Singapore ‘dismayed’ by former figure skater’s story of abuse

Jessica Shuran Yu at the 2016 ISU Junior Grand Prix. Image: YouTube/ISU Junior Grand Prix
Jessica Shuran Yu at the 2016 ISU Junior Grand Prix. Image: YouTube/ISU Junior Grand Prix

Singapore’s sports board and ice skating association say they were disturbed to hear former figure skating champion Jessica Shuran Yu’s story of longtime physical abuse at the hands of her coach.

In separate statements to Coconuts Singapore today, Sports Singapore and the Singapore Ice Skating Association said they were “dismayed” to learn about the former champion’s years of physical abuse and said they are offering support to her, though neither specified what that entailed. 

“We are indeed dismayed to learn about her experience and thank her for reaching out to us. And we applaud her courage to be able to speak about her experience with being abused by her private coach in the hope that it will help others in a similar position,” a statement by the ice skating association, or SISA, read. 

Yu, 19, did not immediately respond to an online request for comment. 

She went public Tuesday on Instagram, the same day she told The Guardian she had recently reached out to both organizations with details of her abuse. She is calling on the world of sport to protect the next generation of young athletes.

Yu had reached out to a safeguarding officer at the SISA before publicizing her story online, the association added. The officer is a person appointed by various sports organizations for athletes to report incidents of abuse. 

There are nearly 100 such officers in the city, according to Sports Singapore. These individuals are supposed to undergo training to ensure athlete safety. 

“All efforts are taken to ensure everyone in the fraternity – athletes, coaches and officials, understand how crucial safe sport is and are aware of the due reporting process for athletes to either a Safeguarding Officer or directly to the Safe Sport Taskforce. These efforts must continue unabated,” its statement read. 

The National Sports Association is also supposed to keep overseas athletes informed of the support channels available.

Yu, who was born in China to a father said to have Singapore citizenship, represented the city-state in international tournaments and even clinched Singapore’s first winter sports gold at the 2017 SEA Games. She retired the following year at just 17 after being diagnosed with a neurological disorder. 

Yu said her coach began beating her at 11 while she was training in China. Attacks included being kicked in the shin with a skating blade when she was 14. Among numerous attacks she described as daily, she also said she was kicked in the foot ahead of a 2018 Olympic qualifier she failed to pass, ending her Olympic dreams. 

According to the International Skating Union, her coach was former Chinese figure skater Gao Song.

Yu was inspired to come forward by other female athletes around the world sharing their experiences, including in Netflix documentary Athlete A, which recounted sexual abuse of American gymnasts. 

SISA said it would build on Yu’s story to increase awareness of safe sports initiatives. 

“We have been in touch with Shuran and are working closely with the Safe Sport Taskforce to support her and to build on this to increase public awareness of safe sport initiatives,” it said. 

According to Sports Singapore, athletes can report instances of abuse to the safeguarding officer, by emailing Safe Sport, or going directly to the police. They can also reach out to the Sexual Assault Care Centre and AWARE’s Women’s Helpline.

 

Related:

Former Singapore figure skating champ opens up about abusive coach

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