Three-time Olympic gymnastics gold medallist Aly Raisman of the United States says she won’t be on the podium at Tokyo 2020, but that doesn’t mean her impact won’t be felt.
The 25-year-old’s announcement was hardly unexpected – she has not competed since winning three medals at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and has not indicated she was aiming for Tokyo. Instead, Raisman’s post-Rio life has focused on advocacy for sexual abuse survivors, as the two-time team captain disclosed that she, too, had been abused by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
But the six-time Olympic medallist displayed her trademark grace and maturity in an emotional Twitter post Tuesday.
“I found myself looking back at myself as an 8 year old,” Raisman wrote. “I think about what I’d say to her now."
“The power of dreams is too big to put into words, but I’d try anyway since it is what makes magic happen. It’s also what will get her through the tough times.”
For Raisman, those tough times extend past grueling workouts and overcoming injuries.
“I wonder if I would tell her that life will be filled with ups and downs, and that there are people in the sport who will fail to protect her and her teammates,” she wrote, referencing Nassar.
“It would be so hard to tell her that, but I would make sure she knows she will get through it and she will be OK. And I would tell her that it is often in our darkest hours, when we feel most vulnerable and alone, that we realise our greatest growth,” she continued.
Part of the that growth, she writes, is the realisation that there is more to her legacy than simply athletic accomplishments though certainly she has many.
“I would encourage [my 8 year old self] to listen to her parents when they tell her that she is more than a gymnast, and that it is more important to be remembered for how you treat others than the results you achieve,” she wrote.
Those results include an emotional silver medal in the all-around at Rio, redemption for having missed out on the podium four years earlier on a tie-break. She won two gold medals at London 2012, on the floor and with the team, plus a bronze on the balance beam.
She also clinched two world team titles in her stellar career.
“As a little girl, I thought what mattered most was making it to the Olympics, but I’ve learned that my love for gymnastics is more important.
“It is this love that fueled my Olympic dreams, and it is this love that now inspires me to do everything I can to make it safer for the many wonderful people in the sport and all the little 8-year-olds out there who will be watching the gymnasts in Tokyo, dreaming of one day making it to the Olympics themselves,” she concluded.