Olympic ice skating coach, medalist accused of abusing athletes
The US Center for SafeSport is investigating former Olympic bronze medalist and renowned figure skating coach Peter Oppegard into allegations he bit and threw hot drinks at skaters, Christine Brennan reported for USA Today Sports.
The investigation has been underway since July, according to USA Today. The Center, which opened in March 2017 to investigate allegations of abuse in Olympic sport, does not comment on the investigations. The incidents allegedly took place at East West Ice Palace in Artesia, Calif., Where Oppegard worked from 2005 until he left in 2018.
Who is Pierre Oppegard?
Oppegard, 61, and his former couples partner Jill Watson are the last Americans to win an Olympic medal in pairs figure skating. They won bronze at the 1988 Calgary Winter Games. The duo won three national championships together and the bronze medal at the 1987 world championships.
They were inducted into the American Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2004.
He is the ex-husband of skating coach and choreographer Karen Kwan. Kwan was also an elite national skater in the mid-1990s and is the older sister of Michelle Kwan, who was inducted in 2012 into the Hall of Fame. Michelle Kwan won an Olympic silver medal in 1998 behind Tara Lipinski and a bronze medal in 2002. She is a nine-time national and five-time world champion who has previously used her older sister and Oppegard for choreography.
The Kwan family owns and operates the Artesia Ice Rink.
Oppegard’s allegations include throwing hot coffee at skaters
SafeSport is reportedly investigating allegations that Oppegard repeatedly threw hot water and coffee at skaters during practice sessions during training. Jessica Pfund told USA Today Sports that in 2013, when she was a 15-year-old pairs skater training with Oppegard, he bit her during a workout.
“He was helping me position myself on the ice to show me a landing position on a jump. His two hands were holding me, and he leaned down and bit the skin on my upper right arm, close to the biceps, ”Pfund said, via USA Today Sports.
Pfund said she had a bite mark on her arm and a bruise for more than a week. Her mother said the tooth marks were “obvious” and the two discussed that evening what to do. Pfund asked his mother not to say anything “because every time she tried everything got worse with him, our lessons and the criticisms got worse.”
They were also concerned about the ramifications for his wife, Karen Kwan, and their two daughters if they were to report him to anyone. The girls would have been under 10 at the time.
Pfund, now 23, left Oppegard the following year after three years at the Artesia rink and said she was contacted by SafeSport about an investigation. She currently trains and trains with her pair partner Joshua Santillan. They were in the top 10 at the U.S. National Championships from 2016 to 2020.
US figure skating issues statement supporting all victims
US Figure Skating released a statement to USA Today Sports:
US Figure Skating supports all victims of abuse and misconduct and encourages anyone experiencing abuse or suspecting abuse or misconduct to report it immediately to local law enforcement, the US Center for SafeSport, or the US Figure Skating. “
Last month, US Figure Skating agreed to pay a former competitive skater $ 1.45 million to settle a lawsuit alleging negligence in protesting his athletes. Adam Schmidt said he suffered “numerous sexual assaults” from Richard Callaghan while training with him as a teenager.
French Olympic pairs skater Morgan Cipres retired from the sport in September 2020 while under investigation by SafeSport and the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office in Florida via USA Today Sports. He allegedly sent pictures of his penis by message to a girl who trained on the same rink as him in Florida. The family said John Zimmerman, a 2002 Olympian and a member of the US Figure Skating Hall of Fame, urged the family not to speak out while humiliating and threatening the girl.
Cipres, 29, his dating partner Vanessa James, 33, is said to have been a medal contender at the Beijing 2022 Games.
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