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Gymnastics coach Vincent Wevers, who is at the centre of a storm about the physical and mental abuse of young gymnasts, has denied hitting the girls and told broadcaster NOS he had been devastated by the allegations.

Last week, the Dutch gymnastics association KNGU suspended its top level coaches, including Wevers, and halted training for its international women’ teams pending an investigation into the claims.

Several former gymnasts have come forward in recent days to speak about their experiences of being hit, shouted at and belittled, often while still very young.

Wevers, father of Olympic champion Sanne Wevers, said that he had adopted the culture of the time when he started training. ‘There was little room for the gymnasts to have input,’ he said. ‘But with what I know now, I would never have behaved in that way.

‘I have never used physical violence and that is an allegation which has really hurt me,’ he said. ‘I don’t want to talk about this any more, let us wait for the investigation.’

Wevers said he never went into the gym with the wrong intentions ‘but that is not to say what we did was good.’

‘The culture was hard and spartan,’ he said, while emphasing the important role weight played in training. ‘I realised now that the gymnasts experienced [being weighed constantly] in a completely different way and that some still have trouble with this.’

After the initial allegations were made, Sanne, her sister and the rest of the Dutch international team issued a joint statement saying they do not recognise the picture which has been painted in the media about physical abuse within the sport.

‘As far as we are concerned, physical and mental flagellation are in the past. Our current team operates in a healthy, top-level sports climate,’ the statement said.

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