Most of us will not have the opportunity or skill set to go to the Olympics. Aly Raisman did not just compete at the games. The second-most decorated American Olympic gymnast dominated.
Raisman began gymnastics at the age of 2 with “Mommy and Me” classes. She continued with the sport through her young years, only to discover her love of the sport at 8. In that year she decided to pursue gymnastics more seriously and opted out of many other sports.
While most students would only grudgingly study online, Raisman did so voluntarily during high school to prioritize gymnastics training. The sacrifice changed her life.
“I really did not expect or understand how many people watched it, and I never imagined how much my life would change from that,” Raisman said in a speech on Monday at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. “I am grateful that I did not realize that until after, because I think if I had known how much doing well would’ve changed my life in a positive way it would have added even more pressure.”
Raisman spoke just two days before she is expected to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee about Larry Nassar, the former U.S. Olympic team doctor who was sentenced for sexually abusing the women under his care. Specifically, the committee is investigating why the FBI took so long to respond to accusations of Nassar’s abuse. Those events put a different kind of spotlight on Raisman and her teammates.
“I do not know if that is something you ever get used to,” Raisman said.
With the Olympics behind her, Raisman said she focuses on embracing the platform she has to educate others about gymnastics, body image and what it means to be a survivor of sexual abuse.
“My current goal within gymnastics is for there to be a full, independent investigation,” she said. “My other goal is that there be more joy within the sport and more communication between athletes and coaches.”
“When I shared my story, I had absolutely no idea how common it was at all,” she added.
Since sexual abuse is rarely talked about in school or in gymnastics, she said she had fears of not being believed.
“I have found the importance and value of when one person shares their story, I really believe it helps open the door for someone else. It doesn’t matter if you do not have a big platform, even if you are at the dinner table, someone else might have a similar experience,” Raisman said.
She said validation is important, and that she’d like to use her platform to allow others who are struggling to know that they are not alone. The Olympian will testify alongside her friends and some former teammates, including Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols.
Raisman is a leader on and off the floor in the gymnastics world, and she plans to continue advocating for the survivors of sexual abuse.
Edited by Christian Knox