Power tumbling, and a graceful floor routine Vanessa Atler became a gymnastics sensation when she was just 15 in 1997. She seemed a shoo-in to make the 2000 Sydney Olympic team, but after dealing with injuries and what she describes as harsh new training, she was left off the roster.
“He would weigh us three times a day, which is insane,” she says. “You’d weigh in the morning, write down your weight and after workouts you’d write down your weight and at night time you’d write down you weight. Which is so stupid because it doesn’t mean anything.”
“I remember they said don’t drink water because it makes you look bloated,” she says. “And after workouts, Valeri’s wife would take me to a regular gym to work out on a treadmill.
“I was just like, these people don’t know what they’re doing… ‘course I didn’t say anything.”
“I feel like I got really screwed up with my weight at Valeri’s to this day,” she says. “I’m still just messed up like I can’t not weigh [myself] it’s just a mess. I’m really sensitive to that … When I see coaches weigh their kids and things that like it’s just ridiculous.”
Valeri Liukin responded to Atler’s allegations via USA Gymnastics:
“I am sorry Vanessa’s experience wasn’t positive during her time at WOGA. When asked to help during a difficult time for her, my intention as a coach was to help Vanessa achieve her dreams, not make her training situation more difficult,” says Liukin.
“My recollection of working with Vanessa is different and includes many positive experiences. Coaching techniques and perspectives have evolved since then, and I have grown as a coach through experience and expanding my knowledge. Today, I firmly believe an athlete’s focus should be on training smart, with increased education in the areas of balanced nutrition, fitness, healthy lifestyle and communication. This is the basis for our approach in women’s gymnastics.”