US figure skating coach Dalilah Sappenfield had teen removed from home

November 5, 2021
Dalilah Sappenfield shown in 2009 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
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U.S. Olympic pairs coach Dalilah Sappenfield, who is under investigation by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, had a then-16-year-old Russian female pairs figure skater removed from her home by U.S. Figure Skating’s senior director of athlete high performance a year ago. 

Mitch Moyer directed the operation to get the skater out of Sappenfield’s home in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in September 2020, according to three people with direct knowledge of Moyer’s action who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the matter.

It is a violation of the USFS SafeSport program handbook for a coach to be housing a minor athlete: “A minor athlete shall not live in the same physical residence with an unrelated adult participant under any circumstances.”

Two other skaters were living at Sappenfield’s house at the same time as the Russian skater, both of them males over the age of 18. 

USA TODAY Sports is not naming the Russian skater because she is a minor and did not respond to several requests for comment. 

Two of the people with knowledge of the situation said Moyer reported the Russian teenager’s living situation with Sappenfield to SafeSport.

Sappenfield, 50, has been temporarily barred by SafeSport from having any contact with a dozen figure skaters and from coaching other athletes without another adult present to supervise while the investigation into allegations of her misconduct continues.

The Russian skater, who had come to the United States to train and live with Sappenfield in late 2019, was moved to another home in Colorado Springs before eventually returning to Moscow, where she is now training.

Asked for comment, Sappenfield texted, “Thank you for reaching out to me. At this time I have no comment.” 

Through a USFS spokeswoman, Moyer declined comment, citing the ongoing investigation. 

Sappenfield, winner of the 2008 Professional Skaters Association/U.S. Figure Skating coach of the year award, coached three-time national champions Alexa and Chris Knierim at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, where they finished 15th in the pairs competition and won a team bronze medal. 

Sappenfield was the coach and good friend of John Coughlin, the two-time national pairs champion who died by suicide at 33 on Jan. 18, 2019, one day after he received an interim suspension from SafeSport due to three allegations of sexual abuse. 

One of the skaters whom Sappenfield is prohibited from contacting, 2016 U.S. pairs champion Tarah Kayne, told USA TODAY Sports last month about several allegations she reported to a SafeSport investigator, including one in which the coach’s constant verbal abuse, filled with sexual comments, led her to cut her left wrist with a razor blade in the summer of 2019 in her dorm room at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

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