Gymnastics News Network
-Posted by Brandon Chaney
Recently GNN added a tip line to our website. We wanted to give people in the community a voice. We knew there were still victims out there. We also knew that parents and coaches were eager to make sure gymnastics stayed a safe sport.
What we quickly realized as tip after tip came in, there was a common and bigger issue along with sexual abuse and misconduct. We realized that mental and physical abuse is a very big problem in gymnastics. The stories are troubling to our company. Despite our company being a part of the media, we are all gym parents ourselves. There wouldn’t be a Gymnastics News Network if my daughter Braelyn chose another sport. My daughter wanted to do gymnastics 6 years ago and I fell in love with the sport. I am the gym dad. Every member of GNN has a gymnast in college or on the JO level.
Over the years we have developed great relationships with gym owners, coaches and gymnasts around the country. Other gym parents have also been a huge part of GNN. So when we hear these stories we think about our own kids. As parents we wonder how so many other parents can sit quiet even when they know the truth. Even going as far as ignoring or justifying the truth.
With that be said, here is our latest breaking story.
A group of parents, who are speaking on conditions of “anonymity”, told GNN about a gymnast going through both mental and physical abuse. The gymnast was only 7 at the time. Her mother claims that Mihael Catalin-Anton co-owner of Kratos Gym in Brookfield, CT, along with his wife Ashley Canton (co-owner), mentally and physically abused her daughter.
Even after she took her daughter out of the gym, the abuse continued. What started with threats and intimidation escalated into an incident at a competition. At the meet where the girl was competing with her new gym, Mihael Anton allegedly struck the young girl in the head with a gym bag as he walked by her and her teammates.
Another parent talked about how her daughter was thrown out of the gym for simply questioning Anton about the bar routines.
“All she did was ask a question about spotting styles after a gymnast broke her arm on bars. Coach Anton then berated and yelled at her in front of all of her teammates and the gym.” She continued, “We came in the next day for normal practice and Mihael told my daughter to get her stuff and leave his gym and never come back.” The girl was only 10 at the time. She said, “If you so much as questioned or tried to talk to Mihael you were either banished or became an outsider of the gym.”
Now lets talk about Mihael Catalin-Anton’s history that we know and ask some questions.
Back in February 2007, ESPN posted an article about Mihael Anton being banned from Romanian Gymnastics after being caught on video slapping a gymnast across the face at a meet. (Read ESPN’s article here.)
Then Anton found his way to the USA and settled in Connecticut. He was then employed at Elite gymnastics in New Milford, CT. After gym owner Dominica Pisani learned of the incident, she had no choice but to let him go. (There was articles posted in September 2009 CT Newstimes and the New Milford Spectrum)
Gym owner Pisani was quoted in the articles saying, “I thought he was phenomenal as a coach when I saw him working with the girls.” Pisani went on to say, “You don’t know how these coaches are until you actually see him working with the kids. And, I was impressed with Mihael, but when I saw the video, I talked to him and it was mutually decided that he should leave until he cleared his name.”
Before he secured his first job in the US in 2008, Anton was coaching at a gymnasium in Newtown called Vasi’s Innational Gymnastics. When the owner, Vasi Cioana, became aware of the video, he let him go right way. “He’d been here for almost a year. I knew he’d been suspended in Romania but I didn’t know the circumstances until I saw that video,” Cioana said.
Speaking on the record with GNN, Cioana told us that from the start you could see a problem with his temper and attitude. “He would cuss and yell at other staff members, gymnasts and even parents. He even threw a chair on several occasions.” Ciona remarked.
When we asked Ciona about the recent news he said, “He was not aware, but I would not be surprised at all.” Ciona went on to describe a meet in which he almost got the gym thrown out of the meet. “He was yelling and cussing at our staff, gymnasts and judges to the point where he received a final warning from the meet director.”
The question is: How can a man/coach that has such a horrible background own and operate a gym with USAG credentialing? Cioana answered that question with, ” I am not sure, but I do not think he is supposed to.”
Ciona said that Anton went as far as stealing email addresses of parents to try and convince parents and gymnasts to follow him to his new gym. “He knew that when he was let go that taking emails and contact information from our gym was not allowed,” Ciona said.
And based on comments made from USAG in the 2009 articles, it does not appear that he does have USAG credentialing. In the article it stated as of June 2009, to qualify for membership, gyms must sign an agreement saying they will not hire someone deemed ineligible for membership with USA Gymnastics.
“He’s not a member of our organization,” said Leslie King, USA Gymnastics Senior Director of Media Relations, at the time said of Anton. “We are aware of some of the concerns surrounding him. And [we] are looking into it.”
If that is true should he be coaching or owning a gym with USAG membership? How can he? We asked Cioana how he can even coach at meets. His reply was simple, “Don’t think he can, in order to coach at meets we ALL have to pass a background check through USA Gymnastics as well as two on line courses with a big part of it focusing on child abuse both sexual and physical, ect”.
He also said, “USAG knows about the video and he doubts he would pass a background check.” When asked how he would operate the gym and go to USAG sponsored meets, Ciona commented, “Maybe the gym is only in his wife’s name (Ashley Canton) and maybe she signs their gym in at meets.”
So, is he a member of USAG now? That is the question and how would that even be possible. We have continued to ask that question.
