Aly Raisman also echoed her call for an independent investigation of both USA Gymnastics and the U. S. Olympic Committee

By Stephanie Petit
January 25, 2018 08:28 AM
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Aly Raisman was praised for the powerful victim impact statement she delivered during Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse sentencing hearing last Friday, but the athlete had to go into competition mode to face her abuser.

The 23-year-old Olympian said in an interview on Today, Thursday morning, that she felt “sick” after testifying against the former Team USA gymnastics doctor, who was was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing women and girls in his care.

“I almost passed out,” she said. “I had the worst headache for hours. Even since then, I still don’t feel good now. It’s hard to put into words, but it literally makes me sick — all the stress and the trauma of everything. But for that moment, I had to be strong.”

Raisman compared confronting Nassar to the pressure of her sport.

“I almost felt like I was going to compete because in the Olympics, you block out everything. In that moment, I blocked out everything. I forgot that people were watching me. I forgot that the media was over there. I forgot that Larry was right there,” she explained. “I just spoke, and I felt like I really had to be strong. I feel a responsibility.”

The gymnast said although she hadn’t seen Nassar in person since a training camp in 2015, she prepared herself for the trial by looking at pictures of him online. But she found comfort in being part of a group of women speaking out against the same abuser.

Aly Raisman confronts Larry Nassar
| Credit: Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal/USA TODAY NETWORK/Sipa

“I didn’t know how I’d feel but walking in there, but being with this army of survivors — I didn’t know most of these girls and women, but I just felt instant connection,” Raisman said. “We were hugging each other. We really are an army of survivors, and this is just the beginning for us.”

RELATED VIDEO: Aly Raisman Faces Alleged Abuser Larry Nassar in Court Hearing: ‘It’s Your Turn to Listen’

Raisman also echoed her call for an independent investigation of both USA Gymnastics and the U. S. Olympic Committee, as well as Michigan State University, where Nassar worked as a sports physician from 1997 to 2016. (President Lou Anna K. Simon officially resigned from her position on Wednesday after facing backlash for what her critics considered a mishandling of the Nassar scandal.) Raisman even noted that to her knowledge, Nassar allegedly did not have a medical license to work in the state of Texas, where the Olympic team trained.

When asked why USA Gymnastics ignored athletes’ claims of abuse, Raisman said, “I have no idea. Actually, I guess I do have an idea — for so long, they put medals, reputation and money over the safety of athletes.”

She added that no one from the organization has reached out to her throughout the scandal.

Aly Raisman

The “Fierce Five” and “Final Five” Olympic team member said she still believes Nassar doesn’t grasp the extent of harm he’s done to his victims.

“The fact that he wrote a letter to the judge a few days prior saying that it was unfair and he shouldn’t have to listen to all of us speak,” she said. “In my statement, I did call him out and say, ‘How dare you say this is hard for you? Imagine how all of us feel.’ He deserves to suffer. It’s disgusting what happened.”

Raisman also said that she still has work to do.

“It’s not something where you just instantly feel better,” she said of Nassar’s sentencing. “We need to hold these organizations accountable. USA Gymnastics, United State Olympics Committee and MSU — they need an independent investigation. This is bigger than Larry Nassar. We have to get to the bottom of how this disaster happened. If we don’t figure out how it did, we can’t be confident that it won’t happen again.”