A top gymnastics coach has been barred from training without supervision amid accusations he abused girls as young as nine, splitting them into ‘fat’ groups and forcing them to perform ten-minute handstands.
Qi Han has been the center of formal complaints for seven years claiming he physically, emotionally and verbally bullied gymnasts who said they felt ‘brainwashed’ and suicidal as a result of his strategies.
Han, owner of Everest Gymnastics in North Carolina, is accused of assigning extra workouts to gymnasts he deemed ‘fat’ while calling them stupid or unworthy of his attention.
The United States Center for SafeSport this week announced he was being placed under coaching restrictions while it investigates allegations he abused at least one of his athletes.
A letter shown to the New York Times said he is banned from unsupervised interactions with gymnasts, by phone, texts or email.
Accuser Ashton Locklear is filmed next to Qi Han in a resurfaced 2016 video. Locklear says Han emotionally abused her while he was her coach
Locklear hugs Han after competing in the US Olympic gymnast trials in 2016
Han runs the Everest center with his wife Yiwen Chen. Both were formerly members of the Chinese national gymnastics team.
The New York Times previously identified three of his accusers as Olympian Ashton Locklear, Taylor Laymon and gymnast-turned-dancer Allee George. Two further accusers remain anonymous.
On Friday, Locklear shared the article on her Instagram stories with the caption ‘the fact he’s been a known abuser since 2012…healing.’
In another post, she appeared to reshare a private post from George who wrote: ‘I was never good enough for him.
‘I trained 30+ hours a week with him and I won everything 3 years in a row and he still told me every day that I sucked, was awful and that I would never amount to anything.
‘He would be nice every once in a while, and I would think he was the most amazing person ever.
‘I always wanted to be the best I could be to impress him so hopefully he wouldn’t scream at me or punish me.
Han has been accused of verbally, emotionally and physically bullying his gymnasts. Allee George says he would force her to perform ten-minute handstands which made her feel like her head would ‘explode with blood’
Han is pictured celebrating with gymnast Haleigh Bryant at a competition in 2018
‘I’ll never ever forget the 10-minute handstands that made my head feel like it was going to explode blood and if I came down I had to start over.’
Locklear, now 25, captioned the post: ‘This is just one of many stories. Why did it take them this long to listen!?’
In a 2018 interview Locklear said Han would scream at her during workouts, throw her out of the gym and say things like ‘your face tells me you don’t want to be here.’
She alleges she was forced to follow him around the gym for hours, weeping and begging him to take her back.
On one occasion she claims he threw a cell phone at her while other reports say he would push girls off high bars when he was on a raised platform. Han has repeatedly denied the allegations.
Locklear alleges he would then report bad things about her to Martha Karolyi, the former national team coordinator.
‘He would constantly say I was stupid and that he would tell Martha that I was bad and she would hold it against me,’ she told the New York Times in 2018.
‘I had to walk on eggshells. This is why athletes are afraid to come forward. Coaches have this power over their athletes that keeps the athletes scared and silent. I still feel like I’m terrified.’
Video footage from a national championship competition in 2016 shows Locklear performing in a pink leotard with matching ribbons in her hair as Han looks on.
Locklear, who was also a victim of sexually abusive gymnastics coach Larry Nassar, retired from gymnastics in 2019
Locklear told the New York Times in 2018 that Han would scream at her and force her to follow him around the gym for hours, weeping and begging for his forgiveness
Gymnast Taylor Laymon has also accused Han of bullying coaching techniques
At one point he puts his arm around a visibly uncomfortable Locklear.
She says she chose to speak out against Han’s behavior following the national scandal involving US gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar who was found guilty of abusing hundreds of girls and women.
Nassar is serving a 60-year sentence in federal prison and a 175-year sentence in Michigan state prison after being convicted of child molestation and possession of child pornography.
Locklear, a two-time national uneven bars champion who retired in 2019, was also a victim of Nassar.
The case shed light on a dark underbelly in national gymnastics which thrived on a culture of abuse and fear, inspiring young girls to speak out.
There have been no allegations of sexual misconduct against Han.
His accusers have instead focused on his reportedly demanding coaching style and verbal abuse.
George previously claimed his behavior was so appalling it caused her to quit gymnastics.
‘Han would kind of brainwash you into thinking all of his weird ways of disciplining you were normal, like when he would stretch your shoulders past your breaking point until you screamed, but still wouldn’t stop,’ she said in 2018.
‘Once you’re in there, it’s hard to get out and it’s kind of hard to explain.
‘The people he coaches turn out to be good gymnasts. But they don’t turn out mentally good.’
Locklear alleged that several reports had been filed against Han with either USA Gymnastics or SafeSport.
However all of the inquiries remain unresolved – despite them dating back years.
Reports against Han came to light in the aftermath of the Larry Nassar case in 2018. Nassar, a doctor for the Olympic gymnastics team, was accused by hundreds of women of sexual abuse. No allegations of sexual abuse have been made against Han
The girls’ accusations were backed by Monica Avery, the owner and coach at OSEGA Dream Academy outside of Asheville, NC.
In 2016 she reported Han to USA Gymnastics after she saw him kick an athlete in Texas.
This week she told the Times the ’emotional damage al these girls had to go through is so heartbreaking,’ adding Han should have been ‘stopped years ago.’
USA Gymnastics handed the case to SafeSport to investigate.
A parent of a gymnast at Han’s gym previously told The Times they were scared to speak out against his abuse as they feared he would stop their daughter from receiving a college gymnastics scholarship.
Han grew up in China and before moving to the US where he opened the Everest Gym.
Dailymail.com has reached out to Everest Gym and Safe Sport for comment.
Everest told the New York Times: ‘We do not tolerate abuse of any kind in our facility.’
‘If any credible abuse allegations exist,’ the statement said, ‘Everest Gymnastics encourages those parties to contact U.S.A. Gymnastics.’
Jill Geer, spokeswoman for U.S.A. Gymnastics, said: ‘Having cases handled appropriately and in a timely way is in the best interest of everyone involved, from the affected parties to the sport itself.’
She added the center was investigating the case not U.S.A. Gymnastics.
The body refused to give any further comment to Dailymail.com.