A Human Rights Watch report has found child athletes in Japan often suffer physical and verbal abuse and sometimes sexual abuse during training after documenting the experiences of over 800 athletes in 50 sports.
The 67-page report released on Monday titled “I Was Hit So Many Times I Can’t Count” looks at Japan’s history of physical punishment in sport and includes first-hand accounts from athletes.
The report comes in the week that would have marked the start of the Tokyo Olympics had it not been for the global coronavirus pandemic. The Games have now been delayed a year.
“The specific abuses we documented include punching, slapping, kicking or striking with objects (and) excessive or insufficient food and water,” Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch (HRW), told a news conference.
In 2013, the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) promised to take steps to wipe out violence among its sports federations after an internal survey revealed more than 10% of its athletes had been victims of bullying or harassment.
From the report:
Another interviewee, Tomohiko C. (pseudonym) started swimming at age 8. Now age 45, he says:
Swimmers were beaten with the fins. If we weren’t meeting targets, when we would touch the wall [at the end of a heat] the coach would hang us by the neck on the timer rope to punish…. I remember sinking without a breath and then the coach beat me…. At the high school swimming team, for students goofing off, the coach would line the team up and punch every kid [causing us to] fall into the swimming pool. These memories are so vivid in my mind. What I learned then was not about the joy of sport but about enduring.