FORMER Commonwealth Games representative Mary-Anne Monckton has spoken out about the "physical, mental and emotional abuse" she suffered during her gymnastics career, saying the sport has an "insidious culture" that needs to change.
Born in Belmont, Monckton started gymnastics as a five-year-old at Windale's Lake Macquarie PCYC.
Two years later her talent was identified by Gymnastics Australia's elite-level coaches, who offered her a chance to join their high-performance program in Canberra.
Monckton's family moved to the national captal to allow her to pursue her dream, then relocated again eight years later when the AIS moved its national gymnastics base from Canberra to Melbourne.
Monckton won a world championships silver medal and two silvers at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwelath Games.
But she never quite realised her Olympic dream, largely because of horrendous injuries, including an ankle that twice needed reconstructive surgery, as well as a dislocated kneecap and ruptured aterior cruciate ligament. She travelled to London in 2012 as the Olympic team reserve.
She decided to speak out after watching the Netflix documentary "Athlete A", about gymnasts in the United States.
"I am scared to share my story," she posted on Facebook. "But at some point, someone has to stand up for the athletes.
"It has been made very clear, that they cannot do this for themselves. The abuse needs to stop or at least be stamped out of our sport."
Monckton said she and others experienced "body shaming".
"Anyone reading this and wondering why these things continue to happen and why gymnasts don't speak up ... it is because it will ultimately 'hurt' them more than anyone else involved," she wrote.
"Imagine having everything you have ever worked for taken away from you. This is why you stay silent; out of fear.
"This culture has been normalised within our sport and has impacted many young gymnasts' lives. These negative experiences have left me with deep scars and will take years to heal."
Monckton said there "are so many positives about gymnastics" but there needed to be cultural change.
"I don't want future gymnasts to have to go through the same things we did," she said.
"However, this insidious culture won't go away overnight, old-school coaches and outdated coaching methodologies are still around today. What we need to do as young coaches and leaders is to suffocate this abusive culture and push it out of our sport forever."
This insidious culture won't go away overnight.MARY-ANNE MONCKTON
Another Australian Commonwealth Games representative, 2006 gold medallist Chloe Gillard, revealed she considered suicide after being shamed about her weight.
"I felt it was easier to end my own life, than to give in to what they wanted me to be," she wrote.
Gillard said when she weighed 52 kilograms as a teenager, coaches frequently told her she was overweight.
"I would often make myself sick or starve myself out of fear of not making progress towards the 'right' weight, as determined by my coaches," she wrote.
"According to my personal coaches and national head coach, I was 'overweight' and a 'danger to my own body'.
"My personal coaches never called me fat but remarked that I was 'too heavy'."
Gymnastics Australia is promising to address what has been labelled a "toxic culture".
"We acknowledge and applaud those who have spoken up - their courage and their voice," Gymnastics Australia chief executive Kitty Chiller wrote in a public letter.
"We are here to help you and to support you and we genuinely want to hear about your experiences and your suggestions ... we are here to listen. And we are here to act."
Chiller encouraged more gymnasts to come forward while guaranteeing confidentiality.