Source: Cover Photo: Red Bull Content Pool/Graeme Murray


In an interview aired on Estonian TV on Wednesday night, Kelly stated that she has been the victim of long-term domestic abuse by her father and coach Tonis Sildaru.

Tõnis Sildaru is currently the subject of a criminal investigation, which according to the prosecutor's office, will look into cases of domestic abuse against Kelly and her mother, as well as large-scale embezzlement. There are disputes over sums exceeding the one million euro-mark, and over property in Saku, near Tallinn. Tonis denies the charges, insisting that accusations are being driven by Kelly's mother, Lilian Talving.

Appearing on "Pealtnägija", Sildaru said that she said she wanted to highlight the issues for others in a similar plight:

"I just feel that maybe this story of mine can encourage other people as well. And maybe motivate them to take the steps I probably took too long [in taking]."


Forced to ski?

Kelly Sildaru says she skied because she liked it: "I wanted to do it, I just liked it, I did it because of that. I probably got as far as I did, because of that and then he (Tõnis) definitely had very different goals, primarily financial, in order to earn as much money from me as possible during my sporting career."

A knee injury forced Kelly to miss the Winter Olympics in South Korea which would have been her first. Sirli Hinn, a physiotherapist who has worked with the family for a long time, says that she feels Tõnis forced his daughter to return to training following the injury too early, disregarding any protests from Kelly. "When she said she was in pain or that she was tired, the answer came that she shouldn't complain. Any adequate assessment of an athlete's state of health, especially one who is your own child, both in training and at home, was completely lacking," Hinn said. This went beyond mere ambition and a desire to motivate, she added.


Escalation and charges

Kelly says she had realized there were issues in her parents' relationship for some time. In the interview, she says she witnessed an escalation from verbal to physical abuse, which prompted her to take her mother's side sometimes. Her mother says that once Kelly started standing up for her, that made her another enemy who needed subduing and controlling in Tõnis Sildaru's eyes.

According to Sirli Hinn, it was some time in 2018, that Kelly started to express in messages she was afraid. On the show, Kelly Sildaru recalled an incident at a training camp in Finland, where Tõnis tried to confiscate her phone, prompting her to try to get away from him and ending with a physical strike.

Much of the detail surrounding the case is currently part of the ongoing investigation, and therefore not a matter of public record. However, the show was able to air parts of a recording from November 2018, where Tõnis Sildaru is heard shouting abuse at Kelly in a tirade lasting about 15 minutes after she was late for an agreed appointment. Tõnis Sildaru claims that such 'discipline' was required to keep his rebellious daughter in line. He also admitted that he had acted in self-defense against Lilian Talving, from whom he is separated, and also that he had "detained" her.

Talving says that she had to flee and stay with a friend, Heiki Sõmerik, after suffering facial injuries. Sõmerik confirmed that the incident had happened and had seemed to have been an escalation in terms of force on previous incidents.


Tõnis Sildaru's response

Having received a prior warning that the interview would be broadcast on Wednesday night, Tõnis Sildaru filed a criminal complaint of his own, accusing both mother and daughter of not only threats and physical abuse, but also theft, embezzlement, and cyber fraud. Kelly's grandmother also filed a report last Friday that Kelly had been attacking her.

Tõnis Sildaru also issued a statement on Tuesday, which was co-signed by Kelly's brother Henry, and Tõnis' parents, Aidi and Kalev, saying that they would not be engaging in further public interviews on the matter.


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