By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota’s Maggie Nichols is speaking publicly about sexual abuse by the former USA Gymnastics team doctor.

Nichols announced in 2018 she was the person referred to as “Athlete A,” the first to step forward to report abuse. While she released a written statement about the case then, she’s now talking about it.

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Netflix just released the trailer for a documentary titled “Athlete A.” It premieres next week, detailing Nichols journey and the hundreds of others that came forward.

WCCO captured her return home from winning gold in the World Gymnastics Championship with Team USA in late 2015. It was mere months earlier, the teen from Little Canada reported sexual abuse by team doctor Larry Nassar.

“It was probably like 2013, probably the first time, and he would always like bring us, or bring me, into like this training room and close the blinds and perform his treatment that he so-called was the right thing to do, and I knew it wasn’t right,” Nichols said.

Her local coach with Twin City Twisters overhead her conversation with another athlete about Nassar’s treatments. That coach reported the abuse to USA Gymnastics but they would have to wait for justice while Nassar stayed on.

“After someone reports something as serious as sexual abuse, it should be changed in a minute. So that was very disappointing,” Nichols said. “We kind of were failed by USA Gymnastics and things like that even though they were the ones that were supposed to protect, you know, some of the best athletes in the world.”

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As charges were finally brought against Nassar, Nichols watched as former USA Gymnastics teammates Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and others revealed they were Nassar victim-survivors. After time and careful consideration, she decided to identify herself as Athlete A, the first to report sexual abuse.

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“I came to the realization that, you know, if I could help one person or help one person get through the same thing … coming out publicly, it would make it all worth it,” Nichols said.

She reveals the support of family and friends has helped her grow and heal. So have strangers who send messages of encouragement or support on social media. But she admits there are still tough days.

Nichols retired from elite gymnastics and went on to compete for top-ranked Oklahoma University. She’s considered among the best NCAA gymnasts ever.

“I think my years at OU are just the best times of my life. I really fell in love with the sport of gymnastics again,” Nichols said.

She hopes people will watch the documentary, calling it a powerful story from the people who lived it.

“There’s no holding back at all. It’s straight forward, it’s straight to the point, which is incredible,” Nichols said. “And I think it’s going to be super educational and people are really, I think their eyes are going to open.”

She has one more semester of college at OU. She’ll be a volunteer coach with gymnastics next year.

“Athlete A” will be released on Netflix on Wednesday.

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Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison, in addition to a federal conviction.

Jennifer Mayerle