I grew up as an elite gymnast. My childhood was far from “normal.” Instead of after-school fun with classmates, I headed to a 4-hour gymnastics practice. At 9 years old, I was competing every weekend all over the United States. At 10 years old, heading into fourth grade, I was brought into the “two-a-day” program at my club.

They deemed me an “Olympic hopeful.”

For two years, I went to practice at 8 am. We worked out for three hours, went to school for two, then back to practice for another four. Yeah, not a normal childhood.

My life was defined by gymnastics. Everything revolved around the sport. I was 10.

My only friends were the other gymnasts I spent 50+ hours a week with. I didn’t go to birthday parties. I rarely made it through sleepovers without calling my mom. I was tired. I was working.

Gymnastics was more important than school. Gymnastics was more important than happiness. Gymnastics was more important than development. Gymnastics was more important than health.

And if that sounds fucked up to you, just wait.

After two years on the “path the the olympics” I was done. I hated gymnastics.

Some coaches told me I was throwing away my future. My parents asked me hundreds of times if I was sure. My teammates were heartbroken to lose one of their few friends. I was excited to find new friends.

It only took me one year to return to the sport who made me who I am. I might of hated gymnastics, but I also loved it. I needed it. I couldn’t live without it. I didn’t know who I was without it.

But I didn’t care to be an “Olympic hopeful” this time. I did what every gymnast does who makes this decision: I set my sights on college gymnastics.

College gymnastics was fun. The girls were happy. Nobody was crying at a meet or being yelled at by their coach in front of the stands. It was lively and freeing. I had a new goal, and nothing was going to stop me.

But, gymnastics is fucked.

With all of the news about Larry Nassar and the entire cover-up, nobody has come out and said these words: The sport of Gymnastics is fucked up.

Since the news broke, I’ve been asked a lot about my thoughts on Larry Nassar. And usually my response is met with absolute shock.

I, along with many other gymnasts, am so mad. I am so hurt. I am heartbroken and wrecked. I am fucked up. But I am not surprised.

For many of us who went through “the system” of USA gymnastics, the news of Larry Nassar was shocking, yet not surprising.

This is what makes us all so angry. We almost expected this.

Gymnastics isn’t like football. It’s not in the limelight. Until the olympics roll around, then everyone jumps on the bandwagon. That’s fine. Gymnastics can be pretty boring to watch on a smaller stage. But this lack of attention allowed for the sport to become, well, fucked.

When news about concussions and CTE came out, football was put under the microscope. Even now, it’s still being criticized. The public is concerned. Everyone is on constant look out for ways to make the sport safer. To stop the fucked up organization that decided it was okay to do this to human beings.

When the news about Larry Nassar came out, USA Gymnastics was put under the microscope. The organization, not the sport. How big was the cover up? Who knew? How did they let this happen?

But I, along with many other retired gymnasts, can attest that the poison reaches so much further than this. But nobody has put the sport under the microscope.

Last year, a video came out of a cheerleader being pushed down in the splits, crying and wailing. It broke national news. Everyone was outraged.

Every gymnast I knew laughed. We did this shit every single day for years. And when we made it down in the splits, they put a block under our feet to make it harder. When you made it down there, they put a bigger block. I saw a girl’s hamstring tear under the weight of a coach. And then I watched as she finished the rest of the 4 hour practice in tears. Because the coach “didn’t want to hear it.”

Gymnastics is fucked.

Larry Nassar is so much more than one man who destroyed everything he touched. Larry Nassar is the product of every coach whose ever told a gymnast he “didn’t want to hear it.” Larry Nassar is the result of years and years of verbal and physical abuse being normalized. Larry Nassar is the result of an entire sport working in the dark.

People are often taken aback by a lot of my stories from these times. But here’s the scary thing. Almost every single gymnast has these stories. Some girls, “the lucky ones,” get through their careers with little to no hiccups. They don’t get injured much. They don’t have mental blocks. They’re easy to coach, easy to love, easy to win with.

Those girls retired with a happy heart. They still love the sport, as they should.

But for every one of those, there are a hundred of me. A hundred girls who feel betrayed and angry. A hundred girls who were told to shut their mouths.

Gymnastics is fucked.

But nothing will change.

Not until every single coach is brought to light for their actions. Not until every single trainer is brought to light for their inactions. Not until every single gymnast can honestly say they feel safe to speak up. That won’t happen until the world puts the sport, not the organization, under the microscope.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe that will happen.

So I’m here to explain to you what it’s like to be an unlucky gymnast. How Larry Nassar was created. How most of us weren’t surprised by the news. How a lot of us actually saw it coming.

