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UCLA will honor gymnasts who accused doctor Larry Nassar of assault

UCLA will honor gymnasts who accused doctor Larry Nassar of assault
UCLA volunteer assistant gymnastics coach Jordyn Wieber addresses Larry Nassar, the former sports medicine doctor sentenced to decades in prison for sexual assault. (Matthew Dae Smith / Lansing State Journal)

Stories of sexual abuse at the hands of Larry Nassar, the former Olympics team doctor, have reverberated through every level of the American athletics world, including UCLA women’s gymnastics.

Four women affiliated with UCLA’s program have publicly accused Nassar of sexual abuse: Olympic medalists Jordyn Wieber and Jamie Dantzscher, and U.S. national team competitors Jeanette Antolin and Mattie Larson.

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To honor those women and other survivors of sexual assault, UCLA will put on a public tribute Sunday at Pauley Pavilion after a meet against the University of Oklahoma. Gymnasts from both teams will participate.

“These are two of the best teams in the country, uniting to show support and to show that we can be stronger together,” said Liza David, a UCLA Athletics spokeswoman. “We have so many athletes who were affected.”

Sunday’s meet is UCLA’s first in Los Angeles since Nassar’s sentencing hearing, where he received 40 to 175 years in prison. For years, Nassar treated gymnasts and other athletes in an official capacity for USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University and a private gymnastics club.

More than 150 women and girls — including Dantzscher, Wieber, Larson and Antolin — faced Nassar at his hearing in Michigan to accuse him of abuse. Women and girls on every U.S. Olympic team from 1996 to 2016 have said in court filings and publicly that Nassar abused them.

Larson won three medals at the 2010 U.S. Gymnastics National Championships, and went on to compete for UCLA. At Nassar’s sentencing, she said he began sexually abusing her when she was 14.

"Larry, you were the only one I trusted,'' she said. "In the end, you turned out to be the scariest monster of all."

When she was a teenager, Larson said, she injured herself to avoid returning to the Karolyi Ranch, the sprawling training compound north of Houston where the country’s top female gymnasts trained with former U.S. Olympics coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi.

During a bath, she splashed water on the floor and slammed her head against the wall. Her parents rushed her to the hospital, fearing she had a concussion.

Reporting Nassar’s abuse, she said, “wasn’t an option for me. I didn’t know I could. I didn’t have a voice.… The abuse had been going on for so long. I was a shell of a child. I was empty.”

Wieber, a 2012 Olympic gold medalist, graduated last year from UCLA and serves as a volunteer assistant coach on the team. In a statement, she said: “Even though I am a victim, I will not and do not live my life as one.”

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