American gymnastics | Leung presents his journey of cultural transformation at the FIG Safeguarding Symposium

© Ant Clausen

LIVERPOOL, England — The president and CEO of gymnastics in the United States, Li Li Leung, was the keynote presenter on Tuesday afternoon at the “Our Safe Sport Journey” symposium, organized by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG ) and British Gymnastics in conjunction with the 2022 FIG Artistic World Championships.

The symposium included participants from around the world, who attended both in person at the M&S Bank Arena and virtually via video conference.

Titled “Lessons Learned: Leading a Cultural Transformation,” Leung’s 50-minute presentation shared “The why, what, and how” of USA Gymnastics’ efforts to reform its culture into an athlete-centered one, giving the priority to the health and well-being of the athlete.

Describing why a culture change was needed, “We had an underlying subculture, especially at the highest levels, that was unhealthy and allowed and ignored abuse,” Leung said. “I wish I could say that we undertook the change on our own, but the reality is that everything that happened forced much-needed change, and it was the athletes who forced that change, and that makes the sport better than before.”

Recounting what has changed, Leung focused on the people, priorities and policies that underscore USAG’s ongoing transformation. These changes include a new strategic plan and organizational mission, governance reform, a strong educational structure, a unique athletes’ bill of rights, a new code of ethics and the full integration of athletes, including understood and especially survivors of abuse, in decision-making roles.

The “how” of implementation and continued progress depends on buy-in and support from the gymnastics community, consistent communication with all segments of the community, and ensuring that every decision is consistent with USAG’s organizational mission.

“We always tell ourselves that although we have done a lot of work, we know that more can be done,” said Leung, who sits on the FIG executive committee and safeguarding commission. “We will never be satisfied with where we are, much like our athletes, who are always trying to strive to be the best.”

The full program of the symposium is available here.

James C. Tibbs