The report is full of explosive allegations that could have labor and possibly even criminal consequences for the trainer. Artistic gymnast Pauline Schäfer, 2017 world champion on the balance beam, accuses Gabriele Frehse of insulting and humiliating her every day. In addition, she and other former athletes at the base in Chemnitz-Altendorf tell that they were given medication without a doctor’s prescription so that they can train beyond their pain or persevere in competitions.
The news magazine Der Spiegel writes about this in its current issue. Accordingly, Schäfer had been harassed by the trainer for years. It got particularly bad when she “no longer wanted to be the little gymnastics robot”. The 23-year-old now says she is fed up with being silent – also in the interest of the girls who are now training at Frehse. Five other ex-gymnasts and former trainers express themselves with her. According to Spiegel, a Frehse lawyer had answered a questionnaire. The statements of third parties contained therein contained a “multitude of untruths and baseless accusations”.
She responded to a request from the SZ, but asks for understanding that she does not want to comment beyond the statement she had given the MDR. “The allegations are baseless and there are many slanders in them. I am very sad about it and would not have expected it. I have to work through all of this first, “the accused said to the television station.
Meanwhile, a dispute has broken out in Chemnitz with unforeseeable consequences. Another gymnast, Sophie Scheder, who was third in the 2016 Olympic Games on the uneven bars, said. On her Instagram profile, she wrote of “Moments when I couldn’t always come up with a common denominator with my trainer. But such differences exist in all areas of life and, in my opinion, are quite normal. Every athlete perceives what is being said differently, and the fact that the tone of the coach is sometimes sharper should not be a reproach, it is simply human. ”
Olympic third stands by the trainer
Scheder, who comes from Wolfsburg, came to Chemnitz in 2008 at the age of eleven. In her public commitment to trainer she becomes very personal: “Gabi – you pushed me, gave me courage, went through ups and downs with me, brought me up and made me into the successful person I am today! I stand by your side! Stay strong!”
Schäfer, on the other hand, found the tone and behavior of her long-term supervisor to be inhuman, and they parted ways in the fall of 2018. “To be humiliated every day – that leaves its mark at some point,” said the 23-year-old. Again and again, Schäfer continued, she was verbally insulted because of her allegedly too high body weight. One scene is the beginning of the Spiegel story: an apparently successful balance beam exercise. The athlete expects praise, but the trainer is said to have said in a general sense: “When I see you, I could only cry.”
At that time she was 17. At the age of 15, Schäfer moved from Saarbrücken to Chemnitz. Before that, she had even stopped doing gymnastics and tried the pole vault because Schäfer had fallen out with her trainer. “I suffered a lot from it,” she said in an interview with the SZ – and Frehse: “At the beginning it was difficult for her to accept that I, as a coach, think I was preparing the right things for her, giving her the right plans . “That was in autumn 2015, when Schäfer returned from Glasgow with a bronze medal.
At that time, she also described the collaboration differently than it does now. Frehse was not there at the competition. The athlete failed in training with the shepherd somersault she had developed. National coach Ulla Koch then deleted the element from the exercise – for Schäfer probably a mental low point. “I had a crying Pauline on the phone”, reported Frehse at the time – and Schäfer said: “Gabi has persuaded me that I can get a really good rating even without the element.”
Remote setup assistance
The remote assembly aid worked. Two years later, Schäfer even became world champion. The success proved Frehse right, but it by no means justifies all methods. If the allegations are confirmed, there should hardly be a future as a trainer for the 60-year-old, who was a competitive swimmer. She once characterized herself as “ambitious, consistent, tough and loving”, but meant: “I used to be harder.” Her key experience was when a sports psychologist stated after training: “You criticize children all day. Praise it! ”She took that to heart and noticed how satisfied she was, said Frehse.
Now there are serious allegations against her in the room – worst of all probably the one that she administered a prescription pain reliever to Schäfer’s sister Helene without medical indication. It is undisputed that the German Gymnastics Federation (DTB) then excluded the instructor employed at the Chemnitz Olympic Training Center from DTB training and competition measures for 2019.
The association has now announced in a statement that the issues will be clarified immediately and independently. “If the allegations are confirmed, this would in no way correspond to the values of the DTB and the framework conditions for responsible training,” the message said. In January 2019, the DTB appointed the Cologne sports scientist Britt Dahmen as ombudsperson with regard to physical, psychological and sexualised violence. In the recent past, especially in the USA, Great Britain, New Zealand, the Netherlands and most recently in Switzerland, coaches, mostly former athletes, have repeatedly been accused of having exposed them to mental and verbal violence.
The case of longtime US team doctor Larry Nassar had even triggered worldwide horror. In 2018, the now 57-year-old was sentenced to a prison term of at least 40 years in more than 250 cases for the sexual abuse of gymnasts. Record world champion Simone Biles is also one of Nassar’s victims. (sid, with SZ / -ler)