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Kara Eaker Retires From Gymnastics, Alleging Abuse

In a statement posted to Instagram, Eaker alleged that a head coach committed “verbal and emotional abuse.”
Kara+Eaker+performs+her+beam+routine+against+Minnesota+in+Salt+Lake+City+on+March+4%2C+2022.+%28Photo+by+Jonathan+Wang+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29
Jonathan Wang
Kara Eaker performs her beam routine against Minnesota in Salt Lake City on March 4, 2022. (Photo by Jonathan Wang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

University of Utah gymnast Kara Eaker has announced her retirement from U gymnastics as well as from the sport as a whole, citing “verbal and emotional abuse” from an unnamed male head coach. She is also withdrawing as a student from the U.

“For two years, while training with the Utah Gymnastics Team, I was a victim of verbal and emotional abuse,” her announcement read. “As a result, my physical, mental, and emotional health has rapidly declined.”

Eaker, a junior at the U, is one of the most decorated members of the Red Rocks team. 

The two-time Pan American gold medalist said in her statement that she has reached a “turning point,” where she feels the need to stand up for herself and other “women who can’t because they are mentally debilitated and paralyzed by fear.”

“I, too, find myself frozen in moments when fear takes over,” she wrote. “But I can no longer stand by while perpetrators are still allowed in sports and are causing young girls and women to suffer.”

Head Coach Tom Farden was subject to an outside investigation earlier this year after several former gymnasts and parents accused him of emotional abuse, but the investigation ultimately found Farden did not commit any “severe, pervasive or egregious acts of emotional or verbal abuse of student athletes.”

Eaker said she believed the report was “incomplete at best,” and omitted “crucial evidence and information.”

She said that much of the abuse happened in individual coach-athlete meetings when the coach would use “condescending, sarcastic and manipulative tactics.”

She also alleged that she was “attacked, humiliated, degraded, and yelled at to the point of tears in front of the whole team.”

“Instead of receiving positive and encouraging critiques to improve my skills, I was scared to death by the loud and angry outbursts from the coach,” the statement reads.

Eaker added that “when a male coach suddenly erupts with anger,” it was impossible for any of the female student-athletes to stand up for themselves.

“The words are so intense and hurtful that it feels like a knife that’s stabbed so deep in my body that there’s no way to pull it out,” she said. “Other women have cried out for help and suffered horribly from this kind of abuse, even died by suicide, and yet in sports, it is still acceptable for a coach to manipulate, bully, and berate an athlete …” 

Eaker said the U and the athletic department failed her as well, and that she tried several times to request support from the athletic department personnel, but was “completely dismissed.”

“So therein lies the problem — the surrounding people and system are complicit,” she said.

Eaker closed her statement by saying she wants to “be part of the solution.”

“I want to stop the cycle of abuse and the men who threaten girls and women in all sports,” she said. “And I want to help girls and women find their voices, because together we can make a difference.”

 

This article has been updated to reflect that the head coach was not specifically named. 

 

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@caelrobertsnews

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About the Contributors
Caelan Roberts, News Editor
Cael is double majoring in English and journalism which gives him a chance to fully explore his passion of writing. He loves working at the Chronicle and is excited for the opportunity to edit on the news desk and work with leadership and writers.
Jonathan Wang, Photographer
Jonathan Wang is a photographer of The Daily Utah Chronicle and is pursuing a degree in electrical engineering. He joined the Chronicle in August of 2021. In addition, Jonathan is also a photographer for Utah's athletics department. In his freshman year at the University of Utah, Jonathan covered almost every athletic event, from football, volleyball, beach volleyball, tennis, swim to NCAA Gymnastics Regionals. In his free time, Jonathan enjoys swimming, skiing and hanging out with friends.

Comments (4)

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  • A

    angelaOct 23, 2023 at 6:47 pm

    She is also a world champion and 2021 Olympic alternative! Weird to omit her highest accomplishments in this kind of article

    Reply
  • C

    ChrisOct 21, 2023 at 1:41 pm

    Any athlete with that level of success will have dealt with tough, hard, nasty, and difficult coaches, especially in Gymnastics. So given Karas comments and that there were other U of U gymnastics girls in the transfer portal just confirms the toxic environment that the U either doesn’t want to deal with or won’t. Mr Fardens body language at red rocks meets seems to confirm that this is all about him….not the girls, nor the team environment. That’s obvious from spectators and i can only imagine what it’s like behind close doors. He needs to take a lesson from Cael Sanderson at Penn State. Tough, hard, results driven but those kids know he cares truly about developing people and talent, for 4 years and beyond.

    Reply
  • J

    John gronbachOct 20, 2023 at 9:39 pm

    Sounds like it’s time to let him go and let a true leader/coach step in.

    Reply
  • J

    John SOct 20, 2023 at 6:34 pm

    FIRE TOM FARDEN!!!

    Reply