Figure skater Tarah Kayne details abuse allegations against sanctioned Olympic coach

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WARNING: Contains descriptions of abuse and self-harm.

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The US Center for SafeSport has temporarily barred US Olympic pair figure skating coach Dalila Sapenfield from having any contact with a dozen figure skaters and coaching other athletes while it continues to investigate allegations of misconduct. Is.

Sapenfield, winner of the 2008 Professional Skaters Association/US Figure Skating Coach of the Year Award, coached three-time national champions Alexa and Chris Nairim at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, where they finished 15th in the pairs competition and One team won. bronze medal.


She was John Coughlin’s coach and good friend, Two-time national pairing champion who died by suicide January 18, 2019 at 33 hrs a day after receiving interim suspension from SafeSport Because of three allegations of sexual abuse.

One of the skaters, who has been banned from contacting Sapenfield, 50, 2016 US pairing champion Tarah Kayne, told Granthshala Sports about a number of allegations she reported to a SafeSport investigator, including one involving the coach. Persistent verbal abuse, replete with sexual remarks, prompted her to slit her left wrist with a razor blade in the summer of 2019 in her dorm room at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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“She was constantly talking about sex, who I was dating, about my sex life,” said Kayne, 28, who recently retired from competitive skating. “It was totally unfair, but that’s what Delilah does. She uses gossip from other skaters at the rink against you. She knew I was struggling with my mental health, but she made fun of me instead of helping me.” She also went to other skaters and told them about it, giving me names and asking people why anyone would want to date me.”

Asked for comment, Sapenfield texted USA Today Sports on Thursday night, “Thanks for reaching out to me. I have no comment at this time.”

Kayne said Sapenfield called her on the phone one night in July 2019 and threatened that she would lose her partnership with Danny O’Shea, with whom she won the 2016 national title, “not because of my skill set, she Said but because of what kind of person I was,” Kayne said.

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That was the night when Kayne said he slit his wrist. As she started bleeding profusely, she said she went to O’Shea’s room in the dorm to ask for help. Kayne feared a trip to the emergency room would further anger Sappenfield, so she and O’Shea used super glue to hold their skin together, Kayne said.

“In my mind, I thought I was going to die,” Kayne said, “but I was afraid to go to the hospital because I didn’t want Delilah to know anything about it.”

Over the next few weeks, Kayne said he tried to hide the scar by wearing long sleeves and wrapping his wrist with athletic tape during his practice session with Sapenfield.

But the coach found out and instead of being concerned about his well-being, Kayne said, Sapenfield pulled him aside on the ice in a practice session and said, suddenly, “Why don’t you just go out and (kidn) the whole thing.” men’s gymnastics team?

Dalilah Sappenfield as shown in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 2009.

Like Kayne, the US men’s gymnastics team was also practicing and living at the Olympic Training Center.

Kayne also said that in the final months he was coached by Sapenfield, in the summer of 2020, Sapenfield forbade him to speak on the ice, locked him up and only spoke to O’Shea, even though they were all together. Along were on the ice, often just a few inches apart.

Kayne said, “He told me not to speak, that I should keep quiet.” “It made me very tense and anxious so I would put my hands below my waist, press them together, put my left hand on my right, and I would take my right hand and dig my nails into my left wrist and all the time. I would bleed myself.. Then I would go to the bathroom to try to cool down before going back into the snow.”

Via text message, O’Shea said, “I support Tara in every way I do when we were partners for nine years. Tara is a strong woman and I am proud to have her come forward.” And hopefully her strength will be a beacon to others. Together we chose to leave a training environment that had become unhealthy for us. I stand with Tara, and I support SafeSport and their ongoing investigation.

O’Shea, 30, is competing in Southern California this season with a new partner and new coaches.

Kayne said she planned to continue skating with O’Shea during the 2022 Winter Olympic year.

“But that all changed because of Delilah,” she said. “These terrifying experiences took me out of the sport I love. Delilah said several times that she wanted to end my career, and she was successful.

Instead, Kayne will tour Europe with a skating show starting in November.

Kayne’s mother, Maria Kayne, told USA Today Sports that she discussed all the incidents with her daughter after she said they had happened. USA Today Sports has also reviewed photos of the wrists taken at the time of Kayne’s injury.

SafeSport opened in March 2017 to investigate and resolve allegations of physical, emotional and sexual abuse at the Olympic Games. On September 3, it issued temporary measures against Sapenfield, including a no-contact directive prohibiting her from contacting the dozen skaters or their immediate families in any way, with other adults in the immediate travel party. Restrictions on traveling without a minor athlete and a requirement that another adult must be present to directly supervise athletes while coaching.

Apart from listing the temporary measures on its website, SafeSport will not discuss the status of its investigation into Sapenfield.

“The center does not comment on matters to protect the integrity of the process and the parties involved,” spokesman Dan Hill said on Wednesday.

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