After Nassar Hiatus, USA Gymnastics Turn to Tom Forster for Redemption
USA Gymnastics is turning to Tom Forster to help plot a way forward in the wake of the scandal against a former disgraced national team doctor that has rocked one of the crown jewels of the U.S. Olympic movement. The organization named Forster as the high-performance director for the U.S. Women’s National Team on Thursday. Forster, who will start July 1, is tasked with developing a strategic plan and training program for all national team members. USA Gymnastics president Kerry Perry called Forster, who owns Colorado Aerials in Colorado Springs, Colo., the right fit because his philosophy “mirrors our priorities.” The organization is in the middle of a massive overhaul following the downfall of Larry Nassar.
Nassar abused hundreds of girls and women under the guise of medical treatment while employed at Michigan State and USA Gymnastics. Nassar now is serving decades-long prison sentences for molesting patients and possessing child pornography. Forster says one of his first priorities is to create an atmosphere that focuses on open communication and provides the athletes the right to speak about issues and concerns that they have. He stressed they will be given an avenue to do so anonymously and without the threat of retaliation.
Forster has been a member of the elite development national staff since 2010 and became the interim elite development program director in February 2018. The new “high-performance director” position replaces the role of national team coordinator, a position formerly held by Martha Karolyi – who retired in 2016 – and Valeri Liukin, who stepped down over the winter. The organization has taken several steps to become more transparent in the nearly two years since the allegations against Nassar came to light. For example, USA Gymnastics has provided live stream coverage from national selection camps over the past 18 months and the organization intends to allow that practice to continue.
Forster’s hire is the latest in a series of personnel moves atop USA Gymnastics. Last week it elected a new Board of Directors and created a Programs Council with two representatives from each of the five competitive disciplines. The new board came shortly after former senior vice president Rhonda Faehn was dismissed last month. Faehn told lawmakers she was fired after agreeing to testify in front of a subcommittee. USA Gymnastics has not elaborated on why Faehn was let go.
The organization is continuing to search for a new permanent home after ending its agreement to train at the Karolyi Ranch earlier this year. An interim home could be named shortly. There is at least one bit of good news on the horizon for USA Gymnastics: Olympic champion Simone Biles is expected to return to competition next month. It would be her first appearance since winning five medals (four gold) at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.