An Open Letter to the Women of USA Gymnastics

Dear Gymnasts,

You have inspired me since I was a little girl. Some of my most beloved childhood memories are centered around the 1996 Olympics. My cousins and I spent that summer recreating each Olympic event on the beach and in the backyard. Running, swimming, wiffle ball- we competed against each other in every sport. But the one that had me glued to the television, and practicing my handstands everyday, was gymnastics. I adored Dominique Moceanu. I had the privilege of watching Dominique Dawes become the first African American to win an individual Olympic medal in women’s gymnastics. And seeing Kerri Strug stick her landing on vault with an injured ankle is an image that has always stayed with me. I am sure that these moments inspired and shaped me as a young girl.

I have loved the Olympics ever since that summer, and gymnastics had remained my favorite event. I watched you as the Fierce Five in 2012, and again as the Final Five in 2016. Seeing you achieve your dreams and cheer each other on has brought me to tears every four years.

I always thought of the Olympics as a time for the world to put our pain and suffering on hold, just for a moment, and unite together in celebration. I am so sorry that while you brought us all joy, you were suffering in silence.

For all the moments of inspiration you have brought me over the years, I have never been as inspired by you as I am now. Watching you speak out about the pain that you endured for years so that you could chase your dreams. Seeing you stand up to your abuser and to those who tried to silence you. Using your voices to make sure that no young girl ever has to face what you went through. And seeing the way that you continue to stand beside each other and support one another. The gold medal moments are what inspired me as a young girl, but these moments are what bring me strength and empowerment as a woman today.

To Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles, and the many other women who have stood up- thank you, I hear you, I stand with you. And to those who do not feel safe enough to speak out- I hear you too.

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