Chicago (AFP) – Tom Forster, a USA Gymnastics development coach since 2010, was given the task Thursday of keeping US women a world power in the wake of the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal.
USA Gymnastics president Kerry Perry named Forster the high-performance team coordinator for the US Women’s national team, which has won gold or silver at the past four Olympics and produced the past four Olympic all-around champions.
“I am humbled and excited to accept the position,” Forster said. “The responsibility of motivating and guiding our current and future elite athletes, and their coaches, is not one I take lightly.
“Team USA’s continued success in international competition is amazing, but I think the heart and dedication shown by every athlete and coach is more impressive than the medal count.”
The move comes in the wake of the sex scandal that rocked the sport, with more than 250 women, many of them Olympians, accusing former US team doctor Nassar of molesting them under the guise of treatment.
Nasar was sentenced earlier this year to between 80 and 300 years in prison after pleading guilty to 10 counts of sexual assault on minors.
Much of the abuse took place at the remote ranch training headquarters of former US gymnastics coaches Bela and Marta Karolyi, where rigorous training and toughness were key factors in developing champions.
“I believe in coaching through inspiration not intimidation,” Forster said. “As the coordinator, my vision is to create an inclusive and collaborative environment for the athletes, coaches, judges and administration to grow, succeed and move forward in a positive direction.
“I am committed to making every athlete and coach feel valued, heard, and supported.”
Women who came forward to reveal abuse at the hands of Nassar have sued officials for turning a blind eye to their accusations.
“Whoever filled this role had to have a training philosophy that is aligned with transforming to a culture of empowerment that encourages, supports and hears our athletes,” Perry said.
National team members, former members and elite coaches were consulted and their feedback was included in the review and selection process, Perry said.
“Based on the feedback from the coaches, athletes and interviewing panel, Tom was the obvious choice,” she said.
“Tom’s coaching philosophy mirrors our priorities of athlete safety and well-being and promoting a positive, safe and empowering environment for our athletes to train and thrive in pursuit of their gymnastics dreams.”
Forster will develop a strategic plan and training program for all women’s national team members, including conducting national team training camps.