McKayla Maroney’s first comments on Larry Nassar; transcript

AP
0 Comments

McKayla Maroney spoke about Larry Nassar for the first time in front of media on Tuesday, calling the ex-USA Gymnastics team doctor “a monster.”

A transcript from her talk at a New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children luncheon via the NYSPCC:

Maroney: First I want to start with, I need to look at note cards, because I haven’t spoken yet. In my whole gymnastics career I was trained to be quiet, so it’s something that happens where I hear these questions and I emotionally go ‘no, no, it’s perfect, and everything’s OK,’ but things were not. That’s why I’m here. I really want to help the change. I do want to thank you all, so much. I hope you enjoy your lunch.

Question: Institutional abuse. Fear, guilt, embarrassment … keep victims from coming forward. What was coming forward like for you?

Maroney: In a way, the fear turned to fearlessness when I knew that it would help so many people. Like I said, I was taught for so many years that I wasn’t supposed to say anything, and I carried this secret around with me. A lot of people would say it would be empowering to speak, and it really was. I’m so happy to be here and speaking and lifting that weight off my shoulders, because I don’t think there could be anything more freeing than that. And thank you all for listening, that helps.

Question: Many institutions looked away from the abuse you and other gymnasts endured. Why was it allowed to go on for so long?

Maroney: We know that Larry is a monster. Learning from everything that has come out, I never should have met him. USA Gymnastics, MSU [Michigan State University], USOC [U.S. Olympic Committee] continue to look away to protect their reputations. All they cared about was money, medals, and it didn’t seem like anything else. And it was my biggest dream to compete for my country. They demanded excellence from me, but they couldn’t give it to us. So it was very backwards, and it did happen for so long. That’s why we’re standing up now, because it can’t happen anymore.

Question: And the Me Too movement inspired you to do that?

Maroney: Yeah, I was kind of looking for something that was going to give me enough courage to stand up. The cool thing about social media is so many people at that time were speaking up, and I finally felt like, this is my moment. I know a lot of people don’t have moments like that, so I feel very lucky. And to obviously have been able to have competed at the Olympics, and have people that are watching me, it almost feels like my duty to be able to give that to people. That’s been a big help for me, to be able to have that courage. Without the support of all you guys, I’d still be hiding.

Question: What do you think could be done to hold institutions accountable?

Maroney: It definitely starts at the top; getting rid of the people who enable abuse. Moving forward, there has to be zero tolerance. We just can’t accept it. If you’re in a position, like USAG, and MSU, and USOC, you can’t behave that way. You need to be held accountable. If you do, look what’s happening to them now. They have to completely rebuild; start over. And the thing is, things are changing now. The board of USAG was removed. The president of USOC was removed [USOC CEO Scott Blackmun stepped down, citing prostate cancer] and the president of MSU was removed. Tomorrow, the Senate is beginning a series of public hearings to hear from the athletes regarding the widespread abuse within these institutions. As a society, we can’t look away any longer.

Question: What will happen next?

Maroney: Well, that’s a big question. I do know things are changing now as we speak. This year has been so huge for everyone speaking their truth, with the Me Too movement. I’m so proud of and inspired by all of the women who testified. With everything that I went through, it was almost hard to believe that it happened to me; I almost have to hear it over and over and over again to really start to accept it. They definitely helped me with that, even though some of them are so much younger than me, they gave me that. I’m thankful for all of those women. I wasn’t on Twitter or anything at the time, so I do want to personally thank them. Within the gymnastics world, there’s no question we need to rebuild from the ground up so this never happens again. I definitely see a future where athletes are safe and succeeding. I think this next generation is going to be even stronger with everything that we’re doing. They don’t need to continue to struggle with the repercussions of sexual abuse, and they shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t ever have had to. My team won gold medals in spite of USA Gymnastics, MSU and the USOC. They don’t build champions, they break them. But we’re changing that.

