Sorry, you’re no longer girls but brave and talented young women. Part of your childhood was stolen from you and while you can’t get back what you lost, you can make sure others are not deprived in the same depraved fashion.
I watched this past week as Ms. Reisman, Ms. Nichols, Ms. Lorincz, Ms. Maroney and Ms. Biles testified to the United States Senate about the abuse they suffered at the hands of Dr. Nasser, a horrible person who luckily is prison and can’t hurt anyone else for the rest of his life.
I was a wide-eyed girl in 1972 when America watched Olga Korbut leap and twirl to stardom. I’d never seen anything so beautiful and I decided to join our high school gymnastics team as a high school freshman. The cheerleaders took over and they could do a back handspring and splits. All I had was tiny-ness and six years of ballet, and grace, and splits. I never competed back then but it was fun learning.
When we moved north to start Junior year, I was elected captain of our team for two years and that was fun as well. I also took additional lessons and taught at a gym owned by a former Olympic beam champion. Never an elite gymnast, I let it fall to the wayside, but did teach summers to pay my way through college.
If last week was heartbreaking for all those who watched the Senate hearing, think about what those young girls went through for years.
What I know about gymnastics is that there was no way the USA could compete worldwide because the Soviet Union and other countries had state-sponsored Olympic sports like gymnastics. Instead, the US sought to teach children the sport.
That, in and of itself, requires the regulating entities to have a duty of care above and beyond that of caring for adult athletes. While this particular hearing focused on the FBI’s ineptitude, disinterest, and certain agents’ lack of moral compass, there’s more there, there.
Let’s start with the Olympics regulatory agencies, SafeSport and the US Gymnastics Federation. They are all at fault here. If the US Senate does anything, they should make sure that an independent body keeps all Olympic athletes safe from abuse. This body must have some muscle, because the runaround these ladies suffered compounded their physical abuse, and as such is a disgrace.
It intrigued me to see the Senators. They had no idea what to do. Luckily it was the Senate and not the House, where certain members could have made fun of these brave young women just because that’s basically what they do no matter the subject. These Senators weren’t squirming visibly but they were mightily uncomfortable.
To these brave athletes, the best I can hope for is that these Senators think of what they would say to their daughter (grand-daughter, great-grand-daughter) if she comes to them and says she wants to become an Elite gymnast. Right now, they should say, not now, sweetie. How about next year after we make sure you’re safe. Cheers, Dee