Maggie Nichols was a USA Gymnastics team member who became the first person to report Larry Nassar for sexual abuse. The report came just weeks before the Olympic trials, and questions surfaced over whether speaking out cost her a spot on the 2016 Women’s Gymnastics Olympics team. Nichols became known as “Athlete A,” and later identified herself by name in a public letter written with the support of her coach at the University of Oklahoma. Read more about her background here. After leaving elite gymnastics, she went onto make records with the Sooners in the NCAA. Read more about Larry Nassar and his case here.
“Athlete A” aired on Netflix Wednesday, June 24, 2020, and was trending again in February 2021 as more viewers discovered the documentary. Read more about Athlete A, Maggie Nichols, here. John Geddert, who coached the 2012 US Olympic women’s gymnastics team, was found dead February 24, 2021 after he was charged with 24 felonies in connection with the abuse of young gymnasts, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced. Geddert was 63. The documentary examines the dark side of USA Gymnastics and alleged rampant failure to report abuse, which remains under investigation. Read more about the investigation and former President and CEO of USA Gymnastics Steve Penny here.
Here’s what you need to know about Maggie Nichols’ life today:
Maggie Nichols Retired from Gymnastics in July, 2020, After the Coronavirus Cancelled Competitions in Her Senior Year
After Maggie Nichols broke records in the NCAA with the Sooners of the University of Oklahoma, her career ended prematurely due to the coronavirus pandemic. She was a senior at the university this year, and, along with other sports competitions, the athletic year was cancelled over COVID-19 mitigation efforts. She learned she would no longer be competing during a meeting in March, ESPN reported. She was ranked No. 1 in the nation in the all-around and on vault, and had plans to cement her spot as one of the greatest NCAA gymnasts of all time. Nichols was ready to help lead the Sooners to a second-straight NCAA championship and win her third straight all-around national title when it all came to a close.
“I think we had so much left to show everyone, and we were still climbing up that mountain,” Nichols told ESPN. “We were almost on the top, so [it] was very sad because everyone wants that opportunity to go to Big 12, and then regionals, then nationals, and to ultimately win that national championship ring.”
She announced her retirement from elite gymnastics on Instagram July 13, 2020. She described the decision as the hardest she has ever had to make, but said it was right for her.
“I have been so blessed to be able to represent the United States in multiple international competitions and the World championships and becoming a world champion,” she wrote. “I’ve gone through so many injuries and hard times, and I’ve been through so many good times and I’ve learned so many incredible life lessons I wouldn’t have been able to learn without my elite career. Words can’t even describe the things I’ve been through. Looking back it’s such an amazing experience, and I’m so thankful I was able to experience all of that. I can’t thank my coaches and my parents enough for everything they have done for me, and sacrificed for me. Also thank you to all of you for all the love and support throughout my elite career, I wouldn’t be where I am today without you all.”
Maggie Nichols Leaves a Legacy as One of NCAA’s Best Gymnasts in History & Simone Biles Calls Her ‘the Michael Jordan of College Gymnastics’
Maggie Nichols broke records with the NCAA, and leaves a legacy as one of the best NCAA gymnasts of all time. She made history as the first gymnast to score multiple marks of 39.9 or higher, according to her Sooner Sports profile. She had career highs of 10 in vault, bars, beam and floor with an all-around 39.925 score.
“Big 12 Gymnast of the Year…Five-time first-team WCGA All-American…” her Sooner Sports profile says. “Five-time All-Big 12 selection (vault, bars, beam, floor, all-around)…AAU Sullivan Award Semifinalist…Ranked No. 1 in the all-around and on vault to end the season…Finished the year ranked No. 2 on bars…Tallied five perfect 10s on the season to bring her career total to 22…Ranks fourth all-time for career perfect 10s in NCAA History…Six-time Big 12 Gymnast of the Week…Tallied a season-high 39.900 in the all-around (Jan. 20) and is the only gymnast in NCAA history with multiple marks of 39.900 or higher…Secured 28 event titles, including six on vault, seven on bars, five on beam, five on floor and five in the all-around…Competed in 10 of 11 meets for the Sooners…Tallied a 9.9 or higher on 31 of 34 routines…Tallied a 9.9 or higher on all 10 bar routines…Recorded four perfect marks on vault and one on bars…Earned a 39.625 or better in the all-around six times…Finished with the top three all-around scores in the nation with a 39.900, 39.850 and 39.825.”
Nichols’ mom, Gina Nichols, described her daughter as a resilient and centered person who pushes through obstacles and keeps going. Her daughter faced a serious injury shortly before the Olympic trials in 2016, sexual abuse by Nassar and a career cut short.
“I have no idea where she gets it from, certainly not me, but Maggie doesn’t have a negative bone in her body,” Gina Nichols told ESPN. “No matter what has happened to her, she continues to push forward, and she never complains. She has this incredible gift where she can turn negatives into positives. She says, ‘OK, this is what happened to me,’ and then just gets on with it. I am super proud of all of her accomplishments, but I’m most proud of the person she is and how she’s dealt with everything that’s happened in her life. She is amazing, but really she’s just Maggie.”
Olympic Gymnast Simone Biles, and Nichols’ teammate with USA Gymnastics and friend, described Nichols as “the Michael Jordan of College Gymnastics in an interview with ESPN.
“Maggie Nichols is the Michael Jordan of college gymnastics,” Biles said. “It’s been amazing watching her growth and seeing her become the ultimate example of what it means to compete in NCAA gymnastics.”