The U.S. SafeSport Center is investigating the 1988 U.S. According to emails collected by USA TODAY Sports and two individuals questioned by SafeSport, Olympic pairs bronze medalist and renowned figure skating coach Peter Oppegard over claims of physical assault.
According to the skater, her mom and a person who was present at the rink and said they saw the bite mark immediately afterward, Figure Skating Hall of Fame, allegedly bit a teenage female skater on the arm during a 2013 training session.
The SafeSport investigation, which has been underway since July, also investigates claims that Oppegard threw hot water and coffee at skaters he coached many times at the East West Ice Palace in Artesia, California, where he worked from 2005 until he left in 2018, according to two individuals who observed the actions of Oppegard and addressed them with SafeSport, and who requested anonymity in 2018, for fear of reprisal.
Oppegard did not respond to emails and voicemails on his cell phone requesting comment on Wednesday and Thursday.
Oppegard, 61, is the estranged husband of skating coach and choreographer Karen Kwan, the mid-1990s elite national skater and nine-time national champion, five-time world champion and two-time Olympic medalist Michelle Kwan’s elder sister.
In a phone interview Tuesday night, pair skater Jessica Pfund told USA TODAY Sports that Oppegard bit her after being angry with her during a practice session in 2013, when she was 15.
“He was helping to position me on the ice to show me a landing position on a jump. Both of his hands were holding me, and he leaned over and bit me on the skin on my upper right arm, near the bicep,” Pfund said.
“I remember being completely baffled why he did it,” she said. “I went home with a bruise and a bite mark on my arm. My mom said, ‘I can see the teeth marks.’ ”
“It was obvious,” said Laurel Pfund, Jessica’s mother, who was at work and not at the rink when her daughter was bitten. “There was a bite mark on her arm, and she was bruised.”
Jessica Pfund added that the injury/bruise lasted for at least a week.
She said she and her mother talked about what to do about the incident at home that night. “I asked my mom not to say anything about it because every time she would try, everything would get worse with him, our lessons and the criticism would get worse. It was better to say nothing.”
Pfund said she and her mother were also worried about what could happen to Karen Kwan and the two daughters of the couple if Oppegard was reported to the U.S. Figure Skating, the sport’s national governing body. At the time, SafeSport did not exist; it opened up to investigate corruption in Olympic sports in March 2017.
“His kids were so young and we felt that if we reported him, we might affect their family,” she said.
“The Center does not comment on matters to protect the integrity of the process and the parties involved,” SafeSport spokesman Dan Hill said Wednesday afternoon.
On Wednesday evening, USFS issued this statement to USA TODAY Sports: “U.S. Figure Skating supports all victims of abuse and misconduct and encourages anyone who has been abused or suspects abuse or misconduct to immediately report it to local law enforcement, the U.S. Center for SafeSport or U.S. Figure Skating.”