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Kim Tessen Speaks Out on U Gymnastics Head Coach Tom Farden

The former Red Rock shared her support for Kara Eaker and asked for changes to be made within the institution.
Kiffer Creveling
University of Utah women’s gymnastics head coach Tom Farden talks with senior Kim Tessen before her performance on the floor in a dual meet versus the Stanford Cardinals at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on March 6, 2020. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)


Former University of Utah gymnast Kim Tessen posted a statement on Instagram Tuesday night in support of Kara Eaker and condemned the U and its various departments for failing to address abusive coaching. 

Tessen said she isn’t trying to compare her trauma to Eaker’s, rather, she is “sharing this in support of her and all other survivors of abusive coaching.” 

She added that while she recognizes she had a lot of opportunities such as free education, food and housing, it was not worth enduring an abusive and toxic environment for four years. 

Tessen directly called out Tom Farden, the head coach of the U’s Red Rocks gymnastics team, for excessive criticism, intimidation tactics, favoritism and aggressive conduct. 

The former Red Rock gymnast shared some of her personal experiences in her statement, including her injuries, mental health and interactions with Farden. 

Throughout her time on the team, Tessen said she experienced depression, anxiety and fear. Instead of being offered understanding and sympathy, she was called lazy, selfish, ungrateful and a failure. 

During Tessen’s senior preseason, Farden asked her to step down as team captain because she was, “visibly struggling and that’s not what a real leader does — that’s not what true leadership looks like.” 

In her statement, Tessen said she argued with Farden and told him, “… leadership doesn’t look like perfection, it looks like pushing forward despite your struggles and your challenges.” 

Farden told her she was wrong. 

The U recently completed an outside investigation into Farden for allegations of verbal and emotional abuse, finding he did not engage in any “severe, pervasive or egregious acts of emotional or verbal abuse of student-athletes.” 

Last week, Eaker released a statement on Instagram announcing her retirement as a Red Rock, citing “verbal and emotional” abuse from an unnamed coach. 

Tessen sympathized with other athletes who may be going through similar struggles. 

“We’re made to feel like something is wrong with us, like we deserve it,” she said. “It’s not true. Nothing was ever wrong with you. Absolutely nothing ever justifies abusive behavior.” 

She added that the coaching tactics she experienced were not normal or healthy and that success is possible without degradation or humiliation.

“You deserve to be appreciated and praised for not only your success as an athlete, but for who you are as an individual,” she said. 

Tessen ended her statement by addressing the coaching staff, the athletics department and the university for “defending this behavior.” 

She asked if all the money was worth protecting and enabling a continuous abusive culture. 

“Are the championships worth all the work you’re doing to cover this up?”

Tessen said they shouldn’t have to beg for their feelings to be recognized. 

“We do not exist for your entertainment. We do not exist to maintain your reputation,” she said. “We do not exist to be your moneymakers.” 

She added that she hopes the departments involved recognize and hear the people asking for change. 

“I hope that one day you do realize that it is not, nor was it ever worth it,” she said.


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About the Contributor
Vanessa Hudson
Vanessa Hudson, Editor in Chief
Vanessa is from Grand Junction, Colorado. She's a junior majoring in communication with an emphasis in journalism and minoring in modern dance and political science. She is passionate about what she reports on, and she usually winds up writing about local politics and issues. When Vanessa isn't writing, you can find her trying out some new choreography, listening to public radio or watching Marvel and Star Wars movies.

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  • K

    kurtOct 26, 2023 at 7:29 am

    What a complicated issue! Gymnastics in its very essence is so focused on perfection. Imperfect humans are going to make mistakes in every aspect of gymnastics, including athletes and coaches. Since an independent investigation was done, I stand with Tom Farden, and imperfect coach, but a great coach! I am positive he has learned from this, and will continue to learn from this! You can’t be all things to all people, I once heard!