Athlete A (2020)

Was winning worth the cost?

Follow the Indianapolis Star reporters that broke the story about USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar's abuse and hear from gymnasts.

Click here for a video version of this review:
If you've watched or listened to enough of my work, you'll know that I have a love of sports like gymnastics, ice skating, and cheering. The gymnastics world was rocked a few years ago when news broke of a sexual abuse scandal within the USA Gymnastics organisation. The Netflix documentary _Athlete A_ takes a look at the scandal and follows the victims and reporters through their process of exposing it. While it focuses mainly on the sexual abuse perpetrated by team doctor Larry Nassar, it also touches on the general toxic culture of USA Gymnastics, and the brutal training regimes put on gymnasts worldwide.
This is a very frank look at what went on and looking at some of the training videos that Nassar made - with the benefit of hindsight of course - were truly creepy. It’s skin crawling stuff, and to think he did this to hundreds and hundreds of girls and young women through his career makes your skin crawl.
I liked how the film-makers treated the victims with respect and gave them the space and time to say their pieces. The absolute highlight was in the devastating, but simultaneously uplifting and empowering moment toward the end of the film where the women who were abused got the chance to make their victim statements in the court, directly to Larry Nasser. They all take a massive, deserved crap on this guy, and the institutions that enabled him, and goddamn it's powerful to watch.
As I mentioned before, the film also addresses the physical and emotional abuse that the athletes would go through. The threat of being off the team or not making it to Nationals, or the Olympics was always hanging over their heads. The documentary did a really good job of laying this out and how Nasser used this to manipulate his victims, and how the upper management used it to keep people quiet. Shocking stuff, which reminded me of the Catholic church and the Jehovah's Witnesses in many ways.
The last really weird thing for me was that I remember a lot of the events in the archival footage. Like for example when Kerri Strug won gold in the vault on one leg in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, sure enough, there’s Nasser in the archival footage.
It’s a documentary that offers a thorough glimpse into this world and while at times it’s hard to watch, there are moments that are very moving and overall it’s powerful stuff. If you have an interest in professional and top level sports, this should be one on your watchlist.

Actual Films, Afterimage Public Media by Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk.
Stars: Maggie Nichols, Gina Nichols, John Nichols, Steve Berta.

Genres: Documentary, Crime

Keywords: gymnastics sexual abuse sports


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