By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
U.S. women’s gymnastics high-performance director Tom Forster is stepping down at the end of the year.
USA Gymnastics announced Wednesday night that Forster will leave his position on Dec. 31. Forster, who took over the program in June 2018, helped the U.S. women win gold at the 2018 and 2019 world championships and silver at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Forster said he was proud of what the program accomplished during his tenure. He did not immediately respond to a text message from The Associated Press.
“My passion for this sport has always been working with coaches and athletes to bring out the best in each,” he said in a statement.
USA Gymnastics will begin a search for the next program director soon. Forster will attend January’s scheduled national team camp as a guest.
Forster took over one of the U.S. Olympic movement’s marquee programs at a tumultuous time as it dealt with the fallout of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. He was the program’s third national team coordinator in less than two years. Martha Karolyi retired after the 2016 Rio Olympics and Valeri Liukin, Karolyi’s replacement, stepped down in February 2018.
The Americans maintained their status as the sport’s most dominant force through major competitions in 2018 and 2019 thanks in large part to the brilliance of five-time world champion and 2016 Olympic champion Simone Biles.
The U.S.’s reign ended in Tokyo over the summer. The Russians topped the Americans in qualifying, then soared its first team gold in nearly 30 years in the finals, an event best remembered for Biles’ decision to remove herself from competition because of a mental block that prevented her from performing her risky routines.
The U.S. did, however, maintain its grip on the all-around title as Sunisa Lee edged Rebeca Andrade of Brazil in the all-around finals, becoming the fifth straight American woman to claim the Olympic crown. Biles returned on the final day of competition to claim bronze on the balance beam to give her seven Olympic medals, tying the most ever by an American gymnast.
Whoever takes over will find the women’s elite program in transition. Four members of the 2020 Olympic team — Lee, Jordan Chiles, Grace McCallum and Jade Carey — will begin competing collegiately in January. MyKayla Skinner, who won silver on vault, retired, and Biles is in no hurry to decide whether she will attempt to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Biles, one of the hundreds of women abused by Nassar, a former national team doctor, has been a vocal critic of USA Gymnastics through the years.
“Wait till y’all realize the real problem with USAG isn’t Tom,” Biles tweeted Wednesday night.
USA Gymnastics has undergone a significant leadership overhaul in the five years since Nassar survivors first came forward. The organization may be near the end of its lengthy mediation with survivors. A vast majority of survivors approved a proposed $425 million settlement with USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
A hearing on confirmation of the settlement is scheduled for next week in Indianapolis.
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