Athlete A+


Flickering Myth Photos

Athlete A is a jaw-dropping film that reveals the horrors behind the USA gymnastics competitive team, and their hidden abuse. (Photo Credits to Flickering Myth Photos)

Athlete A produced by Jennifer Sey, and distributed by Netflix was a surprisingly chilling and eye-opening experience. The documentary was interestingly candid with the abuse that went on between USA Gymnastics (USAG) coaches and doctors with their athletes. It opens with scenes of young gymnasts doing different events in the USAG gym. The plot of the documentary is in chronological order of the main character Maggie Nichols, known as Athlete A, explaining her story with USAG and Larry Nassar. It covers issues within the USAG program, how they misused their power, how their coaches undervalued their athletes, and how abuse was hidden. 

The opening of the documentary shows young gymnasts exploring beginning skills. These tapes are real-time videos of Maggie Nichols in her young gymnastics career. In these scenes you often see Nichols smiling after a skill has been completed. The scenes of her smiling are important because they show that she was enjoying gymnastics. At the age of 15, Nichols made the USAG team, and that is when things began to change. 

After Nichols joined the team, she seemingly felt the atmosphere was more intense. No adults were kind, but the athletes were told it was an “honor” to be there so they accepted the emotional trauma. The only seemingly kind coach was Larry Nassar. To the athletes, he was a seemingly nice man who brought them snacks, was a member of the community, and was a joy to be around. Nichols soon saw none of those things to be true. During an exam, Nichols was touched inappropriately by Nassar and continued to be in future appointments. She asked a teammate if those actions were normal, and the teammate responded that it happened to her as well. Nichols quickly told her mother that she was molested and her mom was horrified. 

Nichols’ mom reported Nassar’s actions to USAG, and they assured her that the FBI and local police station would begin an investigation on her report. For a year, the Nichols family was told that there was an ongoing investigation and they were not allowed to talk to police or the media because it would interfere with what was happening. After a year, the Nichols family heard nothing. Within this year gap from the onset of abuse many other girls reported abuse due to no action being done. During this time, Nichols was trying out for the Olympic team. When she was in the Olympic Trials, to the parents, it seemed predestined that she would not make the Olympic team. There were no cameras around them or coaches speaking to her during the trials. After Maggie did not make the Olympic team, her parents decided to report the harassment. 

The media report from the Nichols family set fire to hundreds of other women who were hurt by Nassar resulting in  a case against him. The case and trials consisted of many women testifying against him with their personal statements of his abuse. In one of the first trials, Nichols’ mom, Gina Nichols, spoke on her behalf.. When Maggie’s abuse was first in the media, she was referred to as ‘Athlete A’. In her mom’s statement, Gina Nichols reveals that Maggie is the one who was experiencing abuse. 

The documentary  ends with the trial ceasing and Nassar in prison as a registered serial rapist and sex offender. Nassar was sentenced to sixty years originally in 2016, and in 2017 he was sentenced to one hundred and seventy-five years in Michigan State Prison at the age of 52. Nassar had more than 150 women and girls testify against his actions in court. His name will forever leave a mark on these women, but it has empowered them to speak up for wrong actions done to them. 

 Athlete A is a must-see documentary for all audiences.  It is an eye-opening film that reveals the abuse in the USAG program from coaches, doctors, and authority figures. It provides awareness for the women  that went through emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and kickstarter many rules within gymnastics programs to prevent any future abuse. While it was a seemingly sad and hard film to watch, the awareness it raises for abused women is phenomenal.