The picture above will not only be a moment that Aly Raisman will never forget, but it is a moment in Olympic history that fans all around the world will never forget as well. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Raisman made a comeback and finally achieved the all-around medal she was cheated from in the 2012 London Olympics. The story of what what came after the Olympics takes a turn like none other. If you’ve paid attention to the news, and social media, USA Gymnastics has been under fire from the Larry Nassar scandal. Nassar was the former USA team doctor for Gymnastics, but recently has been sentenced life in jail for the sexual abuse of over 100 athletes (more keep coming forward as time goes). Nassar has abused well-known athletes such as: McKayla Maroney, Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross, Simone Biles and Madison Kocian…just to name a few. When following how this situation unfolds, Aly Raisman has been seen as the leader when it comes to discussing this sexual abuse scandal.
Since the silence has been shattered by these fierce athletes, USA Gymnastics has been in an attempt of re-structuring their system, and well, it hasn’t really made strong progress. In the past few days, USAG has regressed any progress by a few dozens steps. The organization has appointed Mary Lee Tracey, current president and head coach at the Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy, as the Elite Development Coordinator of USAG. Though her resume shows to be impressive, multiple athletes have said that Tracey knew about the Nassar abuse and never supported them, only showed support for Nassar. In addition, to her knowledge of the abuse, she was also said to be abusive herself.
So, when news like this strikes, you can often find Raisman being the first and loudest to voice her opinion. Recently, Raisman sat down with “Gymcastic” for a podcast interview to discuss in an honest and vulnerable way how she has felt with everything happening. Raisman and her mother both described that since after the 2016 Olympics, how uncomfortable they have felt attending events held by USAG. The organization themselves would ice out the athletes at events such as the Hall of Fame induction, and interviews were canceled with Aly Raisman (in the podcast she states that she does not know if USAG were responsible for the cancellations or not). She continues to explain that if she had the opportunity to sit with Kerry Perry (president and CEO of USAG), and help them with how to go about re-structuring the organization, she would be more than willing to do so. Another argument that Raisman brought up with Gymcast was that USAG has continued to release the same statements about each athlete that comes forward, but has not made an attempt to get in contact with these survivors. The organization can say they support these athletes until they’re blue in the face, but how can you show support when you haven’t even been in contact?
Aly’s mom, Lynn Raisman, brings forward that in the handbook for USAG it states that if there is a claim of sexual abuse it must be reported to Steve Penny in writing or it doesn’t count. That policy, when Lynn Raisman saw it (since then has changed), left her to question that all of the phone calls and meetings she’s had, that doesn’t count? Though there is a “ban list” made public for gymnastics, Aly questions, if those people are banned from gymnastics, what keeps them from coaching other sports? We need to find a way to keep them permanently away from kids.
In the interview, Aly is asked about her opinion of Marta. After admitting she’s gone through therapy, she describes her experience at the 2015 Worlds. It was a difficult competition for Aly where she kept wiping out, and her body was off. Though Marta did know about the abuse, she still was extremely hard on Aly, instead of helping her through a hard time. The experience she had with Marta was off and on, she was terrified of her but also had moments where Marta was kind to her.
As much as I want to keep talking about what goes on in the podcast, I want everyone to take a listen! There’s a reason why I idolize Aly Raisman, and why an autographed photo of her hangs in my room. Aly is the leader we all need, inside and outside of gymnastics. She represents the concept of being fearless and courageous when we need a voice at the most critical time. I certainly hope USAG makes changes for the better, and learn that the only way to move forward, is to really listen and understand what happened in the past.
You can find the Gymcastic podcast on iTunes! I hope you all enjoy the interview as much as I did.