A Life in Balance

Among the 3,000 people who attended Monday night’s Speaker Series at UAlbany were hundreds of young girls, many of them gymnasts, eager to hear from a young woman whose courage has made headlines over the past year: Aly Raisman.

At only 24 years old, Raisman is a three-time Olympic gold medalist, has competed on “Dancing with the Stars” and written a New York Times best-selling book titled Fierce. And that word — fierce — is easily the best way to describe her.

“It was really important for me to be honest and to share my story,” Raisman told the crowd when asked about her book. The conversation began with Raisman’s journey as a young gymnastic star, pushing herself to new limits as she grew up, even when it felt like she couldn’t go on.

“Especially when your body feels tired, I think that that can be really hard to push yourself through it, because obviously, in order to get better and get stronger, you need to get past those days when it feels harder,” she said.

Aly Raisman at UAlbany

Raisman addresses question on stage from talk show host Kathryn Zox.  


“Sometimes you fall off the beam and you hurt yourself. It’s very scary and you’re afraid to try it again . . . But,” she added, looking directly at her fellow gymnasts in the room, “I’ve learned the most important thing is to communicate with your coaches and the people around you.”

In addition to speaking of the two Olympic Games she attended, Raisman was asked about more serious topics like body positivity, mental health, social media and sexual assault.

“It’s so crazy how much of an emphasis society puts on the way that we look,” she said. “It shouldn’t be that way at all. If you love who you are, you’ll be a happier person and your life will be so much better. We should all just focus on being present and having fun with each other.”

Raisman has worked closely with the organization Darkness to Light to advocate for prevention of child sexual abuse, a topic she’s candid about, having been one of the victims of the former Olympic gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar. She emphasized the importance of self-care and meditation, as well as finding a confidant to talk to in times of need.

“Every single person has been through something really hard and we all have something that has been difficult for us to get past. I have been really trying to take as much care of myself as I can and I try pretty much to make it a priority to take time for myself every day,” she said.

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