Netflix’s new documentary Athlete A follows the investigation of Team USA Gymnastic’s doctor Larry Nassar, who was accused of sexually abusing young gymnasts and later sentenced to 175 years in jail.
While the documentary features accounts from multiple women who suffered at the hands of Nassar, Maggie Nichols – a brilliant gymnast who appeared to be on track to make the Olympic team – was the first to report his abuse to the police, leading many other women to come forward.
So who is she? And what happened to her before the Netflix documentary?
Who is Maggie Nichols?
Maggie Nichols was the first gymnast to report Nassar’s abuse back in 2015, although her identity has only recently been revealed and she was previously referred to as “Athlete A” in documentation.
She was just a teenager when she first met Nassar.
At first, she said there was nothing unusual about his medical treatment, however, when she was 15, he brought her into a training room during national training camp at the Karolyi Ranch in Texas.
They were alone and Nichols found it weird when Nassar closed the door and shut the blinds. She later asked if he’d done the same to the other gymnasts – a conversation her coach Sarah Jantzi overheard.
Jantzi asked Nichols more questions and the gymnast later informed her mother that Nassar had been touching her inappropriately.
Her mother alerted an official at USA Gymnastics and word of the allegations soon reached Steve Penny, the organisation’s CEO and president, who launched an investigation.
What happened to Maggie Nichols?
In 2016, months after she’d reported Nassar, Nichols was left off the 2016 Rio roster despite coming back from a torn meniscus injury in time for the Olympics.
Her mother, Gina Nichols, said she believes USA Gymnastics ultimately punished Nichols for coming forward, though this has never been confirmed.
With an injury and her career taking a dip, Nichols decided to retire from elite gymnastics three days after being left off the Olympic team and headed to Norman.
Over the next four years, Nichols rediscovered her love for the sport and also became one of the all-time best at the collegiate level.
In 2018, Nichols and hundreds of her fellow abuse survivors were honoured with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 2018.
Earlier this year, she published an article for the Champions’ Column, in which she revealed she plans to work as a student coach while she finishes her degree, and that she hopes to write a “book sometime soon about [her] story”.
“When [I was offered] the opportunity to be the student coach, I took that in two seconds. Being taught by the best of the best is probably the best experience that I’ll get, so I’m just really excited to be around this team one more time and start to learn all the ropes of college coaching,” she said.