Olympic gold medalist and third-most-decorated gymnast of all time Aly Raisman spoke on Monday about her personal values and journey as a former Olympian.
Raisman, the team captain of the gold medal winning U.S. women’s gymnastics teams of 2012 and 2016, as well as the first American gymnast to win a gold medal in the floor event, gave a lecture as part of the Delta Gamma lectureship.
The event, sponsored by Duke University Union and Durham Panhellenic’s Delta Gamma sorority, was moderated by athletic director Nina King.
Raisman began by discussing her supportive parents and sharing the values they instilled in her.
“What my mom would say to me is that people will remember who you are, for the kind of person you are, rather than what grade you get on a test, or if you win a soccer game or a basketball game.” Raisman said.
“Your teammates will remember you for the type of teammate you were. I think who you are when you don't win and how you support your teammates says so much more about you than who you are when you win,” she added.
Raisman then spoke on her time in the Olympics as a member of the Fierce Five, a common nickname for the 2012 Olympic team. She explained that one of the most exciting parts of her career was “her teammates and all the fun times [they] had together.”
However, Raisman was not shy about discussing the pressures of her Olympic career.
“People didn't watch us compete to watch us get second, and we felt that pressure when we were competing,” Raisman said.
She explained that she felt as though she was disappointing people if she didn’t win, and she discussed the strides she has since taken in moving on from that mentality.
In addition to her Olympic career, Raisman has become known as an advocate for mental health, body positivity and sexual abuse prevention. In 2017, Raisman came forward as one of the victims sexually abused by former U.S. national team physician Larry Nassar.
At the lecture, Raisman explained that she “felt that USA Gymnastics was sweeping a lot of things under the rug, and [she] didn't feel it was right.”
“I had no idea how much support I would receive or how much support so many of my teammates and other brave people who spoke out would get,” Raisman shared.
She explained that she wants to “normalize those conversations, because … there's a lot more people than we realize that are struggling.”
Raisman also spoke about her two books, her autobiography “Fierce: How Competing for Myself Changed Everything” and her upcoming children’s book “From My Head to My Toes.” She hopes that her children’s book, which will be released in April during National Child Abuse Prevention Month, will empower children to “trust themselves … and ask for what they need.”
She also discussed her recent “no makeup” campaign with Aerie, pointing to the pressure in the “world of social media” to filter and retouch photos.
Throughout the lecture, Raisman discussed her own mental health and the importance of prioritizing mental health, sharing advice on self-care and positive self-talk, as well as overcoming the pressure of competition.
“The more that we can be honest and talk about if we're struggling, or we're feeling self-conscious, and we can normalize that conversation, I think we'd be surprised how many other people actually feel self-conscious, too,” she said.
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