April 10, 2013

Speedskater Farrell ’08 Speaks Out on Sexual Abuse

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Bridie Farrell ’08 is currently training  in long track speedskating with the hopes of making the U.S. Olympic team for 2014 in Sochi, Russia. “I am going to compete at the 2014 Olympic trials. I have to improve a lot to make the team, but it’s not impossible. That’s my goal in the short term,” Farrell said.However, her story is much more complex than a Cornell diploma from Human Ecology and skating around a track. In 1997, at age 15, Farrell was training at Milwaukee’s Petit National Ice Center with the hopes of becoming a top speedskater.“I started ice skating when I was six years old in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. My club was, and is again, a Mecca for short track speedskating primarily because of the coach that we had,” Farrell said. “Folks would come and train in Saratoga Springs to train under that coach.” Andy Gabel came to Saratoga Springs for the first time to train for the 1994 Olympic trials and this was the first encounter that Farrell and him ever had. Over a period of several months, Farrell had sexual contact with four-time Olympian and former head of U.S. Speedskating, Andy Gabel, who at the time was 33 years old. Though according to Farrell, the relationship never included sexual intercourse, but was still inappropriate.“It’s disgusting. It’s absolutely disgusting,” she said in a statement on Feb. 28.  The sexual abuse was kept a secret and no one, other than the two, knew it went on for many months — until Farrell told a few family members in 2007.“For the ’98 Olympics, [Gabel] moved to Saratoga in 1997, and that was when we started training together. There were about 15 to 20 people training ranging in ages from 15 to 33. Over time, he started to spend more and more time with me. He would drive myself and another girl home but would always drop her off first. He would take me home, and then one day, he should have gone right to go to my house but he went left, and that was the first time that anything physical happened between us. It kind of escalated from there. It went on from summer of ’97 through the last time in March of ’98.”In her interview with the Milwaukee station, WUWM, who she trusted with the first recount of the story, Farrell says that she always knew that it was not right.“I knew it was always wrong. And I knew it that because he made it be a secret. But I will say the 15 year old thought it was exciting. The 15 year old was starstruck,” she said. ‘And so, I don’t know, you know you take the good with the bad, and this is ‘shit’ you hear about this all the time.” The question is: why choose to come out with the story now?Farrell, now 31 years old, said she feels that she is ready to share her story. She  says that she is not out there to destroy Gabel or get revenge for what he did, but to tell her side of the story.“I didn’t come forward in hopes of retaliation or hopes of anything against Andy. It is not a revengeful or vindictive kind of thing,” she said. “It was much more peaceful for me. It happens to coincide with me returning to the rink.”

Original Author: Haley Velasco