DENVER - Shellie Pfohl sat in her new home in Golden watching as a "60 Minutes" report highlighted the horror that has invaded the American Olympic movement.
It's her job to stop the horror. Pfohl serves as CEO of SafeSport, which seeks to stop abuse in Olympic, and American, sport. Yes, she's tackled a big task.
"I knew essentially what was coming," Pfohl said. "I knew what was going to be talked about."
Still, she wasn't fully ready. In the Feb. 19 broadcast, gymnasts offered graphic details of alleged sexual abuse by osteopathic physician Lawrence Nassar. The USA Gymnastics scandal comes after charges of abuse in Olympic swimming, speedskating, judo and taekwondo.
For many, watching the "60 Minutes" episode carried an intense feeling of helplessness. Pfohl had a different feeling. She knew SafeSport offices would open March 3 on the seventh floor of a big white building on Denver's Colorado Boulevard.
She knew she could help.
"I had feelings of sadness over what those young people had experienced, but also I was turning that into just an overwhelming sense of passion and purpose," Pfohl said. "A redoubling of purpose and a belief in knowing that what the center has been chartered to do, what we are doing and what we will do is going to make a profound difference."
In the first month after opening, Pfohl and her team have examined 20 reports of misconduct. Athletes, she said, have been waiting for SafeSport to open.
This leads to an obvious question:
Why did it take so long for the U.S. Olympic Committee to launch SafeSport?
In a March interview, USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said the delay in opening SafeSport was primarily financial. The USOC will provide $10 million to fund SafeSport's first five years of operation.
Raising those funds was challenging.
"We thought we would be able to raise financial support for this program faster than we were able to," Blackmun said.
Pfohl brings up the delay question without being asked.
"Gosh," she said, "we all wish it would have happened faster."
Pfohl said finding the experts needed to work at SafeSport took time. She said a long list of details delayed the opening.
"What took the movement so long to do this?" she asked. "My best answer to that is that the issues around what we do are complicated and complex, period. Even getting insurance was incredibly challenging. That's just one tiny example of what we're dealing with.
"But we are ready to truly do what we are tasked to do. Almost anyone would say, 'Gosh, I wish it would have transpired more quickly,' but we are where we are."
Pfohl understands intense scrutiny. She served nearly seven years in the Barack Obama administration as executive director of the president's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. Pfohl and the Council helped push first lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! that targeted childhood obesity through better diet and consistent exercise.
It would seem the crusade would skip free of controversy. Who would attack the virtues of good nutrition and exercise?
Pfohl soon discovered the answer. Let's Move! inspired fire from radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.
"Instead of a government thinking that they need to take over and make decisions for us according to some politician's or politician's wife's priorities, just leave us alone," Palin said.
Pfohl laughed as she thought back to her years in Washington. Not far from her desk, there's a photo of her surrounded by the Obama family. Underneath the photo, a letter is signed by the 44th president.
"For your next chapter, and for everything that lies ahead, you have my very best. Barack Obama."
She understands life under the spotlight.
"I found out there is always going to be someone who will find fault with what you're doing, and, frankly, that everything can be politicized in some way," Pfohl said.
She could have taken, in her words, "easier paths" after her time in D.C., but she wanted a challenge.
She wanted this challenge.
SafeSport will play two primary roles.
One, it will oversee the 47 National Governing Bodies of the Olympic movement and investigate abuse violations and, when appropriate, punish those violations.
Two, it will raise awareness of best practices to allow athletes to remain protected from emotional, physical and sexual abuse.
Pfohl sees the second educational role as stretching "far beyond the Olympic family. We want to be out there for every youth-serving sport organization. Our scope there is much broader."
She understands the challenge ahead. Sexual predators have ignored rules, violated trust and polluted the Olympic movement. On Feb. 19, millions of Americans saw the full extent of the horror.
Pfohl seeks to halt the horror.