Q: Advice you could give to parents in the room … 90 percent of child abuse is from someone the child knows; children don’t tell parents.

Maroney: My mom didn’t know at all. The red flags were super hard to catch. Again, that’s a tough question. Larry, he sat in a position of power. A lot of these kids that trust … we trust adults. You look up to them.  So of course I trusted Larry, the Olympic, world-renowned doctor that all of the people that I looked up to got worked on by them. I was just a kid trying to fulfill a dream, and my mom was supporting me in that. My dad was, my family was. There was no way they could have known. A lot of parents hold that guilt, and I know my family does and that’s been something that’s really hard for them. We have to let that go. My best advice would be … just because someone is in a powerful position, doesn’t mean that we should trust them. Just to be careful, and accept that we can’t have blind faith in these institutions anymore. The signs are just so … there is that veil that’s too hard to catch, and when you’re a kid, I wouldn’t even have noticed what was happening. That’s why we have to do everything that we can to prevent, and that’s what you guys are doing, and that’s what you’re all about with Safe Touches. It’s incredible. I really wish that I did have that as a kid, and I’m so excited to have that for kids in the future moving forward.

Question: NY State Law, child is sexually abused in a private school, administrators don’t have to report it to the authorities. What advice do you have for parents preventing?

Maroney: Yeah, that’s horribly confusing for a parent to be put in that position. Because to me, that sounds like a breeding ground for abuse. Nobody should be investigated themselves, that’s … one of the reasons why Larry got away with everything for so long. He was allowed to have cops that he knew investigate him. It’s just a way for them to get away with things. I think the potential for abuse is so much larger in that instance. Now we’re trying to minimize that, and I definitely think making things to be the priority, is to protect the children and not the institution. I know you guys have these cards at your tables, so feel free to call your representatives and fight for this. I just found out about this. It’s ridiculous, it’s despicable, and the laws need to change. I 100 percent support that bill. Kids should not be in that position, neither should parents.

Question: In Safe Touches, kids learn it’s never their fault they’ve been abused, and it’s never too late to tell. What advice would you give to children who have been abused but haven’t come forward?

Maroney: You’re definitely right to give them those messages. I had to hear that myself thousands of times to be able to even let it penetrate in my brain. I wouldn’t push anyone to speak until they’re ready, it does take time. For me, to know that my voice would help others, and to know that it would maybe help them speak out, is what really gave me the courage. Maybe for them to know that, you know, our voices together are stronger, and they’re not alone, and if they’re hearing this right now I support them, and to take their time with things, and to really, truly know that it isn’t their fault, and that it never should have happened, and that we’re working hard to change things. Everybody here is.

Question: What can everyone do to stop child sexual abuse?

Maroney: Whether you guys know or not, you’re already changing things just being here and listening and supporting, so I do have to say thank you so much. What you guys are doing with the organization, this charity, and Safe Touches … the No. 1 thing is prevention and awareness; and fighting for what we deserve. At the end of the day I wasn’t listened to, cared about or believed. All of those things need to be weeded out of our society because that’s where things went wrong. The red flags are so hard to catch, but knowing this now, is what’s going to put you in front of that.

Question: Judge Aquilina stated leave your pain here and go forward … how are you doing now and what’s next?

Maroney: I’m really super happy to be sitting here … I signed up for this a little bit ago ’cause I knew, I knew it was so beautiful, and I did want this to be my first experience speaking out, with something so powerful like this. I signed up knowing that it would be hard, and it was, to get ready to answer these questions when I really haven’t wanted to. There’s a lot that comes with healing on this. To heal takes true courage. I’m really just taking it day by day. I at times question if my gymnastics career was really even worth it because of the stuff I’m dealing with now, and you guys do a lot with that, too, helping people after the abuse happens, because sometimes you’re just left in the dust. You have to pick up the pieces of your life. That has been the hardest part for me, but it’s always three steps forward, two steps back. The one thing that gymnastics did teach me it was that when you fall, you’ve got to get back up. I do know how to be a fighter. I do want to end with this beautiful quote by Martin Luther King Jr., that just really inspires me. If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward. That’s what I’m doing, and that’s what we all need to do. We can’t give up on ending sexual abuse.

