Elite gymnast Kara Eaker has made a public announcement about her retirement from the University of Utah women’s gymnastics team and withdrawal as a student. In her Instagram post, she

cited verbal and emotional abuse from a coach and a lack of support from the administration as the reasons for her decision.

Eaker, who is 20 years old, is an accomplished American gymnast who was part of U.S. gold-medal teams at the 2018 and 2019 world championships. Although she was named an alternate for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, she also contributed to Utah’s teams, which secured third place at the NCAA championships in both 2022 and 2023. The University of Utah is renowned for having one of the top women’s college gymnastics programs.

In her statement, Eaker expressed the toll that the alleged abuse has taken on her mental and emotional health, detailing her struggles with severe anxiety, depression, anxiety-induced insomnia, panic attacks, PTSD, and night terrors. She revealed that she had been receiving treatment from a university athletics psychologist and a new provider due to suicidal thoughts and self-harm ideation.

Eaker's social media post emphasized that her decision to speak out is not only for herself but for others who may be unable to do so due to the debilitating impact of their experiences. She described the environment in which she was training as unhealthy, unsafe, and toxic, contrary to the promised "family" and "sisterhood" she expected within the program.

The alleged abuse, according to Eaker, often took place in individual coach-athlete meetings, where she felt isolated and powerless due to the coach's condescending, sarcastic, and manipulative behavior. When she reported these issues to university officials, she faced denial and was told that the problems between her and the coach were due to their personalities not getting along, which she likened to gaslighting.

Notably, Eaker did not name the coach responsible for her allegations in her Instagram post. Tom Farden, who has been associated with the University of Utah since 2011, was a co-head coach from 2016 to 2019 and has been the sole head coach since 2020. An investigation conducted by Husch Blackwell last month concluded that Farden had not engaged in severe, pervasive, or egregious acts of emotional or verbal abuse of student-athletes.

However, the investigation did reveal that Farden made derogatory comments to a student-athlete and that a few student-athletes alleged that he used degrading language, but these comments were isolated occurrences that could not be independently corroborated.

In her Instagram post, Eaker expressed her disagreement with the investigation's findings, stating that it was incomplete and lacked credibility because crucial evidence and information were omitted, and the few descriptions used were inaccurate. Photo by University of Utah, Wikimedia commons.