Former Olympic swimmer Ariana Kukors published an essay on her personal website today detailing what she calls her “extensive, abusive, and incredibly manipulative relationship” with her ex-coach, Sean Hutchison. Investigators with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security searched Hutchison’s home earlier this week and, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, looked for evidence he took nude photos of Kukors.
Hutchison released a statement denying that he abused Kukor, and claiming it was a consensual relationship while both were adults. When a Seattle Times reporter tried to reach him in person on Thursday, Hutchison shook his head and closed the door.
In her essay, Kukors goes into detail about how, she writes, she grew to rely on Hutchison. She says that she started consistently texting him when she got a cell phone at age 15, that the young swimmers craved his attention, and that he “always had a strong hold over the female swimmers.” His attention, she writes, made her feel special and “chosen.”
Sean made his move in the Mt. Rainier Pool parking lot, a hole in the wall complex just outside of Seattle. I was standing by his car talking after practice wearing baggy gray sweatpants with TROJANS, my high school mascot, written down the side in green. I was 15.
He asked me if I was wearing underwear.
I said no.
I’ll never forget the look on his face, it was almost mischievous as he was trying to gauge my response.
From that point on, everything was different.
She says they talked all the time, had “post-race hugs that lasted a little too long,” and that “constant” texting resulted in relying on him “for everything.”
He began by having me sit on his lap when we were alone, then progressed to kissing me in elevators, and touching me over my clothes. He once put a paper ring on my ring finger that read, “My beautiful Ari,” and told me he wanted to spend his life with me. He was 34. I was 16.
It was then, Kukors writes, that they began “engaging in sexual acts” that became more frequent during her senior year of high school.
Shortly after my 18th birthday, we had traveled out-of-state for one of the summer’s swim meets. Sean snuck me into his room to finally give me my “gift”; I’ll spare you the details, but the memory of that night will always haunt me. The parent chaperone knocked on Sean’s door, telling him I wasn’t in my room. Sean sent him on a wild goose chase, while smuggling me into the stairwell as I pretended to be on the phone with my Mom.
Kukors eventually switched to training in California, instead of her home state of Washington, and Hutchison joined her down there as well. She writes that, while down there, they were able to act more like a real couple. That’s also was when rumors about them reached then-national team head coach Mark Schubert. Schubert relayed the rumors to other people at USA Swimming, he told the Seattle Times, but nobody ever contacted authorities. Schubert and FAST chief operating officer Bill Jewell did hire a private investigator, though, and information gathered in that inquiry was used to get Hutchison to resign.
I think back on those times now, tearfully asking why no one helped me . . . why no one stepped in to save me from this monster. It’s still hard to comprehend, but Sean had perfected the art of grooming; I wasn’t even aware I needed saving. And as long as I swam fast, it seemed easy enough for the organizations that have masterfully buried these tragedies for years, to once again brush off the rumors.
Her world, she writes, came crashing down when the Washington Post reported on Hutchison’s resignation in 2010 and the investigation into the rumors. When USA Swimming finally did a proper investigation, in January 2011, Kukors writes in the essay that it wasn’t much: just 19 questions asked by a private investigator, and to which she lied.
Several weeks later, USA Swimming aggressively closed the book on the investigation, putting out a public statement saying they had found no wrongdoing, and calling rumors about Sean “malicious lies.”
Well that shut me up real quick. But I think they knew. I think everyone knew. No one flew out to meet me. No one seemed to care what happened to me in all this.
The relationship with him continued, finally starting to come undone in the summer of 2013.
Hutchison released a statement, which you can read in full at Swim Swam. In the statement, he denies abusing Kukors and says anything that happened between them was consensual. It says: “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.”
You can read the full version of Kukors’ essay on her website.