OLYMPICS

Olympic Speedskater Details Alleged Abuse From National Team Coach

Aug 25, 2020, 8:19 PM | Updated: 8:21 pm
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 07: (L-R) Short Track Speed Skaters Thomas Hong, John-Henry...
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 07: (L-R) Short Track Speed Skaters Thomas Hong, John-Henry Krueger, Lana Gehring and Aaron Tran of the United States train ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 7, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – A short track speedskater who competed in the 2018 Olympics declined a spot on the national team this year because of what he described as verbal and emotional abuse from the head coach.

“It crossed the line from being a tough coach to one that was being disrespectful and rude to the athletes she was trying to bring up,” said Thomas Hong.

Hong developed a love for the sport when he was just 4 years old. It wasn’t long before he was competing on the national and world stage.

Then, in 2018, a dream came true when he returned to the country where he was born to compete on the U.S. Olympic speedskating team in South Korea.

“It really was something special,” he said.

His enthusiasm for the sport continued when U.S. Speedskating hired the well-known Wilma Boomstra as the new short track speed coach for the U.S. national team. It would be her second time in the position. The first time from 1993 to 1995.

“Initially I was very excited for her to be my coach,” Hong said.

He had spent some time training with Boomstra at a camp in Los Angeles and the Netherlands, but his excitement did not last.

“Our communication effectively stopped,” he said. “No matter what I brought up she just came back to me and said, ‘you’re doing this wrong. This is your fault.’ And that’s where it broke down.”

Hong is one of eight skaters who shared his experience with the Washington Post, describing Boomstra as emotionally, mentally and verbally abusive.

“I’ve had experiences with coaches yelling and coaches being tough on me,” he said. “I always felt like there was a level of respect that the coaches had for me.

“Where it crossed the line for me was, I felt that coach Boomstra was no longer having my best interest at heart and she was actively discouraging me from doing well.”

According to the Post, three skaters filed complaints with the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a group meant to protect amateur athletes from abuse. But the complaints were forwarded to U.S Speedskating, which investigated the claims and found Boomstra guilty of “emotional misconduct,” “threatening communication” and “bullying behavior.”

In an email to the Post, Boomstra said she does “not feel my interactions with skaters has been threatening in any way,” adding, “I’m disappointed that some athletes have perceived my interactions with them to be negative.”

Hong said Boomstra “expressed to me that it was always to motivate us.” Instead, he said, “It really left me discouraged. To go to training every day and to be at odds with someone that’s writing my program and who effectively has authority over the way I’m skating, it was very tough to be in that environment.”

Boomstra remains the program’s head coach, but U.S Speedskating has implemented measures, including having a third person at all coach-athlete meetings and having ongoing “team culture meetings.” Boomstra is also required to meet with a sports psychologist and have quarterly evaluations with U.S. Speedskating.

“Those measures, while they are a step in the right direction, I just do not believe that they are strong enough,” Hong said. “I don’t think I would put myself in that environment again.”

Hong declined his invitation to train with the national team in Utah this year. But he hasn’t ruled out a run to compete again on the world stage.

“Because I’m not formally training it’s hard to picture myself at the Olympics. But that being said, I feel that If I really became determined to really get myself in skating shape and wanted to make the team, I feel like I can make that switch,” he said. “I think there’s some untapped potential that I never really got to but I guess that’s up in the air.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Olympics

Gabby Petito...
Josh Ellis

New photo allegedly shows Gabby Petito’s injuries before interview with Moab PD

A newly released photograph appears to show injuries on Gabby Petito's face shortly before she met with officers from the Moab Police Department.
17 hours ago
This week on Sunday Edition Doug Wright looks at the latest developments for Utah's Olympic bid....
KSL TV

Sunday Edition: Utah’s Olympic Bid, Midterm Elections

This week on Sunday Edition Doug Wright looks at the latest developments for Utah's Olympic bid.
7 days ago
One the of climbers in the training camp climbing a wall. (KSL-TV's Alex Cabrero)...
Alex Cabrero

USA Climbing Camp for Paris 2024 begins in Salt Lake City

As the Summer 2024 Olympic Games draws closer, those athletes looking to participate begin their training. 
11 days ago
The Salt Lake City valley buildings are seen with the Olympic rings on the mountain behind the city...
Hugo Rikard-Bell, KSLNewsRadio

Japan’s paused Olympic bid will not affect Salt Lake’s

Salt Lake City’s chief Olympic rival, Sapporo, Japan is taking a break in its bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics.
1 month ago
FILE: General View as the Olympic Flame burns during the Opening Ceremony of the 2002 Salt Lake Cit...
Eddie Pells, AP National Writer

Fewer locations, besides Salt Lake City, want to host Winter Olympics

It’s becoming nearly impossible to find any place, outside of Salt Lake City, that truly wants to host these events.
2 months ago
The Salt Lake City valley buildings are seen with the Olympic rings on the mountain behind the city...
Karah Brackin

Utah may be considered for 2030, 2034 winter Olympic Games

The International Olympic Committee wrapped up three days of meetings on Wednesday. During that time, they discussed everything from rotating the Olympic Games within a pool of host cities to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Utah may be an option for future winter games.
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Olympic Speedskater Details Alleged Abuse From National Team Coach