'Half my life battling for justice': Former gymnast wins apology and damages from British Gymnastics

Nikki O'Donnell has been given an apology and compensation following allegations she made against her former coach. Sports Editor Steve Scott reports

A former gymnast who says she was abused by an ex-Olympian has settled her legal claim against British Gymnastics, ITV News can reveal.

Nikki O’Donnell alleges that Stanley Wild touched her inappropriately as a child. Wild competed in the 1968 and 1972 Olympics and later founded a gymnastics club in York, where Ms O’Donnell trained. Wild denies all the allegations and has never been charged with any offence.

On Thursday, Ms O’Donnell - who has waived her right to anonymity - received a written apology from British Gymnastics and payment for damages amounting to tens of thousands of pounds.

However, other accusers have criticised the speed with which British Gymnastics is handling the civil lawsuits filed in the wake of the 2022 Whyte Review, which identified "systemic" physical and emotional abuse in the sport.

It is understood that the number of cases settled by British Gymnastics is in the single figures, but dozens are outstanding. Civil cases cannot be assessed until the independent complaints process completes investigations into coaches.

Nikki O’Donnell said she felt "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 CEO Sarah 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 reads.

Ms O’Donnell’s lawyer, Dino Nocivelli , urged the sport’s governing body to expedite the backlog of lawsuits.

"I hope that British Gymnastics do speed up the process for all those cases that are outstanding against many gymnast coaches across the country," Mr Nocivelli said.

"It is a real concern for me as an abuse lawyer", he added. "Every single day [gymnasts] are reliving this trauma, every single day [they] don’t have that element of closure and justice in [their] life and every single day [they] are getting broken down, so I hope that some breakthrough is possible."

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The news of Nikki O’Donnell’s settlement comes on the same day as an ITV documentary in which a former gymnastics judge alleges that warnings about two coaches, later jailed for child sexual offences, were not investigated.

In the documentary, a group of whistle-blowers are shown an email sent by David Kenwright, the head coach for women’s artistic gymnastics, criticising "naysayers", "non-believers" and "attacks on professional and personal integrity".

The email, first obtained by ITV News, was sent to competitors following the 2022 World Championships and was read by many as a coded criticism of whistleblowers. Kenwright concluded the email: "Success is the best revenge".

ITV News can now reveal that Tracey Whittaker-Smith, Performance Director at British Gymnastics, chastised Kenwright in a follow-up message to the same email group, making clear that his language was inappropriate.

But Kenwright remains in post and will coach some of Team GB’s most high-profile gymnasts at this year’s Paris Olympics.

In a statement, British Gymnastics said: "Our actions and behaviours matter, and this email did not meet the standards we now expect within gymnastics or reflect our values as an organisation… David has apologised for this to the gymnasts, coaches, and colleagues."

A further statement, sent to the ITV documentary team, added: "We are halfway through a two-year journey of action and reform to make gymnastics safe, positive, and fair for all. The scale of these reforms to drive deep-seated cultural change is huge, and one of the most extensive programmes ever implemented across any sport.

"We recognise that we still have much further to go and reform of this scale takes time, but we now have the building blocks in place, and gymnasts, parents, coaches, and clubs have said that progress is starting to be made."

Gymnastics: A Culture Of Abuse? ITV1 & ITVX 9pm tonight.

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