Aly Raisman Will Not Be Competing In the 2020 Tokyo Olympics
The gymnast shared a heartfelt statement on Instagram to confirm the news.
It's official: Aly Raisman will not be competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The six-time Olympic medalist took to social media yesterday to confirm the rumors about her reported retirement. She shared a lengthy, heartfelt statement on Instagram, reminiscing about her gymnastics career and explaining her decision to not compete in Tokyo later this year. (Related: Everything You've Ever Wanted to Ask Olympic Gymnast Aly Raisman)
"Seeing it characterized [in the news] as such a simple decision really caught me off guard," Raisman wrote in her statement, adding that her experience in the Olympics was "so much more" than what was portrayed in the media. (BTW, here are some exciting new sports you'll see at the 2020 Summer Olympics.)
"The past 10 years have been such a whirlwind that I haven't really processed all that has happened, and sometimes I wonder if I ever will," continued Raisman. "I've lived a pretty fast-paced life and sometimes I have to remind myself to slow down, unplug from technology and take the time to appreciate what I've experienced and learned."
To help herself reflect on those experiences and what they meant to her, Raisman recently watched an old VHS tape of the 1996 Olympics, she wrote in her statement. Back then, she was just a "mesmerized" 8-year-old watching the gymnastics competitions "over and over and over again," dreaming of one day making it to the Olympic podium herself.
"One of the best things about being a kid is the belief that anything is possible, and that no dream is too big," wrote Raisman. "I suspect I keep going back to that time because I now know the power of that little girl's dream."
Thinking about what she'd say to her younger self now, Raisman wrote: "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."
Then Raisman addressed what she would say to her younger self about the challenges she'd face later in her career. The athlete seemed to be alluding to the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of former Team USA Gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar, who has since been serving an effective life sentence in prison after pleading guilty to several counts of criminal sexual conduct, along with federal child pornography charges. (Related: How the #MeToo Movement Is Spreading Awareness About Sexual Assault)
"I really struggle when I think about whether I'd tell her about those tough times," Raisman wrote in her statement. "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. 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." (Related: Aly Raisman On Self-Image, Anxiety, and Overcoming Sexual Abuse)
Growing up, Raisman thought that making it to the Olympics was what mattered most, she admitted in her statement.
"But I've learned that my love for gymnastics is more important," she explained. "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 gymnastics in Tokyo, dreaming of one day making it to the Olympics themselves." (Related: Aly Raisman On What It's Like to Compete In a Sport That's All About Perfection)
ICYDK, Raisman has been doing her part to help protect young athletes from abuse in their sport. She recently launched Flip the Switch, an initiative that calls for all adults involved in youth sports to complete a child sexual abuse prevention program. "To address this terrible problem, we all need to be willing to confront it head-on," Raisman told Sports Illustrated of the initiative. "It is so important for this to happen now. By acting together, we can change the culture of sport." (Raisman also launched an activewear capsule collection with Aerie to benefit children impacted by sexual abuse.)
Raisman may not be competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but she feels "very grateful" for the experiences she's had throughout her gymnastics career, as well as the opportunity to educate others about sexual abuse prevention, she shared in her most recent Instagram post.
"It takes a village to get to the Olympics, and I am so appreciative of every single person that helped me along the way," she wrote. "A huge thank you to my fans. Your support has meant everything to me. I am very lucky to have been able to do something I love for so many years and I'm excited for what's next!"