ru­ined mine.”

On Mon­day night, Moutia had just put her chil­dren to bed when she switched on the evening news. She was blind­sided by a story about abuse al­le­ga­tions in gym­nas­tics lead­ing the bulletin – and the many that have fol­lowed in re­cent days. Mem­o­ries from 30 years ago sud­denly flooded back.

“It was re­ally hard to watch, be­cause I’ve been liv­ing with it for such a long time,” Moutia says of watch­ing the report. “I very re­cently had an of­fi­cial di­ag­no­sis of Post Trau­matic Stress Dis­or­der re­lat­ing to my ex­pe­ri­ences, so it’s a lit­tle bit height­ened in me. Thirty years ago we didn’t have safe­guard­ing, but to think it’s still go­ing on, I feel re­ally an­gry about it.”

Images of a young Moutia, hair slicked back into a tight bun, her in­no­cent face smil­ing as she ac­cepted medals and tro­phies, do not tell the story of the ver­bal abuse she was forced to en­dure from coaches dur­ing the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Rep­re­sent­ing Great Bri­tain from age nine to 17, she re­calls be­ing starved from as young as nine, given only half a slice of brown bread and black tea for an en­tire day of train­ing at in­ter­na­tional camps. When teams vis­ited and trained with the Bri­tish team in the UK, Moutia re­mem­bers see­ing phys­i­cal abuse.

“In train­ing camps here, [Bri­tish Gym­nas­tics] would bring Rus­sian coaches over with their gym­nasts, and I’ve seen gym­nasts slapped in the face. At 10 years old see­ing that, you’re think­ing, ‘I don’t want to be next’. It’s fright­en­ing.”

Her own coaches were emo­tion­ally abu­sive too, she says, in­still­ing a regime built on pun­ish­ment, to which other adults were privy. She de­scribes be­ing pulled to the bath­room and hav­ing wa­ter splashed on her face for “not con­cen­trat­ing enough” and be­ing “hu­mil­i­ated” when fat-shamed in front of other gym­nasts and coaches.

She went on the pill at a young age when she hit pu­berty, af­ter be­ing told: “You’ve got breasts now, which is a bad thing.”

“It al­most be­comes your nor­mal­ity,” Moutia says of the emo­tional tur­moil. “It’s drilled in you, it’s a form of groom­ing. A coach once called me over to do a leg catch in front of a guest at our gym, and I re­mem­ber feel­ing very em­bar­rassed and told her I didn’t want to. She screamed at me and said just do it, so I did. At the end of the ses­sion she said, ‘If you ever say no to me again I’m go­ing to make you do 1,000 dou­ble skips, and you prob­a­bly can’t even count that far’.

“You want to go away with pos­i­tive mem­o­ries from the sport of travel and com­pet­ing, but in­stead you come away with mem­o­ries like that, which stick with you.”

Moutia has strug­gled with an eat­ing dis­or­der ever since. Ther­apy helped her con­nect her treat­ment as a child with abu­sive re­la­tion­ships she ex­pe­ri­enced as an adult. “You end up be­ing more sus­cep­ti­ble to abuse, be­cause that’s all you know. You go in this cy­cle of be­ing in abu­sive re­la­tion­ships and you don’t know where it stems from – and that’s where PTSD comes in. It lit­er­ally has ru­ined my life, it has.”

Moutia called Bri­tish Gym­nas­tics to report the abuse five years ago, but says she never heard back. This week the na­tional gov­ern­ing body was pres­sured into launch­ing an in­de­pen­dent re­view af­ter al­le­ga­tions of wide­spread abu­sive coach­ing were made pub­lic. Bri­tish Gym­nas­tics said the coach­ing de­scribed had no place in the sport, and en­cour­aged gym­nasts to report their ex­pe­ri­ences, but would not com­ment on in­di­vid­ual cases.

In 2016 Moutia made ten­ta­tive steps back into gym­nas­tics by vol­un­teer­ing at a club, but was shocked to find a cul­ture just like the one she had ex­pe­ri­enced. “I had to leave, I felt dis­gusted about the way they were speak­ing to the gym­nasts. One of the coaches was scream­ing at a child, say­ing their face is ugly. How is that ac­cept­able? But cul­tur­ally, it is – they think that is the way to get re­sults. It took me back to ex­actly where I was, and is what I want to change.

“I’ve been through some of the hard­est times in my life and come through that, and the fact it’s still go­ing on to­day, I just don’t un­der­stand how it can con­tinue.

“As many peo­ple as pos­si­ble have to come for­ward to ex­pose this. It’s ex­tremely painful, I’ve ac­cepted that it will be a mem­ory I live with for the rest of my life.”

Mem­o­ries: Nathalie Moutia aged four (far left), with the Mayor of South­wark in 2002 in recog­ni­tion of her con­tri­bu­tions to the sport (left), aged nine (right), aged 13 with her tro­phy won at the 1993 Bri­tish Cham­pi­onships (far right) and com­pet­ing at the same event (be­low)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.