McKayla Maroney is opening up about the perfect storm of conditions that enabled Larry Nassar to conduct his abuse for so long.
In a new interview with Elle, the Olympian described Karolyi Ranch, the now-defunct training facility for the US women’s gymnastics national team run by Béla and Martha Károlyi, as “a perfect breeding ground for Nassar to sneak in” and prey on young girls, because the coaches were hungry for glory — and the athletes were just plain hungry.
The retired gymnast explained:
“We were not treated like Olympians, we were treated like we were in a military camp. Our coaches were so focused on us being skinny and us being the best to get the gold medal for their own ego.”
Apparently, Nassar tried to manipulate Maroney’s own ego to get away with his abuse. After being molested by the disgraced doctor at one of her first training camps, the now-25-year-old said he told her:
“‘You know, to be a great athlete, we sometimes have to do things that other people wouldn’t do… Basically, he was silencing me and saying, ‘This is what it takes to be great.’”
WTF? So disgusting!
The comment comes weeks after Maroney shared more unsettling details about Nassar, including that he had lied to her coach about her broken foot during the 2012 London Olympics, making her compete with the injury. The California native said she underwent “miracle surgery” after the London Games, but being forced to compete with the injury “literally risk[ed] the rest of my gymnastics career.”
Related: Simone Biles Hints Olympic Withdrawal Connected To Larry Nassar Abuse Trauma
When Maroney confided in an older teammate about what she suffered at Nassar’s hands, she said she was “told to ‘shut the f**k up, and don’t ever say anything like that about Larry Nassar again.’” Of course, Maroney did speak out against Nassar in 2018 — along with over 150 other victims.
While Nassar was sentenced to 175-year prison after being convicted in 2018 on charges of child pornography and sexual assault of minors, Maroney’s suffering didn’t go away. In the wake of his conviction, the athlete battled an eating disorder, going for as long as three days without eating. She told Elle:
“I already had that obsessive control thing, so it just switched from gymnastics to food. I forgot I had ever even been successful at gymnastics, because I went from being great to feeling like, ‘Oh, my God, I’m ugly, I’m gaining weight, I’m suffering with food, and I just went through all this abuse.’”
Disturbingly, there was a connection between food and Nassar in Maroney’s eyes, as he allegedly used food as one way to manipulate her into staying quiet about his abuse. In an interview with Dateline, she alleged the coaches on the Olympic team withheld food from her and that she saw Nassar as her “hero” when he brought her a loaf of bread.
But the eating issues weren’t entirely Nassar related. Maroney went on to tell Elle her father’s untimely death in 2019 also contributed to her desire to control her body: the athlete said she starved herself for 10 days following her dad’s death as a way to be “skinny enough” for the funeral.
Thankfully, things have since settled down. Although Maroney isn’t competing in gymnastics these days, she’s pouring herself into a different passion: songwriting, which she says helps her deal with the pain she’s suffered over the past few years. She told the glossy:
“I want to be looked at as someone who just keeps going, because that’s what we have to do in this life. For so long, I was surviving. Now I feel I’m actually living.”
We’re so glad to hear it!
[Image via Daniel Tanner/WENN]