When is Athlete A released on Netflix?
The documentary will be available to stream on Netflix from Wednesday June 24th.
What is Athlete A about?
Athlete A (Netflix)
On 2 August, 2016, just a few days before the US Women’s Gymnastic team won nine medals at the Rio Olympics, the Indianapolis Star published a story revealing systematic sexual abuse within the industry.
Throughout a period of over 100 years, hundreds of athletes had been assaulted and abused while training under USA Gymnastics, the national governing body.
And as more details surfaced, it became evident that the situation had been routinely covered up by the highest authorities in the sport.
In the Netflix documentary, filmmakers Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk delve into the unchecked abuse in the world of elite competitive gymnastics.
It follows the investigation by the journalists at the Indianapolis Star who worked tirelessly to uncover the truth, and speaks directly to the women who dedicated their lives to gymnastics only to be abused by the very men employed to care for them.
Athlete A details how IndyStar’s reporting led to the arrest, conviction, and sentencing of Nassar, the resignation of the organisation’s longtime president, Steve Penny, and bipartisan federal legislation co-sponsored by 16 senators and signed into law by President Donald Trump to prevent amateur athletes from being abused.
Who is Athlete A?
Maggie Nichols (Netflix)
The film focuses largely on “Athlete A,” aka Maggie Nichols – the first gymnast to report Nassar’s abuse to USA Gymnastics.
Nichols, who was on track to make the Olympic team, told her mother that she’d been abused by Nassar.
Her mother alerted an official at USA Gymnastics, and word of the allegations soon reached Steve Penny, the organisation’s CEO and president. He hired an outside firm to conduct a private investigation.
“One day at practice, I was talking to my teammate, and brought up Dr. Nassar and his treatments,” Nichols previously told ESPN.
“When I was talking to her, my coach overheard. I had never told my coach about these treatments. After hearing our conversation she asked me more questions about it and said it doesn’t seem right… so she did the right thing and reported this abuse to the USA Gymnastics staff.”
Who are the key people in Athlete A?
Larry Nassar (Getty Images)Getty Images
At the centre of the scandal was USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar who began working for the team back in 1986, and the governing body’s president Steve Penny, who is said to have covered up reports of abuse for decades, allegedyly dismissing concerns from athletes and parents and reportedly going so far as to threaten young women with being removed from the team.
Nassar is now serving a lengthy prison sentence and charges against Penny are still pending.
As well as Maggie, viewers will also hear from some of the other athletes who were personally affected by the events.
How accurate is Athlete A?
Athlete A (Netflix)
Athlete A tells the true story of Maggie Nichols and her gymnastic colleagues who were targeted by Nassar.
Much of the abuse took place at Karolyi Ranch, the USA Gymnastics National Team Training Center in Huntsville, Tex., that was overseen by Béla and Márta Károlyi, the fabled trainers who had come out of Nicolae Ceaușescu’s Romania and led the U.S. team with a tough regime.
The environment that Béla and Márta created at the camp according to the documentary was one of “fear” “silence” and “intimidation”.
During their stay here, the young gymnasts trained extensively in the military-like training camp and had very little contact with their parents.
Instead they looked to Nassar who they said was the only “nice adult” amongst the other strict staff.
He made them laugh, snuck them candy and left things on their pillows. He always maintained that he was their pal, although most of the girls knew that something was deeply wrong.
Athlete A allows the women affected by Nassar to share the devastating abuse that overshadowed their dream of gymnastics, however, these are just a handful of women who suffered at the hands of Nassar.
Over the course of 20 years, victims told their parents, their coaches, the Michigan State University police, Meridian Township police, and USA Gymnastics (USAG) what he was doing to them.
They recalled how they would go to Nassar in pain with various injuries, only for him to abuse them with his “special treatment”. They were interviewed, reports were written up, charges recommended, but nothing ever transpired.
That is, until, the Indianapolis Star journalists began investigating.
Athlete A: Review
Maggie Nichols in ATHLETE A.Netflix
Athlete A is truly mind-blowing, in a harrowing way, and will open your eyes into the unknown world of gymnastics.
Although dark, it makes for compelling viewing as it looks at how the dreams of young girls were overshadowed by the cruelty and abuse they faced at the very hands of the people put there to protect them and keep them safe.
The documentary hones in on the different levels of control, which almost acted as a strategy in the gymnastics world, to achieve success and maintain a £12 million brand.
Sickening, enraging and truly heartbreaking, Athlete A explores an abuse of power from prominent members in the community and how they continuously ignored the mistreatment of the young girls in the care and worked to cover up these cases.
As numerous and incredibly brave women speak candidly about the ways in which they were abused and discouraged from speaking up – some of which included losing job opportunities and the women receiving threats – we begin to get a clearer picture of what really took place.
While hard to watch, Athlete A is vital viewing, and for Maggie Nichols and her gymnastic colleagues, it feels like a step towards justice, that we hope will lead to better measures being put in place to protect gymnasts.
Is there a trailer?
Netflix released an official trailer on their site, which contains some scenes of a sensitive nature.
The first shot of the trailer features Nichols in a red swimsuits and also shows a clip from her interview in the documentary.
“I was like, ‘Does he do this to you,'” Nichols says. “She said, ‘Yeah, he does it to me, too.'”