Athlete A: Documentary about the very dark side of women's gymnastics
I wouldn't say that I am really a fan of gymnastics but when the Olympics roll around every 4 years I do take notice of the sport because it is one of the more entertaining ones. I had noticed that the females had been getting younger and younger each year as I got older and wondered how this is possible.
All this time I just assumed that these very dedicated young women were just a testament to absolute talent and didn't realize the immense pressure that they are put under. I also had no idea that there was such a massive coverup in regards to the sexual assault and abuse that one "team doctor" had committed over the course of many years and involved 500 young women and girls.
The main focus of this documentary is a real piece of work (scumbag) named Larry Nasser and how after years of abuse towards her and many others one girl came forward but wanted to remain anonymous due to the fear of backlash by the USA Olympic committee. She ended up being referred to for years as "Athlete A" in an attempt to conceal her identity.
Athlete A's real name is Maggie Nichols and she was simply an anonymous source for a newspaper in Indiana who ran a story about the abuse of the Olympic Organization and he identity was, in theory, kept a secret. The newspaper did not reveal who she was to anyone, but the people involved in the Olympics apparently were able to figure out who it was the blew the whistle and Maggie quickly found herself being shuffled off the Olympic team despite the fact that she was far more qualified than other members of the team. They were trying to punish her for exposing the Olympic organization.
Shortly after publishing the damning article, the Indiana newspaper started to receive hundreds of calls and emails from other girls who had been abused by the same doctor. The floodgates had been opened and the web of lies and coverups on the part of not just the doctor, but the entire US Gymnastics organization was in on it.
What had previously been a piece that was going to simply discredit one doctor now became a massive criminal investigation and eventually resulted in multiple lawsuits and arrests... and I'll leave it at that because I don't want to give away certain "plot" details.
The show is pretty captivating because of the fact that even thought this wasn't even that long ago, the Olympic committees and organisations involved did a pretty good job rebranding and making us forget that all of this ever happened. I had forgotten about it and don't even remember it being in the news for very long when it was actually going on.
The documentary's focus is primarily the sexual abuse factors but also draws attention to the extreme level of pressure that the young kids are that are seen as being capable of rising to the top as far as gymnastics are concerned. Not just in the USA but globally. It showcases other forms of abuse that these girls are put through on their quest for gold.
Should I watch it?
I found it to be tremendously eye-opening and to be totally honest, a bit depressing. The Olympics always appear to be a tremendous honor for athletes as far as we, the couch surfing observers are aware, but there is a much darker side to it and this documentary does a pretty fantastic job of revealing that side of things that I would bet they would prefer we not be aware of.