Olympic medalist and U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame member Peter Oppegard allegedly bit a female figure skater on the arm during a 2013 training session, USA Today reported Thursday. Oppegard, 61, is also accused of throwing hot water and coffee on skaters on “multiple occasions” during coaching sessions from 2005 until 2018.
The alleged abuse occurred at East West Ice Palace in Artesia, California. Pairs figure skater Jessica Pfund told USA Today she was 15 years old when Oppegard became angry while coaching her on a jump.
“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.’ ”
Pfund, who trained under Oppegard for almost three years, decided not to report the coach to U.S. Figure Skating authorities because of how it might affect his family. Oppegard is married to figure skater Karen Kwan, the sister of two-time Olympic medalist figure skater Michelle Kwan.
“His kids were so young and we felt that if we reported him, we might affect their family,” Pfund said. She also asked her mother not to speak out about the incident at the time, and suggested Oppegard would not handle the complaint well. “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,” she said.
Pfund, who is now 23 years old, said she was contacted by SafeSport in June 2020, and relayed her allegations over the phone to an investigator. SafeSport opened in March 2017 to investigate abuse in Olympic sports. SafeSport is also talking to at least two other individuals regarding abuse claims against Oppegard.
Pfund and her current pairs partner, Joshua Santillan, now train in Florida. USA Today reported Pfund and Santillan finished in the top 10 at the U.S. national championships from 2016-2020, and have taken this season off.
“Oppegard and his former pairs partner Jill Watson hold the distinction of being the last Americans to win an Olympic medal in pairs figure skating with their bronze at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympic Games. They also won three national championships and the bronze medal at the 1987 world championships,” USA Today reported.