By Karlie Flood
Aly Raisman visited the University at Albany on Monday, December 3rdas a part of the NY Writers Institute Speakers Series to discuss her recently published memoir, Fierce: How Competing for Myself Changed Everything, a documentation of her journey to the Olympics. Raisman had trained her entire life for the Olympics. Raisman was the team captain of the U.S. Women’s Olympic Gymnastics team in 2012 and 2016, and a six-time medalist. She was also one of the 156 women who testified against Olympic Doctor Larry Nassar in the largest case of sexual abuse in sports history. “I never considered what I would do after gymnastics,” she said. With so much free time she decided to write about her experience. She always kept a journal growing up and therefore had a truthful recollection of her life as a two-time Olympic gymnast.
During her testimony against Nassar, Raisman said, “both U.S.A. Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee have been very quick to capitalize on and celebrate my success. But did they reach out when I came forward? No.So, at this point, talk is worthless to me. We’re dealing with real lives and the future of our sport. We need to believe this won’t happen again.” Raisman went viral with her bold testimony and sharp attacks on Nassar and the United States Olympic committee.The New York Times published her entire statement, and she was deemed a hero of the #metoo movement.
In March, she sued the United States Olympic Committee and U.S.A Gymnastics for negligence and a breach of fiduciary duty. She questioned the ethics of college institutions, an entire sport, and a world tradition. Raisman travels around the world visiting college campuses and advocating against sexual assault. Raisman recently founded “Flip the Switch,” a program that seeks to prevent child sexual assault by providing courses in sexual abuse prevention training. The program is free, and Raisman signs each certificate of completion.
Raisman discussed the importance of the person behind the athlete. “It’s important to have a coach that teaches you it’s not the most important thing to be a good athlete, but that it’s more important to be a good person, and to be kind than it is to be first on the podium. I think sometimes our society forgets about that. For so long our society put so much emphasis on sports and winning and attacking people when they didn’t do the best that they could. And looking the other way if an athlete beat up their wife, and if they were playing football well, who cared,” Raisman said.
Raisman ended her book noting that many people view gymnastics as a sport once every four years only considering the Olympics. We see the product, not the process. During the interview, Raisman explained the strength gymnastics required, not only physically but mentally. She reminded the audience to realize that they don’t always know what happened in another person’s life, and to think about that before they criticized or judged someone for speaking their truth. She ended her interview emphasizing the importance of self-care, saying no, surrounding yourself with good people, and recognizing that not everyone’s life is perfect.