Utah snowboarder Faye Gulini announces retirement, expresses support for embattled coach

On a day U.S. snowboarding wins gold, a former athlete accuses coach Peter Foley of inappropriate conduct toward women and building a toxic culture

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) From left, Faye Gulini (USA), Chloe Trespeuch (France), Meryeta Odine (Canada), and Kristina Paul (ROC) compete in the mixed team snowboard cross quarterfinals at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Zhangjiakou, China on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022.

Zhangjiakou • Just as Faye Gulini and the Team USA snowboard cross team drifted off with dreams of winning medals in the new mixed team relay Saturday, news broke of a less pleasant possibility.

On Friday, a former Olympic snowboard cross athlete accused coach Peter Foley of inappropriate conduct toward women.

Callan Chythlook-Sifsof wrote in a series of Instagram posts that Foley has for years collected pictures of naked athletes and built a toxic climate ripe for sexual misconduct.

“I cannot watch another Olympic Games without saying this publicly,” she wrote in one post in which she tagged Foley and U.S. Ski & Snowboard.

Foley has been the head snowboard cross coach for United States Ski & Snowboard since its inception in 1994.

U.S. Ski & Snowboard is opening an investigation into Foley’s actions, according to a statement from the governing body. The next step will be for the allegations to be forwarded to SafeSport, an independent nonprofit that handles accusations of abuse and misconduct in Olympic sports, according to the New York Times.

“I was totally surprised by the allegations,” Foley told The New York Times on Saturday. “I vehemently deny the allegations. I’ve been doing my best to concentrate on supporting the athletes at the Olympics.”

Foley, who is in China, was not seen at the Genting Snow Park on Saturday when the American team of Lindsey Jacobellis, 36, and partner Nick Baumgartner, 40, won the gold medal. Jacobellis said the accusations leveled by Chythlook-Sifso — her teammate at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver — created a distraction.

“It’s definitely been super upsetting to have that when we’re trying to focus,” said Jacobellis, who also won the women’s individual gold medal in the sport. “And it breaks up our team energy a little bit.”

Gulini, a Salt Lake City native, also raced Saturday in the mixed event, which was one of several competitions introduced for the Beijing 2022 Olympics that combines the efforts of both male and female athletes. Paired with Nick Vedder, the duo placed third in their heat and failed to advance.

Gulini has been on the US Ski & Snowboard team for 13 years and was making her fourth Olympic appearance. Just as Jacobellis and Baumgartner did, Gulini expressed support for Foley. She said in her time on the team she has never had an issue with or bad feeling about the coach.

“I’ve been on the national team for 13 years and I have never once felt any type of violation. I never felt uncomfortable. I’ve had nothing but incredible experiences on the team,” said Gulini, who, along with Jacobellis and Baumgartner, was on the 2010 Olympic team with Chythlook-Sifsof. “And I’m actually devastated by what’s being said.

“If there was something going on,” she added, “I like to think I would have seen it.”

Chythlook-Sifsof also posted that Hagen Kearney, who is on the Beijing Olympic team and appeared in a video explaining snowboarding terms with Gulini, used a racial slur when speaking to her in 2021. Kearney has admitted to the accusation, and US Ski and Snowboard said in its statement that they “dealt with at the time, and appropriate action was taken.”

Gulini said this will be her last Olympics, a decision she said she made before arriving in China. She knew she wanted to continue racing after Pyeongchang in 2018, when she qualified in third place overall but fell right out of the start gate in her opening heat to dash her podium expectations. She said she doesn’t have that same drive now. She does plan to complete this World Cup season, however, and is leaving open the possibility of returning in 2022-23 and beyond.

“Faye is an incredible rider and she and I have been pushing each other for a long, long time,” Jacobellis said. “She’s definitely a very talented rider and tactical when she’s on course. It just didn’t go her way today, and that just happens.”

Gulini’s best World Cup ranking in snowboard cross was ninth overall in 2017. She placed fourth in the Olympic final in Sochi in 2014 and has reached four World Cup podiums in the last two seasons. Yet even witnessing Jacobellis and Baumgartner, both of whom are older than her, snatch the mixed-relay gold did nothing to convince her to chase a medal in Italy in 2026.

She said the accusations against Foley aside, this has been the most trying Olympics she has been a part of.

“It’s actually my hardest Olympic Games by far. Just mentally and emotionally it’s been a struggle,” she said. “The pandemic doesn’t help, there’s not the same team dynamic and environment of watching every discipline and supporting each other.

“Knowing that it’s my last Games was really scary for me. I wanted more for myself, I wanted more for my family. I wanted more.”

But, she added, she’s content with how she did in China.

“Here I got to race and I rode as hard as I could and I rode my heart out,” she said. “And that’s enough for me.”