Maroney, 22, said in a Twitter post in October that she was abused by Nassar starting when she was 13 and attending a U.S. national team training camp in Houston.

Nassar told her at the time that she was receiving “medically necessary treatment he had been performing on patients for over 30 years,” she said at the time.

Her attorney, John Manly, said she had been abused between 50 and 100 times by Nassar, including at the Olympics and during the world championships.

In December, Maroney wrote that Nassar “deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison” in a letter of testimony to a judge presiding over one of his cases. She did not read the letter in court.

“Dr Nassar was not a doctor, he in fact is, was, and forever shall be, a child molester, and a monster of a human being,” Maroney wrote. “He abused my trust, abused my body and left scars on my psyche that may never go away.”

Nassar, 54, pleaded guilty to molesting patients and possessing child pornography and was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison earlier this year after roughly 200 women gave statements against him in two courtrooms over 10 extraordinary days.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: McKayla Maroney says settlement covered up sex abuse

Germany opens bobsled worlds with double gold; Kaillie Humphries gets silver

Laura Nolte Bobsled
Getty
0 Comments

Germans Laura Nolte and Johannes Lochner dethroned the reigning Olympic and world champions to open the world bobsled championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, this weekend.

Nolte, the Olympic two-woman champion driver, won the four-run monobob by four tenths of a second over American Kaillie Humphries, who won the first world title in the event in 2021 and the first Olympic title in the event in 2022. Another German, Lisa Buckwitz, took bronze.

In the two-man, Lochner became the first driver to beat countryman Francesco Friedrich in an Olympic or world championships event since 2016, ending Friedrich’s record 12-event streak at global championships between two-man and four-man.

Friedrich, defeated by 49 hundredths, saw his streak of seven consecutive world two-man titles also snapped.

Lochner, 32, won his first outright global title after seven Olympic or world silvers, plus a shared four-man gold with Friedrich in 2017.

Swiss Michael Vogt drove to bronze, one hundredth behind Friedrich. Geoff Gadbois and Martin Christofferson filled the top American sled in 18th.

Americans Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton were the last non-Germans to win a world two-man title in 2012.

Bobsled worlds finish next weekend with the two-woman and four-man events.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Novak Djokovic wins 10th Australian Open, ties Rafael Nadal for most men’s Slam titles

Novak Djokovic Australian Open
Getty
0 Comments

MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic climbed into the Rod Laver Arena stands to celebrate his 10th Australian Open championship and record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title Sunday and, after jumping and pumping his fists with his team, he collapsed onto his back, crying.

When he returned to the playing surface, Djokovic sat on his sideline bench, buried his face in a white towel and sobbed some more.

This trip to Australia was far more successful than that of a year ago, when he was deported from the country because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19. And Djokovic accomplished all he could have possibly wanted in his return: He resumed his winning ways at Melbourne Park and made it back to the top of tennis, declaring: “This probably is the, I would say, biggest victory of my life.”

Only briefly challenged in the final, Djokovic was simply better at the most crucial moments and beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5). As a bonus, Djokovic will vault from No. 5 to No. 1 in the ATP rankings, a spot he already has held for more weeks than any other man.

“I want to say this has been one of the most challenging tournaments I’ve ever played in my life, considering the circumstances. Not playing last year; coming back this year,” Djokovic said, wearing a zip-up white jacket with a “22” on his chest. “And I want to thank all the people that made me feel welcome, made me feel comfortable, to be in Melbourne, to be in Australia.”

