Olympian, Nassar victim McKayla Maroney trying to move on

NEW YORK (AP) -- McKayla Maroney's gymnastics career brought her a pair of Olympic medals and widespread fame.

It also brought her into close contact with former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, who Maroney says abused her for years and left her wondering if the heights she reached during her career came at too high a price.

''I at times question if my gymnastics career was really even worth it,'' Maroney said Tuesday while speaking to the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. ''Because of the stuff I'm dealing with now. . You have to pick up the pieces of your life and that has been the hardest part for me. It's always three steps forward, two steps back.''

Maroney's remarks were her first public statements since revealing she was among Nassar's abuse victims last fall. The 22-year-old said she's been empowered by the outpouring of support from others since coming forward and is intent on making sure the culture at USA Gymnastics, the United States Olympic Committee and Michigan State University changes for the better.

Nassar spent nearly three decades at USA Gymnastics before being fired in 2015 after complaints about his behavior. He continued to work at MSU through the fall of 2016 before being hit with federal charges. Nassar is now serving decades in prison for molesting women and girls and for possessing child pornography.

Maroney pointed to personnel overhauls at USA Gymnastics, Michigan State and the USOC as signs of progress, though much work remains to be done.

''Within the gymnastics world, there's no question we need to rebuild from the ground up so this never happens again,'' Maroney said. ''I definitely see a future where athletes are safe and succeeding. This next generation is going to be even stronger with everything that we're doing because they don't need to continue to struggle with the repercussions of sexual abuse. They shouldn't have to. I should have never had to. My team won gold medals in spite of USA Gymnastics and MSU and USOC. They don't build champions. They break them. But we're changing that.''

USA Gymnastics has replaced nearly its entire leadership over the last 15 months, including bringing on a new president and board of directors. Michigan State and the USOC have also shaken up their leadership in response to Nassar's widespread abuse.

Maroney captured a gold and silver at the 2012 London Olympics and won gold on vault in the 2011 and 2013 world championships. She announced her retirement in 2016, the last time she spoke publically before Tuesday. In December, 2016 she reached a settlement with USA Gymnastics after suffering ''years of psychological trauma.'' Maroney filed a lawsuit last December seeking to invalidate parts of the settlement, arguing it violated California law.

Whatever the legal fallout, Maroney is intent on picking up the pieces and moving on. Becoming a leading advocate for the prevention of abuse is part of the plan.

''The one thing gymnastics did teach me is when you fall, you have to get back up,'' Maroney said. ''We can't give up on ending sexual abuse.''


Freelance writer Denis Gorman in New York contributed to this report.