'He stole so much from me' – US Olympic swimmer accuses ex-coach of sexual abuse when she was a teen

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Associated Press

US Olympic swimmer Ariana Kukors said in an emotional interview overnight that her former coach "stole so much" from her in the decade she alleges he sexually abused her starting when she was a minor.

Ariana Kukors alleges Sean Hutchison groomed her for sexual abuse when she was 13 and started it when she was 16.
Source: Associated Press

Kukors, 28, told The Associated Press that she can't get the time back but she can speak out so others recognise the signs of people grooming others for abuse or similar misconduct.

"If I save one person who's currently being groomed. If I have a dialogue with one parent about something that they think is alarming with their child and their coach. If I could do that, this is worth it," Kukors said through tears in New York.

"I cannot get that last decade from my life back. He stole so much from me. And he did so knowingly. He was calculated in his method," she said.

Kukors alleges Sean Hutchison, who began coaching her at a swim club near Seattle, groomed her for sexual abuse when she was 13 and started it when she was 16. The Seattle-area native also told authorities that he took thousands of sexually explicit photos of her as a minor.

Hutchison, 46, a former Olympic assistant coach, has denied the allegations and has not been charged with a crime.

Federal and local investigators searched his Seattle apartment last week for computers and other devices.

An email to Hutchison's Seattle attorney seeking comment wasn't immediately returned.

"At no time did I ever abuse Ariana Kukors or do anything with her that was not consensual," he said in a statement last week. "I absolutely deny having any sexual or romantic relationship with her before she was old enough to legally make those decisions for herself. Prior to that time, I did nothing to 'groom' her."

Hutchison said the two were in a relationship after the 2012 Olympics, when she was 23 and he was 41.

Kukors, the 2009 world champion in the 200-metre individual medley who placed fifth in that event at the 2012 Games, said that someone who began forming a relationship with her when she was 13 could not possibly say it was consensual.

In a roughly 20-minute interview, Kukors described her long process of healing, the overwhelming support she has received since she went public last week and her desire to help educate others about potential abuse.

She declined to say what USA Swimming officials or others should have done differently and what policy changes she hoped to see, saying she doesn't have the emotional capacity for that yet.

USA Swimming, the national governing body for swimming, hired a private investigator to look into rumours of a relationship between her and Hutchison in 2010.

The organisation said it closed the investigation without finding any misconduct after the two and others denied the relationship.

Some have criticised the investigation as insufficient.

It followed other sex abuse scandals in the sport that led to lifetime bans.

Kukors said she lied when a private investigator called her to ask about her interaction with Hutchinson because she was scared. 

"When I think back on it now, the truth wasn't an option," she said.

USA Swimming said last week that Kukors' public statement was the first time it learned of the underage abuse allegations and that "our hearts go out to Ariana and the difficulty she has gone through to reach this point of disclosure."

An organisation spokeswoman did not immediately return an email and call seeking comment.

Kukors, who is now married and credits her husband for helping her through the ordeal, said she hoped to underscore the way predators gain the trust of victims who don't know what's happening to them.

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