Figure skater Bridget Namiotka has accused her former pair skating partner John Coughlin of sexually abusing her. Coughlin committed suicide earlier this year on January 18.
Namiotka, 29, aired her accusations in a Facebook post on Sunday night, writing, “I’m sorry but john hurt at least 10 people including me. He sexually abused me for 2 years. Nobody innocent hangs themself.” At the time of his death, Coughlin was facing sexual misconduct allegations from three other women. Coughlin had repeatedly denied the allegations.
Namiotka and Coughlin skated together for three years, starting in 2004. In 2005, Namiotka and Coughlin placed in fifth place at the Junior Grand Prix and won a silver medal in the 2005 U.S. Championships. The following year, the pair missed out on a medal by less than half a point. The pair placed ninth in the 2007 United States Figure Skating Championships. Later, with partner Caitlin Yankowskas, Coughlin was the 2011 U.S. champion.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Bridget Namiotka Began Skating With John Coughlin When She Was 14 Years Old
Namiotka and Coughlin were figure skating partners from 2004 to 2007. They began skating together when Namiotka was 14 years old and Coughlin was 18.
She wrote several posts following her initial accusation. One reads, “Grooming happens. It happened to me and he hurt a lot of girls. Think about the victims.” She went on to write, “Think about all of the girls he hurt.” Another message read, “Someone that’s innocent doesn’t hang himself. Think about the victims when you’re speaking up for what he did to at least 10 girls” and “Think about all of the girls he hurt.”
Namiotka, a native of West Chester, Pennsylvania, is now 29 years old. When Coughlin and Namiotka first partnered up in late-2004, Coughlin moved from his base in Kansas City to Delaware, where Namiotka was based.
2. Namiotka Said When Her & Coughlin Broke Up as Partners: ‘I Couldn’t Have Expected Anything Better Than Skating With John’
Namiotka was quoted by U.S. Figure Skating’s website in 2007 as saying, “I love competing and going to competitions; it’s the every-day skating that has made me want to take a break. It’s no one’s fault. I am a lot younger than he is, so he doesn’t want the break. I feel like I need it right now.”
In the same article, Coughlin talked about his urgency to find a new partner before he missed out on the following season. While Namiotka added, “I couldn’t have expected anything better skating with John. We came a long way, and I want him to find a great partner. I definitely want to skate again, and hope to find a new partner, too. And until then, I can skate whenever I want to.”
The article went on to say that Namiotka was taking time off from competitive skating to work at her father’s company, Apex Janitorial Service as well as working at a Starbucks. Namiotka was also focused on graduating from high school. According to her Facebook page, Namiotka is a graduate of 21st Century Cyber Charter School.
Prior to skating with Coughlin, Namiotka skated with Alex Merritt, placing fifth in the novice category of the U.S. Championships in 2003. Before working with Merritt, Namiotka skated with Daniel Haskins. On an online profile, Namiotka described her hobbies as “baking, cooking, music, movies.”
3. Namiotka Suffers From ‘Chronic Pancreatitis’
In an online profile that was published while Coughlin and Namiotka were partners, it’s noted that Namiotka suffers from “chronic pancreatitis.” The profile says that Namiotka “controls the illness with a special diet.” Namiotka says that she has been in-and-out of the hospital since the age of 7 due to her condition. Namiotka goes on to cite Olympic champion Ekaterina Gordeeva as her skating idol.
Namiotka regularly posts about her health issues on Facebook. Most recently, in August 2018, Namiotka said that she was in the hospital where doctors were putting a tube in her stomach to feed her. Namiotka wrote that she was “really nervous” and “would appreciate prayers.”
4. John Coughlin’s Agent Called Namiotka ‘Unstable’
On Sunday night, Bridget Namiotka brought the spotlight back on to the allegations against Coughlin with her emotional Facebook posts. Since the investigation into Coughlin ended following his death, Coughlin’s accusers never got the chance to pursue justice in the legal system.
Bleacher Report reached Coughlin’s agent Tara Modlin for comment. She wrote, “It seems that you want me to comment on an unstable persons Facebook comment – I don’t really understand your question. … my suggestion is to call some of his other partners.” Attorney John Manley told USA Today that he represents Namiotka in addition to Coughlin’s other accusers. Manley has confirmed that Namiotka wrote the Facebook posts herself. We have reached out to Namiotka for comment.
5. Coughlin’s Family Claims ‘False Accusations’ Caused His Suicide
Coughlin told USA Today in an email on January 7, “While I wish I could speak freely about the unfounded allegations levied against me, the SafeSport rules prevent me from doing so since the case remains pending. I note only that the SafeSport notice of allegation itself stated that an allegation in no way constitutes a finding by SafeSport or that there is any merit to the allegation.”
Coughlin’s three accusers are represented by attorney John Manly. Manly also represented the 200 victims of gymnastics coach Larry Nassar. He told USA Today, “My clients and I want to make this clear: John Coughlin used his position of trust and power and prominence in figure skating to sexually abuse multiple minors, three of whom I represent.”
According to USA Today, Coughlin’s family told Jackson County medical investigator Christina Hawkins that the skater had been, “depressed because of false allegations.”
In her report on Coughlin’s death, Hawkins wrote, “The subject is an Olympic figure skater who was currently trying to get a commentator position with the U.S. Olympic Committee. He was competing for the position with another person. This person made false allegations, which resulted in the subject getting suspended from all correspondence and activities.”
The family has not named the person who they believe made false allegations against Coughlin. They have also not revealed what position Coughlin was seeking when they say he was falsely accused.
Though Coughlin publicly claimed he was not free to discuss the allegations, SafeSport spokesman Dan Hill contradicted him, saying, “The SafeSport Code and the interim measure process that was communicated to him directly, and which is on our website, makes it clear that he could provide information, evidence, speak for himself and even ask for a hearing that would have been accommodated in 72 hours by rule. That hearing would have been in front of an independent arbitrator. That’s such a critical part of all of this.”
Since Coughlin’s death, SafeSport announced in February that they had ended their investigation into reports that John Coughlin sexually abused three women, two of them while they were minors.