A little story about Kerri Strug and Me

Everything that is happening in gymnastics right now is clarifying so much for me and what happened. Let me tell you a true story. Kerri Strug, you may know her from the 1996 Olympics with the sheroic vault on a known injury after the first vault that clinched, without question, team gold. Turns out she did not even need to sacrifice herself for that gold, and I will get to that in a minute. It was full of drama and all the things everyone looks for in a dramatic win. Except she was 18 years old and hurt. She fell on the first vault and was limping and her coach, Karolyi, encouraged her to keep going: You can do it! She did. And was done for the rest of the Olympics. She was helped off the mat by Marta, Bela, and Larry Nassar. (Don’t forget who is helping her right now). Let me back up, she was also a 1992 Olympian. Not many know that the Karolyi’s tried to retire after the 1992 Olympics. Kerri moved to Shannon Miller’s gym. Her family was in Houston while she trained in Oklahoma now. My dad is in Houston. One night I was flying home from Houston and Kerri was on the same flight! This is before 96 so I am the only one who is freaking out. But I was not going to do anything about it. My dad did, though. I ended up meeting her whole family and we hung out until the flight. I got to preboard b/c I was flying alone and I saved a spot for Kerri and her mom on the plane. Y’all, this was a dream come true for me. Kerri and her mom sat with me and she and I talked forever about gymnastics. I was on cloud 9. She even asked for my phone number so we could hang out sometime-in her very limited time. I could not believe this was happening. But as things would have it, right after this encounter, the Karolyis come out of retirement and she goes back. I was so sad. (Like she was going to call anyway, but a girl can dream). Then 1996 happens and she is a household name. I wanted everyone to know I knew her and I was so proud. It never occurred to me that this was abuse. I was 18, too. Grew up in the same culture. I was not as good and believed I did not have the “you can do it” spirit that she had. I found out from Rachel Denhollander on Twitter that Larry Nassar talked badly about Kerri Strug to Rachel, b/c he was abusing Rachel too. He told Rachel that Kerri’s vault was not heroic. She had a slight sprain and was creating drama. Oh my gosh! Rachel said he talked badly about several of the Mag 7 to her. While she was being abused. See! this is what happens. We are trained so young to be the very best. To keep going even when we can’t. And when we do go for it when we can’t, this is the response! We are literally never good enough. Simone Biles is flipping tables. But even she kept going to this Olympics knowing she would have retired after the last one if it was not so important to her to hold USA Gymnastics accountable for Nassar. She was abused by Nassar as well. Yes, Simone is the GOAT. But it is honorable to say “I can’t” even if we aren’t the GOAT. Biles is healing herself and others through her prophetic no to self-sacrifice and yes to life for herself. She has a team and when she could go no further, a teammate came in and delivered an incredible performance. So it is not team gold. 2021 Olympics is giving gymnasts something so much better than 1996 did. Let us not forget Kerri Strug, though. I am not saying this as her friend (LOL!) – I am saying this as someone who knows what it is like to feel like you have no choice. Believing your worth comes from your performance, not well-being. Simone is hearing a different story.

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