I was an elite athlete from the age of 10 through the age of 21. I had a long and mostly successful career. But it was also filled with so much poison. So many instances of my character and health being shot down.

So here I am. Furious. Because I know exactly what’s going on, and so should you.

To shed light on the true fuckery of this sport, here are some of my memories:

I remember watching the two-a-days before I became one. The coaches were so mean to them. I remember our head coach screaming at the top gymnast in our club “If you don’t go this time, I’m taking you out back and dropping a brick on your head.”

I remember standing on the beam for 45 straight minutes crying. I remember my coach screaming, “You don’t get to leave until you do this. You don’t get to go home. You don’t get to go anywhere.”

I remember coming into the gym at 11 years old, knees both twice their normal size from growing pains and overuse. I remember showing my coaches. I remember the laughter. I remember them saying, “Thanks for showing us, now go start practice.”

I remember crying every single time my feet hit the ground.

I remember spending a week at the Karolyi camp (yes, that one). I remember being yelled at by 4 coaches at the same time. I remember being so broken that I slept for 2 straight days when I got home.

I remember being told I would “never amount to anything” because of my fears. I remember believing that.

I remember thinking high school would be different. I remember learning the hard way that it wasn’t

I remember my favorite coach leaving. I remember being promised that the new coaches would protect me like he had. I remember the next two years were some of the worst.

I remember breaking my foot. I remember looking at my teammate and saying , “My bone just broke,” and then I remembered not telling my coaches. I remember taping up a broken foot everyday for a year because I was chastised for ever bringing up an injury.

I remember being threatened to be kicked out of a club I had been at my entire life for telling my coaches I was hurt, yet again.

I remember being told, at age 16, “If you’re not profusely bleeding on my equipment, throwing up, or a bone isn’t sticking out, I don’t want to hear it.” I remember taking that to heart. Because I wanted to fulfill my dreams, and they convinced me this was how.

I remember when I couldn’t walk to my car after practice because my foot was in so much pain. I remember looking down and seeing a new bone protruding from the side of my toe. I remember the surgery.

I also remember being told if I opted for that surgery, no college would want me. I remember proving them wrong.

I remember being offered a scholarship. I remember the best day of my life. I remember the feeling. I remember thinking I had gone through so much pain, so much abuse, and it was all worth it. I remember thinking that it could only go up from here.

I remember the day I realized the whole sport was fucked.

I remember being bullied by my teammates. I remember my coaches saying “You should have seen what their upperclassmen were like.”

I remember being put on sleeping pills because I couldn’t get more than 2 hours of sleep due to stress. I remember being told “You’re still practicing” when I couldn’t see straight because of the pills.

I don’t remember my first concussion. But I do remember competing on it. I remember my second concussion, only a few months after my first.

I remember hitting the mat at a home meet I shouldn’t have been in. I remember standing up and wobbling off the mat. I remember thinking “I’m not okay, that should be obvious. I just stumbled 10 yards sideways.”

I remember my coach coming up behind me, picking me up and putting me back on the bar.

I remember him muttering, “Get the fuck back on the bar.” I don’t remember the routine. I remember falling again. I remember standing up and everything going black.

I don’t remember the following week.

I remember falling at 3 meets in a row. I remember knowing I wasn’t okay. I remember falling, yet again, and the entire team clashing over whether the whole meet was my fault or not.

I remember feeling hopeless and alone.

I remember being told I deserved to be verbally abused by my own teammates. I remember coaches pushing upperclassmen to “get her in line.”

I remember wanting to go home. But I always remembered that they held my future. They held my scholarship. I was 18. I remember knowing they had the power to do what they wanted with that.

I remember my head coach telling the entire team our whole failure of a season was my fault. I remember everyone but a select few believing him.

I remember being prescribed a new birth control a day before that. I remember taking the first one the night after that blame toss. I threw it all up the next morning on our plane home. I remember my coach calling me into his office the next day, beaming with pride, saying “I know I made you so upset you got sick.” I remember not standing up for myself.

I remember hurting my elbow and taking three weeks off. Then coming back, despite the pain.

I remember my elbow shifting in and out of place during practices.

I remember being put in a metal brace instead of put in a doctor’s office.

Fast forward a few months and I remember not being able to feel the bar in my hand. I remember telling my coach. Then, I remember doing 3 more routines.

I remember my hand, purple and twice the size of the other one. I remember our trainers adding tape to my brace instead of adding my name to the injured list.

I remember searing pain throughout my arm 24/7 for 9 months. I remember not being able to open a gatorade bottle or the door to the gym. I remember still practicing.

I remember trying to catch the bar with one arm not functioning and a brain that had been scrambled more times than anyone could count.

I remember being absolutely fed up. I remember going to my own doctor this time.

