McKayla Maroney Said Being Sexually Abused by Larry Nassar Made Her Want to Be “Someone Else”
"I want to be looked at as someone who just keeps going."
Retired Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney first found fame at the 2012 London Games—first for her athletic feats and then for her “not impressed” reaction to second place. But years later, Maroney made headlines again being one of the over 100 survivors who were molested by disgraced Team USA doctor Larry Nassar.
As Maroney recounted to Elle in her August 31st profile, she first encountered Nassar during her first training camp at the now-defunct Karolyi Ranch where she and her fellow Team USA gymnasts “were treated like we were in a military camp.”
“It was a perfect breeding ground for Larry Nassar to sneak in,” Maroney told Elle of the strict structure of Karolyi Ranch. “Our coaches were so focused on us being skinny and us being the best to get the gold medal for their own ego.”
Maroney and her future teammates were only 13 when Nassar began abusing them, and he would often tell the girls, “To be a great athlete, we sometimes have to do things that other people wouldn’t do,” in order to keep them quiet, Maroney said. Despite this, “We all talked about it in little ways,” Maroney said.”We never said, ‘We’re being molested,’ but we would say, ‘It’s like we’re being fingered’ … But we were 13 and didn’t even know what being fingered was at the time.”
Though the FBI began investigating Nassar in 2015, no action was taken against Nassar and the abuse continued for another year. At least 70 other young women endured abuse during that time. In 2017, Maroney, fed up with the lack of progress, decided to break her NDA with USA Gymnastics, Larry Nassar, and Michigan State University and came forward on Twitter as the first of the Fierce Five Team USA members about Nassar molesting her.
She specifically recounted two molestations—one during the 2012 Olympics and another that occurred in 2011 in Tokyo. During the Tokyo event, Maroney said she was so afraid that Nassar would kill her that night. “I was like, There’s no way he is going to let me go after what he just did to me,” she told Elle, adding that although she wanted to tell someone, her mother wasn’t there and her coaches were too intimidating to talk to. “I felt completely unsafe,” she said. “And that was the first time I was like, ‘That was abuse.'”
Nassar was ultimately sentenced to 175 years in prison in 2018, and Maroney opted out of attending his trial. Instead, she submitted a statement and tried to heal. To have people say I can’t move forward with my life, because I have to do all this stuff first, was really hard for me, she said. I just wanted to become someone else.
Maroney is finally taking steps forward instead of to the side. After struggling with her body image and weight and tragically losing her father in 2019, Maroney is now channeling her emotions and pain into songwriting, penning a memoir, and reaching out to others who have gone through similar trauma.
“I want to be looked at as someone who just keeps going, because that’s what we have to do in this life,” Maroney said. “For so long, I was surviving. Now I feel I’m actually living.”