Bridget Namiotka, a two-time U.S. national pairs figure skater who was the first person to publicly accuse late two-time U.S. national champion John Coughlin of sexual abuse, passed away July 25, her parents confirmed to USA TODAY Sports Friday. At 32 years old, she had achieved national and international medal success on the ice.
Steve and Maureen Namiotka lamented, “Bridget succumbed to her long battle with addiction after years of dealing with the trauma of sexual abuse. She was a beautiful child and an inspiring athlete – we are devastated. We pray that Bridget’s passing will bring new attention to the devastating effects of sexual abuse and addiction in our society.”
On May 19, 2019, Namiotka shared a Facebook post detailing her two year sexual abuse by Coughlin, her partner since teenagehood.
Namiotka and Coughlin began competing together from 2004 to 2007, when she was 14-17 and he 18-21. Together they won three medals on the Junior Grand Prix series and finished ninth at senior (Olympic) level at the 2007 U.S. national championships.
At almost the same time as his first post, Namiotka added more Facebook updates: “Grooming happens. It happened to me and a lot of girls. Think about the victims.”
Coughlin, who won two U.S. pairs championships with two other partners, committed suicide at his father’s Kansas City home the day after being suspended from the U.S. Center for SafeSport. USA TODAY Sports reported in January 2019 that there had been three reports of sexual misconduct against Coughlin; however, SafeSport announced in February 2019 that investigations had been completed into those claims.
On August 1, 2019, Olympic figure skater Ashley Wagner, the 2016 world silver medalist and most successful U.S. female skater of her era, told USA TODAY Sports that Coughlin sexually assaulted her at a national team camp in Colorado when she had just turned 17 and Coughlin was 22 years old – three months after Namiotka’s Facebook posts.
Wagner, a three-time national champion who won a team bronze medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics, said Coughlin got into her bed as she slept at her host family’s home and began kissing and groping her. “I was absolutely paralyzed in fear,” Wagner recalled.
Attorney John Manly, who has represented over 200 victims in the Larry Nassar gymnastics sexual abuse case, revealed in a March 2019 interview with USA TODAY Sports that he was representing two other minors when Coughlin allegedly sexually abused them.
“My clients and I want to make it crystal clear: John Coughlin used his position of trust, power and prominence in figure skating to sexually abuse multiple minors,” Manly declared.
Coughlin responded to USA TODAY Sports’ allegations against him on Jan. 7th, 2019, by email, declaring them “unfounded.”
“While I wish that I could speak freely about the unfounded allegations made against me,” he wrote, “the SafeSport rules prevent me from doing so while the case is ongoing.” He noted only that the SafeSport notice of allegation itself stated that an allegation does not guarantee a finding by SafeSport or that there is any merit to them.”
Coughlin’s claim that SafeSport was preventing him from speaking freely about the allegations against him “is not accurate,” SafeSport spokesman Dan Hill asserted in March 2019.
“The SafeSport Code and interim measure process that was communicated directly to him, which can be found on our website, make it abundantly clear that he could provide information, evidence, speak for himself and even ask for a hearing which would have been accommodated within 72 hours,” Hill noted. “That hearing would have taken place before an independent arbitrator – an absolutely crucial aspect of all this.”