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US gymnastics has been in the news a lot in the past few weeks, and not for any of the uplifting, patriotic reasons we're used to in an Olympic year. Late last year, the team's longtime doctor, Larry Nassar, pleaded guilty to charges of child pornography and sexual assault, and as part of his current sentencing hearing, many former Team USA gymnasts have come forward to give victim statements. These statements allow the survivors a chance to let Nassar know exactly what pain his abuse has caused and grant them the opportunity to petition the judge for the maximum penalty.
Aly Raisman gave one such statement, despite initially tweeting that she wouldn't attend the hearing because it was too traumatic for her. Her statement — which you can read in full here or watch video of here — was just the latest example of her strength, courage, and role-model-worthy status. We've been fangirling over Raisman for years, though, so we went ahead and rounded up a list of the eight times she inspired us most.
- That victim statement, though. Seriously, if you haven't watched it yet, please do yourself the favor of investing 12 minutes to understand why Raisman just might rule the world one day. At just 23 years old, she looked her abuser directly in the eye and told him, "Larry, you do realize now that we, this group of women you so heartlessly abused over such a long a period of time, are now a force and you are nothing. The tables have turned, Larry. We are here, we have our voices, and we are not going anywhere." She didn't simply air her grievances, though. She called out the institutional failures that allowed Nassar's abuse to exist for as long as it did, presented some clear suggestions for moving forward, and demanded an independent investigation. We bow down.
This is how Ali Raisman has been looking at Larry Nassar since court began about 45 minutes ago pic.twitter.com/AKAG0CzcJx
— Chris Spargo (@chrisonchris) January 19, 2018
- When she became the first American woman to win a gold medal in the floor competition at the 2012 Olympics in London. She didn't earn that medal by fluke, either. Raisman performed a mistake-free routine that was rated the most difficult of any attempted in the final. The score she earned, 15.600, was so perfect that Raisman herself appeared shocked when it was revealed.
- Captaining the 2012 US women's gymnastics team. Raisman led the Fierce Five to a team Olympic gold while taking home individual gold and bronze medals to boot. As the oldest of four siblings, she said that the leadership role came naturally. Said teammate Gabby Douglas, "She's sort of the one who's always looking out for everybody and looking out for how do we do things a little bit better."
- Serving as spokesperson for Walden Behavioral Care Center For Eating Disorder Education and Research. In 2014, it was announced that Raisman would serve as a spokesperson for the facility, which is based in her home state of Massachusetts. "I'm confident that I can help inspire people to work toward recovery and ultimately encourage them to make choices that will help them live a healthier lifestyle," she said of the impact she hoped to make.
- Clapping back at haters in Reebok's Perfect Never campaign. When Raisman partnered with Reebok for its #PerfectNever campaign in 2016, she turned the tables on the messages of perfection she heard growing up. In an Instagram post, she wrote, "Shoutout to all the boys from 5th-9th grade who made fun of me for being 'too strong'. Thanks for forcing me to learn to love myself and my body. My muscular arms that were considered weird and gross when I was younger have made me one of the best gymnasts on the planet. Don't ever let anyone tell you how you should or shouldn't look. There is no such thing as a perfect body type. I love being a part of the #PerfectNever campaign.#GirlPower #Supporteachother."
Winning one gold and two silver medals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. She was team captain again (duh), earning herself a nickname of "Grandma" among the Final Five for her mature attention to wellness and her laughably geriatric age for a competitive gymnast (22 at the time). Know what else she earned, though? A team gold medal — the second consecutive such award under her team leadership — and two individual silvers. All she does is win, win, win no matter what, what, what.
Standing up to body shamers after being ridiculed during an airport security screening. When a man publicly declared his disbelief that Raisman was a gymnast, citing her lack of muscle definition (um, what?), she took to social media to blast him and others like him who feel entitled to announce their judgments of women and who can't appreciate the hard work it takes to develop an Olympic-ready physique. Boy, bye.
Authoring a memoir. Not many people can pull off writing a memoir in their early 20s, but then again, not many people are Raisman. In her 2017 debut book, Fierce, she came forward as a survivor of sexual assault, recounted her journey to the Olympics, and reveled in the joys of the support she's received over the years from family and friends.
In her instantly iconic victim's statement this year, Raisman declared, "I have both power and voice, and I am only beginning to just use them." With all due respect, Aly, we think you've had power and voice for a long time. From your work ethic to your leadership to your advocacy to your relentless refusal to let others tell you you must conform to a hollow societal norm, you've been a powerful and inspirational force from the very beginning. Now, as always, you and the women you represent are a force to be reckoned with.