British Gymnastics pays five-figure compensation to woman at centre of abuse scandal

Nikki O'Donnell
Nikki O'Donnell suffered alleged abuse while training as a gymnast - Bethany Clarke for The Telegraph

British Gymnastics has paid tens of thousands of pounds in damages to a former gymnast suing it for child sexual abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of an ex-Olympian.

Almost three years after she waived her right to anonymity during a Telegraph Sport investigation into her case – and hours before an ITV documentary featuring her story aired on Thursday night – Nikki O’Donnell’s claim against the governing body was finally settled.

The 30-year-old also received a written apology from British Gymnastics chief executive Sarah Powell for the abuse said to have been carried out by her former coach, Stan Wild, who has also been accused of inappropriate behaviour or touching by two other alleged victims.

O’Donnell was nine when her own alleged ordeal, which she said included groping, began.

The claims against Wild, who competed for Great Britain at the 1968 and 1972 Olympics, were investigated by police but he was not charged after the Crown Prosecution Service ruled there was insufficient evidence against him.

Wild, who denies any wrongdoing, was struck off by British Gymnastics in 2020, 12 years after it became aware of O’Donnell’s complaint.

O’Donnell – who said in Thursday night’s documentary, Gymnastics: A Culture of Abuse?, that her ordeal had made her feel suicidal – told ITV News she was “relieved” at the settlement, and that a “weight had been lifted” off her shoulders.

“I turned 30 this year and I’ve been battling this for 16 years… It acknowledges the fact that they believe me, all these years I have not felt believed. I feel like I have been pushed from pillar to post,” she said.

In a letter signed by Powell, British Gymnastics acknowledged and accepted “the impact that the behaviour of your former coach, Stan Wild, has had on your health and well-being”.

“I fully appreciate that the events that you have endured were traumatic and pursuing a claim will have placed added pressure on you. I would like to express my sincere thanks on behalf of British Gymnastics for the courage and persistence you have shown in sharing your experiences,” the letter read.

The governing body is being sued by dozens of former gymnasts, with the number of cases settled so far in the single figures.

British Gymnastics failings over abuse scandal back in spotlight

British Gymnastics also faces accusations it ignored warnings about two paedophile coaches almost four years after the abuse scandal that engulfed it.

A former leading gymnastics judge told the ITV documentary that he had raised the alarm about Stuart Woods and David Schadek several years before they were jailed for child sexual offences.

And in arguably the most serious allegations made yet against the beleaguered governing body, Daren Norman said his concerns had been dismissed before criminal offences went on to be committed.

He told the programme a fellow coach had confided in him that Woods had been caught having sexual intercourse with a 14-year-old behind one of the gyms the paedophile was working in.

Norman said that, upon reporting the matter, he was informed that because he had not witnessed the incident, it was merely “hearsay”.

He added: “I do not know what happened from then because he did not appear to get suspended, he was never out of the gym, and Stuart was then elevated to one of the national coaches.”

Woods denies the accusation that prompted Norman’s alleged warning.

Woods was jailed for 11 years in 2021 – around 15 years after that alleged warning – for sexually abusing a boy and grooming two girls while teaching at the Reddam House Berkshire private school.

Reading Crown Court heard Woods had committed his crimes on school premises, with the boy saying in a victim statement he “rarely experiences happiness” following the abuse.

“Stuart is not a bad man; he is a monster,” he added.

Norman also said he had seen Schadek buying an underage gymnast an alcoholic drink around 15 years before the coach was eventually suspended.

“She was very young, 13 or 14,” Norman said. “So I went over to the hierarchy of British Gymnastics. I said, ‘You know that Dave is giving Bacardi and Cokes to this gymnast, that he is also sharing a room with? Albeit with consent of the parent’.

“And their answer was, ‘That’s up to him. Don’t get involved’.”

Schadek was suspended in January 2018 before being jailed for four-and-a-half years almost two years ago for sexually assaulting two children.

Norman added: “They should’ve taken it seriously when I first said about this girl having alcohol at such a young age.”

British Gymnastics told the programme: “British Gymnastics is halfway through an extensive programme of action to make gymnastics safe, positive and fair for all. Gymnasts and clubs have said progress is being made.

“The reforms are a joint effort involving experts and abuse survivors, who have been a vital part of the development of new safe sport policies. These are subject to independent scrutiny.

“Abuse, mistreatment and harm have no place in gymnastics. We urge anyone with concerns to come forward.”

Gymnastics: A Culture Of Abuse? is on ITVX

Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 3 months with unlimited access to our award-winning website, exclusive app, money-saving offers and more.