Swedish Olympian in coach sex abuse tell-all

TT/AFP/The Local
TT/AFP/The Local - [email protected]
Swedish Olympian in coach sex abuse tell-all

Revelations that Swedish Olympic high jumper Patrik Sjöberg faced years of sexual abuse by his late coach and stepfather have left the Swedish athletics establishment reeling.


Nousiainen, who died in 1999, had a relationship with Patrik Sjöberg’s mother for many years.

“I think that was the reason he started a relationship with her – to get to me. To be able to keep his ‘hobby’ at home,” Sjöberg said to Sveriges Television (SVT).

In the very frank autobiography 'What you didn't see' ('Det du inte såg'), Sjöberg, who won the World Championships in Rome in 1987 and holds three Olympic medals, tells of how Nousiainen soon became the father figure that the eleven-year-old Sjöberg had been lacking.

Nousiainen, who died in 1999, gave the rising star his full attention and lots of praise when he did something well.

“I woke up on several occasions with both my sheets and pyjamas pulled off. I remember camera flashes and stuff. I confronted him on a number of occasions, but he always denied it,” Sjöberg said to SVT.

When Nousiainen separated from Sjöberg’s mother, Sjöberg chose to go with his stepfather.

“It was a no-brainer for me. I was going to be the world’s best high jumper. If I went with Viljo I could dedicate myself to my training. If I went with mum I would not have that freedom,” he told SVT.

When Sjöberg turned fifteen, he decided that the abuse had to stop. Nousiainen tried a few more times but Sjöberg made it clear that he would go to the police if it happened again.

“Also I think I was growing so fast that I really wasn’t as interesting to him anymore. He found younger boys instead,” Sjöberg told SVT.

Sjöberg doesn’t think he was the first and he knows he wasn’t the last among Nousiainen’s victims.

“Sometimes I felt like an accessory to the crime because I realised later that he must have continued this behaviour after he was finished with me. I retrospect it seems fairly egoistic, but I was just amazingly relieved that he kept off me," he said.

Another Swedish sports profile to come forward after Sjöberg’s revelation is athletics coach Yannick Tregaro.

“For me it started when I was about twelve or thirteen, when I was very young, a rookie,” he said to Sveriges Radio (SR).

According to Tregaro, he was having a rough time at home and was turning more and more to his coach for support. As he got older he realised that what was going on was not strictly above board.

Tregaro is pleased that Sjöberg has come forward with this information.

“It is difficult to carry secrets with you buried deeply within oneself. So in that way I am happy the secret’s out,” he said to SR.

While working on his book Sjöberg has done a lot of research into the minds of paedophiles and how they operate.

“Viljo knew exactly which guys to go for – those with problems at home, with single mothers, and a lot of freedom of movement,” he said to TT.

The former world champion explained that he had never told anyone about how

his coach repeatedly used sports therapy as an excuse to get him naked and

molest him until he two years ago was talking with former Norwegian youth

champion Christian Skaar Thomassen and discovered that he too had been abused

by Nousiainen.

“At first I denied it, but we talked for a long time and I finally realised that this was the same thing that Viljo had done to me,” he told SVT, explaining that the meeting with Skaar Thomassen inspired him to come forward.

Sjöberg's and Tregaro's revelations have rocked the Swedish athletics establishment. Many worked closely with Nousiainen without ever realizing what was going on.

"I am completely shocked. I got to know Viljo twenty years ago and have been part of this group my entire adult life but I never would have believed anything like this was going on," said former high jumper Stefan Holm to SR.

The Swedish Sports Confederation (Riksidrottsförbundet) said that it is taking the matter of child abuse very seriously.

According to chairwoman Karin Mattson-Weijber, the Confederation has recently issued stricter guidelines as to how individuals and sports clubs should act with regards to abuse.

It has also demanded to be given the right to carry out background checks for sports leaders, something that today is practice prior to hiring schoolteachers and preschool staff.

Mattson-Weijber fears that there are large numbers of unrecorded cases in Sweden.

“There have been instances where there have been no convictions but suspicions have been raised. But one have to keep in mind that the majority of leaders are fantastic, it is just very important to be vigilant “ she said to SVT.

Patrik Sjberg is expecting a lot of others to come forward in the near future.

"I am hoping that this book may make someone who has also been exposed feel that ‘damn, if he dares telling then maybe I will deal with it too,’" Sjöberg said.


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