It may seem like the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics are quite some time away, but many athletes who will be eligible to compete at these games are already in the middle of preparations.
Most sports consist of exhibition competitions throughout the years in between the Olympics as well as national and international events to prepare athletes for the world stage.
The world of USA Gymnastics has seen the light of the media most recently after justice was finally brought to Dr. Larry Nassar, former USA Gymnastics team doctor who pleaded guilty to multiple counts of sexual misconduct with young women and minors, back in January.
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced Nassar to 40-175 years in prison for sexually abusing over 250 women during the past three decades. She invited the victims to come forward during Nassar’s trial to give a statement to him, and over 150 of them delivered their messages.
Not only did this invitation from Judge Aquilina allow the victims to speak up during the trial, it also gave them an amazing platform to fight back. Four members of the 2012 London Olympics women’s gymnastics team came forward: Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber, Gabrielle Douglas and McKayla Maroney.
Raisman also competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics with one of the greatest female gymnasts in history, Simone Biles, who was also an unfortunate victim to Nassar’s abuse.
At the 2018 Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Awards Ceremony July 18, 141 of the survivors of Nassar’s abuse were welcomed onto the stage to receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
One of the survivors that stepped up to speak upon receiving the award was former gymnast Sarah Klein. She gave a powerful message about what it meant to her to be standing on that stage.
“Telling our stories of abuse over and over and over again in graphic detail is not easy. We’re sacrificing privacy. We’re being judged and scrutinized. And it’s grueling and it’s painful, but it is time,” Klein said.
She was joined by Raisman at the front of the group of women who also gave a short speech.
“1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016. These were the years we spoke up about Larry Nassar’s abuse. All those years we were told ‘You are wrong. You misunderstood. He’s a doctor. It’s OK. Don’t worry, we’ve got it covered. Be careful. There are risks involved,” Raisman said as she began her speech.
The women standing on that stage were not all the same age when the abuse started and each of their stories are different. But what made this whole situation even more traumatic was that no one listened to them for all those years.
“The ripple effect of our actions, or inactions, can be enormous, spanning generations. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of this nightmare is that it could have been avoided… If just one adult had listened, believed and acted, the people standing before you on this stage would have never have met him,” Raisman later said.
Their platform now is this: ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.
“We may suffer alone, but we survive together,” Raisman said ending her speech.
As the USA Gymnastics organization tries to reform their institution in light of this disaster, the athletes must move on. This weekend, July 27-28 is the 2018 GK U.S. Classic competition in Columbus, Ohio, in which junior and senior women athletes will compete.
The seniors compete July 28. Reigning 2017 World Champion Morgan Hurd turned 17-years-old the day the ESPYs were on television. She will begin the competition on the balance beam. She will be joined by the reigning 2017 U.S. National Champion Ragan Smith, who was forced to withdraw from competition at the world championships due to injury. Smith will begin her competition on the uneven bars.
The most talked about competitor for the competition is Simone Biles as she returns for her first major competition since the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Simone will begin on the floor exercise event at the competition. As a survivor, many predict that Simone will come back better than ever.
With this competition being the last qualifier for the 2018 USA Gymnastics National Championships coming up Aug. 16-19 in Boston, Simone even believes that she’s better than she was in Rio.
Check out the GK U.S. Classic as it will be live streamed on www.olympicchannel.com and www.nbcsports.com.