The 35-year-old from Serbia stretched his unbeaten streak in Melbourne to 28 matches, the longest run there in the Open era, which dates to 1968. He adds trophy No. 10 to the seven from Wimbledon, three from the U.S. Open — where he also was absent last year because of no coronavirus shots — and two from the French Open, to match rival Rafael Nadal for the most by a man.

Only two women — Margaret Court, with 24, and Serena Williams, with 23 — are ahead of him.

This was also the 93rd ATP tour-level title for Djokovic, breaking a tie with Nadal for the fourth-most.

“I would like to thank you for pushing our sport so far,” Tsitsipas told Djokovic.

Djokovic was participating in his 33rd major final, Tsitsipas in his second — and the 24-year-old from Greece also lost the other, at the 2021 French Open, to Djokovic.

On a cool evening under a cloud-filled sky, and with a soundtrack of chants from supporters of both men prompting repeated pleas for quiet from the chair umpire, Djokovic was superior throughout, especially so in the two tiebreakers.

He took a 4-1 lead in the first, then reeled off the last three points. He led 5-0 in the closing tiebreaker and, when it finished, he pointed to his temple before screaming, a prelude to all of the tears.

“Very emotional for us. Very emotional for him,” said Djokovic’s coach, Goran Ivanisevic. “It’s a great achievement. It was a really tough three weeks for him. He managed to overcome everything.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Tsitsipas was willing to engage in the kind of leg-wearying, lung-searing back-and-forths upon which Djokovic has built his superlative career. How did that work out? Of points lasting at least five strokes, Djokovic won 43, Tsitsipas 30.

Then again, on those rare occasions that Tsitsipas did charge the net, Djokovic often conjured up a passing shot that was too tough to handle.

It’s not as though Tsitsipas played all that poorly, other than a rash of early miscues that seemed to be more a product of tension than anything.

It’s that Djokovic was too unyielding. Too accurate with his strokes, making merely 22 unforced errors, 20 fewer than his foe. Too speedy and flexible chasing shots (other than on one second-set point, when, running to his left, Djokovic took a tumble).

“I did everything possible,” said Tsitsipas, who also would have moved to No. 1 with a victory, replacing Carlos Alcaraz, who sat out the Australian Open with a leg injury.

Perhaps. Yet Djokovic pushes and pushes and pushes some more, until it’s the opponent who is something less than perfect on one swing, either missing or providing an opening to pounce.

That’s what happened when Tsitsipas held his first break point — which was also a set point — while ahead 5-4 in the second and Djokovic serving at 30-40. Might this be a fulcrum? Might Djokovic relent? Might Tsitsipas surge?

Uh, no.

A 15-stroke point concluded with Djokovic smacking a cross-court forehand winner that felt like a statement. Two misses by Tsitsipas followed: A backhand long, a forehand wide. Those felt like capitulation. Even when Tsitsipas actually did break in the third, Djokovic broke right back.

There has been more than forehands and backhands on Djokovic’s mind over the past two weeks.

There was the not-so-small matter of last year’s legal saga — he has alternately acknowledged the whole thing served as a form of motivation but also said the other day, “I’m over it” — and curiosity about the sort of reception he would get when allowed to enter Australia because pandemic restrictions were eased.

He heard a ton of loud support, but also dealt with some persistent heckling while competing, including applause after faults Sunday.

There was the sore left hamstring that has been heavily bandaged for every match — until the final, that is, when only a single piece of beige athletic tape was visible.

And then there was the complicated matter of his father, Srdjan, being filmed with a group of people with Russian flags — one with an image of Vladimir Putin — after Djokovic’s quarterfinal. The tournament banned spectators from carrying flags of Russia or Belarus, saying they would cause disruption because of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Djokovic and his father said it was a misunderstanding; Srdjan thought he was with Serbian fans.

Still, Srdjan Djokovic did not attend his son’s semifinal or the final.

No matter any of it, Djokovic excelled as he so often has.

“He is the greatest,” Tsitsipas said, “that has ever held a tennis racket.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!