Below is the official email the parent sent to a lot of members of USAG back in January of this year. We left her and her daughter’s name blank because of how young the girl is and of how afraid she has become. It is to be noted that USAG has looked into these allegations since this email. Mr. Anton has the right to challenge the claims, as he should.
To Whom it may concern at USAGSubject: Kratos Gym
I am writing to you today to file a formal complaint against Kratos Gym in Brookfield, CT and specifically Coach Mihael Anton. I will give a brief synopsis of my daughter’s time at Kratos. Then I will speak about an incident that occurred Monday 1/16/17 at DGS competition in Hartford, CT. Lastly I will mention some cyber bullying attempts made by Coach Mihael Anton in direct relation to my daughter ( ) who is a seven year old girl. USAG level 3.
I brought my daughter to Kratos to take cheer and tumbling classes. Coach Mihael Anton expressed interest in having ” ” compete USAG level 3 and we gave it a chance. This was May 2016. But July 2016 she had suffered an ulna break that occurred at Kratos gym while Coach Mihael Anton was spotting “ ” on a cheese mat doing a back hand spring. When I arrived at the gym She was visibly in pain but was told to sit against a wall in a split position. Against my better judgement both Mihael and Ashley convinced me to keep her at their gym and that ” ” broke her arm because “she was not paying attention”. Over the course of the next few months I witnessed both Mihael and Ashley use methods and techniques that I did not feel comfortable with. They humiliated certain girls “Your lazy, your Irish, or you are just a cheerleader” and they made my daughter feel terrible about herself. Certain training methods did not sit well with me either such as long bar weight on the backs of girls as young as seven and up to 15 pounds. Near the end and within the last few weeks at Kratos Mihael Anton specifically targeted ” ” in a negative way. He often humiliated her in front of the other girls and their parents. She was afraid to do her back hand spring, she has only been out of a cast a few weeks. The final straw is when I found out on Monday December 2 Mihael Anton forced her to sit on the couch and miss practice because she was trying to take a deep breath. Other gym parents tried to console her and were told they were not to talk to her. I was told by gym parents that she sat on the couch alone crying for well over an hour. Mihael Anton claimed to me it was five minutes. I knew he was lying and I took my daughter out of his gym the next day, December 3, 2016. I was also advised by the Sandy Hook School psychologist that staying at Kratos gym was a mental health issue and that I should either find a new gym or a new sport.
Monday December 16, 2017 was her first completion outside of her new gym. She has since moved onto Elite Gymnastics Center in New Milford CT. She is very happy there. She went to DGS to compete knowing Kratos would be there. Mihael Anton spent a great deal of time staring “ ” down and also positioning himself and his wife Ashley, and their two gymnasts, next to the long line of Elite girls. Near the end of the competition the Elite girls where lined up sitting down facing the balance beam. Mihael Anton carrying a large purple gym bag walked behind the girls and went around ” ” (who was the last girl seated at the end) and the gym bag he had on his shoulder swooped down and smacked her in the side of her head. I jumped up from my seat in the spectators seating and Elite parents around me asked if there had just been an accident. To my surprise Mihael Anton kept walking, never apologized to her and never looked back. “ ” sat there looking stunned and rubbed her head. The parents around me convinced me to sit tight and file a complaint after rather than interrupt the entire meet. Unfortunately nobody else saw it all happen but me. After the meet I met up with my daughter and asked her how it was, she replied with “Coach Mihael hit me on the side of the head with a bag” and I said “yes I saw” and she said “It was hard, like it was full of water bottles”. I told her not to worry and that I would make sure USAG would take care of it.
Which also brings me to my next question. How is Mihael Anton able to participate in USAG coaching if his home country of Romania has placed a ban on him for assaulting one of his former gymnasts?
Furthermore he has posted things on social media to target my daughter. Please look into his accounts as they are public. Below attached are examples of the things that took place on social media.
So that brings us back to our constant question, Why? Why has this been a major problem and why are so many complaints going unanswered. We ask the parents out there reading this to not sit back and let your kid go through anything like this. Do not get intimidated by coaches and owners to the point where you remain silent.
If this wasn’t gymnastics and was a teacher doing this to your kids would we even need to have these discussions? I do not see how, considering parents complain to the schools now about anything that is inconvenient for their child. So why does it go on in sports? It is simple, parents are so focused on their child’s success that maybe it is the parent trying to live vicariously through their child. Either way parents need to talk to each other more and they need to talk to their children and realize this is not normal. So many people have said in the past that “this is just the culture” or “it is part of the sport.” Well it is not! It is not even a part of football culture, or any other sport.
And I cannot help but ask the question, why would you sign your child up with a gym that the owner or coach was banned in their own country for smacking a gymnast?So please do the right thing and help this great sport stay clean and safe. The sport is far to great to allow coaches and owners abuse our youth no matter if it is sexual, mental or physical.
**The story has received more updates and we have made the proper edits**
-Kratos gym, Mihael Anton could not be reached for comment.
GNN has created a “tip line” for any to call at any time. We will research the claim and report the abuse and the abuser.
GNN TIP LINE:
We also have resources available to those that need to reach out and seek extra help. Courtney Keihl, Executive Director and Founder A.C.H.E. (Abused Children Heard Everywhere), is willing to speak with anyone who needs her help.
Courtney Kiehl, Esq.
A.C.H.E. Foundation | Co-Founder
+1 (510) 552-7508
Our goal is to help make this sport fun and safe!
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Sources: GNN, ESPN, CT Newstimes, New Milford Spectrum