I remember the doctor saying “I have to do this surgery, or you’re going to lose your arm.”

I remember my head coach emailing my mom 5 minutes after her daughter had gone into an intense surgery saying “I hope you know what you’re doing.”

I remember my mom’s tears that night.

I remember walking back in the gym after that surgery. I remember none of the coaches would look or talk to me. I remember they told me to “Go to the corner and do conditioning.”

I remember an assistant coach saying, “You only had 2 more seasons left, you couldn’t just deal with the pain?”

I remember realizing that my place in lineup meant more than my left arm.

I remember my unexpected comeback. I remember the best season of my life.

And then, 8 months later, I remember another concussion. I remember a teammate asking, “Are you sure you’re okay?” and then watching replay of myself sitting on the mat after falling, staring at nothing for 3 straight minutes.

I remember my coach saying, “She’s fine, try again.”

I remember taking 3 weeks off for that concussion. I remember trying to come back and feeling lost, but pushing through.

I remember my coach asking “Why aren’t you cleared to do this skill yet?” and I will never forget the first time I stood up to a coach.

I remember saying “Because I need my brain.” I remember not being coached for a month after that.

Finally, I remember my last day as a gymnast. I so vividly remember going up for a skill and forgetting how to do the thing I’ve done since I was 10. Imagine standing up to walk, and forgetting how to do it. I remember this moment like it was yesterday.

I remember coming down and landing on my face. I remember the searing pain in my ankle. I remember my coach yelling at me to get up and finish. I remember shaking my head and saying “I’m done.”

I remember the doctor saying, “If you have one more concussion, it could be pretty bad long-term. But I will let you finish out your career if you want, it’s your senior season”. I remember finally saying no. I remember being put on medical retirement.

I remember feeling free. I remember being truly happy for the first time in years.

I remember everyone expecting me to be heartbroken after having my career cut short. I remember never once shedding a tear.

When I started writing this, I thought it’d be quick. I thought I would give 5 solid examples of why gymnastics is fucked like I normally do when people ask me about Nassar. But often times, when you tap into your anger and let it out, it spills and spreads. And sometimes that’s what the world needs.

I hope you can feel the anger in my words. I hope you can understand why I’m not surprised Larry Nassar got away with what he did for years.

Gymnasts are taught from a young age to keep their mouths shut. Coaches don’t wanna hear about it. Unless it’s bleeding, vomiting, or protruding.

Coaches silence girls who try to stand up for themselves. Coaches use their power of scholarships, coaching, and line-ups to take advantage of girls who don’t know any better. Coaches make being injured worse than practicing in pain. Coaches make damn well sure that you don’t speak up.

I had some really shitty coaches. But I also had some amazing ones. To the ones who protected me, thank you. To the ones who invested in me, as a human, thank you. You are the reason I can look back on the sport with positivity. Through all this hate, you made me who I am today. You made me strong enough to write this. You taught me the important parts of the sport: determination, hard-work, work ethic, camaraderie, resilience. Through so much pain, there is also so much good.

But that doesn’t make the sport less fucked.

Larry Nassar isn’t just one man. Larry Nassar is every coach who ever told me not to speak up. Larry Nassar is every coach who didn’t believe a girl when she was truly hurt. Larry Nassar is every coach who laughed at a swollen knee, or a swollen hand. Larry Nassar is every coach who said something like “I hope you know what you’re doing” when you’re trying to save your left arm.

Gymnastics is fucked.

Until the world puts the entire sport under the microscope, there will always be a Larry Nassar waiting to come up out of the woodwork and do newsworthy damage. Until USA Gymnastics stops trying to mediate the situation and starts trying to change the sport from the ground up, Larry Nassar will have won.

I am the voice of many. I am the voice of girls everywhere who never learned they could speak up.

I love gymnastics. But it is so fucked.

Note from the author: This post is angry. As it should be. Sometime, I will write about all the good this sport brought to my life. But for now, I want to be angry. Someone should be.

To all the girls who have gone through this, know you’re not alone. I’m here, reach out if you need a friend. To all the teammates over the years who supported me, who loved me, who felt my pain and offered a hand, thank you. You are the reason I’m still standing. To my parents who supported me through every up and every down, who stood up to coaches for me, who taught me how to stand up for myself, thank you. You made me the strong woman I am today. To my beautiful fiancé who stood by me through every heartbreak and every injury, who brushed my hair for 3 months after surgery when I couldn’t, who carried me to bed on the nights I could barely walk, thank you. You kept me together.

I don’t regret a single day of being a gymnast. My only regret is not standing up for myself sooner. I loved the sport. I still do. I hope to see it change so no one else has to write an article like this.