Gymnastics learns a new trick: Athletes talk and coaches listen


Tom Forster, the current women’s high-performance team coordinator for USA Gymnastics, took on a fresh mind when she began leading the national team in 2018. The idea, he said, was to treat the athlete as a commodity to bring home. Medal, but as a person.

Gina, the mother of Jordan Chillies, said Saturday that Forster had also attempted to involve families in her daughters’ elite careers. He has made himself available to the parents, he said, something that never happened under the previous national team regime. “Parents are in the loop now,” she said, “and that makes us feel great.”

After the Olympics was postponed last year, Forster was so concerned about the physical and mental well-being of his national team’s athletes that he started showing up at their gym to check on them. He wanted to be there to answer questions, he said in a video call this month, specifically about the Netflix documentary “Athlete A,” which aired last summer.

The film, which focused on the Nassar case and USA Gymnastics’ attempt to cover up the scandal, prompted gymnasts around the world to speak publicly. (In early court documents in the Nassar case, Nichols, who was the first victim to appear, was referred to as Athlete A to protect her anonymity.)

Skinner said that when Forster first came to her Arizona gym, she had to blink a few times to make sure she wasn’t imagining things. Skinner said Martha Karolyi would never have checked in like this.

“Tom has been awesome; He has been very helpful,” she said. “It’s so weird to be in a relationship with an Olympic coach and be able to talk to him.”

Champion Lee on the uneven bars has said that she feels comfortable with Forster in charge. “I was too scared to say anything before,” she said. “But Tom is really good and knows how to keep us healthy. He really cares about what we think.”

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