Aly Raisman has shared all the hard-earned wisdom she has acquired during her Olympic journey by writing a letter to her 8-year-old self, remembering back when she was a little girl with big dreams and a love of gymnastics.
The three-time Olympic gold medalist, who will not be competing in this summer's Olympics in Tokyo, wrote a heartfelt message on Instagram Tuesday about what she would tell her younger self after everything she has experienced.
She looked back to her days as a kid when she watched an old VHS copy of the 1996 U.S. women's gymnastics team competing in the Olympics in Atlanta over and over again.
"I envision her eyes lighting up and a smile spreading across her face as she learns she will one day be like those gymnasts she watched on TV, and that she will inspire some other little girl to cartwheel around her house, dreaming of one day competing at the Olympics," she wrote. "The power of dreams is too big to put into words, but I'd try anyway since it is what makes magic happen. It's also what will get her through the tough times."
Raisman also experienced a traumatic dark side in her decorated gymnastics career in which she said now-imprisoned Olympic team doctor Larry Nassar sexually molested her under the guise of giving her medical treatment. Raisman said last month that the abuse is something she still struggles with.
"I really struggle when I think about whether I'd tell her about those tough times," Raisman wrote in her Instagram post. "I wonder if I would tell her that life would be filled with ups and downs, and that there are people in the sport who will fail to protect her and her teammates.
"It would be so hard to tell her that, but I would make sure she knows she will get through it and she will be OK."
Raisman has become a powerful advocate working to help other sexual abuse survivors.
"I would tell her that it is often in our darkest hours, when we feel most vulnerable and alone, that we realize our greatest growth," she wrote.
Raisman, who was part of the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic teams in 2012 and 2016, also shared how the medals weren't the most memorable part of her journey.
"I would tell her that it is the journey and not the destination that really matters, that she'll treasure the experiences along the way even more than her medals, and that the memories that will stand out the most are being silly with her teammates, singing, dancing, and laughing so hard her stomach hurts," she wrote.
Raisman now hopes to be part of reforming U.S. Gymnastics in the wake of the Nassar scandal.
"As a little girl, I thought what mattered most was making it to the Olympics, but I've learned that my love for gymnastics is more important,'' she wrote. "It is this love that fueled my Olympic dreams, and it is this love that now inspires me to do everything I can to make it safer for the many wonderful people in the sport and the little 8-year-olds out there who will be watching the gymnasts in Tokyo, dreaming of one day making it to the Olympics themselves."