Ex-figure skater Yu Shuran opens up about abuse she allegedly suffered
She recalls physical and verbal abuse allegedly suffered while training in China
While recounting the constant beating, kicking and verbal abuse she allegedly suffered for years while training in China, former national figure skater Yu Shuran spoke in tones so measured that one could almost miss the undercurrent of anger behind her words.
Being hit by her coach repeatedly with a plastic blade guard till her skin was raw. Getting kicked by the toe pick of her coach's blade - the small, jagged edges at the front of the blade - and having to continue practice despite bleeding.
Being driven to a secluded area during an overseas training camp, then getting dragged out of the car for a beating as punishment for a bad practice session.
"I don't know if there was one worst incident because it just shouldn't be happening in the first place... there were some incidents that were worse than others," the 19-year-old told The Straits Times.
"But the fact that it happened over the course of a few years and there were a few years where I was constantly scared to get on the ice, I think that might be the worst part because it was so systemic."
The 2017 SEA Games champion, born and raised in Beijing by a Chinese mother and a Singaporean father, was speaking via videoconference yesterday.
She opened up about the abuse she suffered while training in China on Wednesday on Instagram, revealing in her post that the physical abuse started when she was 11. At age 13, she recalled feeling "so burned out" and close to quitting because being on the ice "just wasn't enjoyable any more".
Yu, who retired in 2018 owing to illness, told ST: "Knowing all of this now, that shouldn't come as a surprise because why would it be enjoyable when I was literally being yelled at, cursed at, insulted and attacked all the time?"
The abuse "lessened by a lot" around the time she turned 16, and that was when she regained her love for the sport.
"How I got through the tougher parts (of the abuse) was just to numb it out... maybe it was a method while I was competing, but I realised it's not good to just go through your teenage years numb," said Yu, who in 2017 was Singapore's first figure skater to qualify for the International Skating Union World Figure Skating Championships.
"Right now I'm processing things for the first time and, whatever I 'numbed out' before, I still have to process now."
Her decision to speak out was in part driven by Athlete A, the Netflix documentary detailing former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar's abuse of the girls and young women under his care, and several elite British gymnasts' allegations of physical and emotional abuse.
Urging national governing bodies to re-evaluate their policies and question if they are doing enough to prevent abuse cases, she said: "There needs to be education done for coaches around the world about how abuse just isn't a valid method.
"There has to be a sentiment, where we want to protect the child at all costs and I say child very deliberately because so often we're not treated as children, when we are. We're treated as robots and machines that are produced to get results and then discarded after we're done getting results.
"People absolutely have to start seeing athletes as children and even if they're legally adults, they're people, not robots."