Gold medal-winning gymnast Aly Raisman approached the podium at Larry Nassar's sentencing hearing as if she was heading into an Olympic routine.
"In that moment, I almost felt like I was going to compete," the former athlete told Hoda Kotb on Today Thursday. "Because at the Olympics, you block everything out and in that moment, I blocked out everything."
Raisman, who competed in the 2012 and 2016 games, was one of more than 150 woman who read a public statement about the sexual abuse she endured at the hands of the longtime Team USA gymnastics doctor.
While she remained strong during her statement, the 23-year-old said she was physically ill after she spoke.
"After, I will be honest, I was sick," she said. "I almost passed out. I had the worst headache for hours. It made me literally sick, all the stress and the trauma."
Raisman said she had not seen Nassar since a training camp in 2015 while preparing for the 2016 Olympics. To prepare herself for potential shock, Raisman looked at photographs of the former team doctor. While she was prepared to see his face, she was taken off guard by his constant eye contact as he had kept his head down for much of the seven-day hearing.
"He actually looked at me the whole entire time, every time I made contact with him," she recalled. "Even when I stared at him, he looked at me the whole entire time. It was crazy. I did not expect that at all."
"This is bigger than Larry Nassar. We have to get to the bottom of how this disaster happened. If we don't figure out how it did, we can't be confident that it won't happen again," she said. She named USA Gymnastics, the United States Olympic Committee and Michigan State University as organizations that should be held accountable for Nassar's habitual abuse, and called for independent investigations to be carried out.
Three leaders of USA Gymnastics resigned following the scandal and the U.S. Olympic Committee promised an independent, third-party investigation into what went wrong. On Wednesday night, the president of Michigan State University, where Nassar kept his main his medical practice, stepped down.
Raisman claimed that Nassar did not have a medical license to practice in Texas, but he treated, and allegedly abused, some of the gymnasts at the Karolyi Ranch training facility there.
"We need to investigate how this happened," she said. "For so long, they put medals, reputation and money over the safety of athletes."
Since she read her victim statement, Raisman said she was stunned that no one from USA Gymnastics or the U.S. Olympic Committee had reached out to her.
Rather, she has been fueled by the support of other survivors and by her public supporters.
"I can't even put into words how much this means to me," Raisman said. "I never imagined this kind of support in my wildest dreams."
The gymnast posted a graphic on social media Wednesday of the names of her fellow accusers.
Army of survivors who are NOT going anywhere 💪🏻 pic.twitter.com/HIJMw5cwgE— Alexandra Raisman (@Aly_Raisman) January 25, 2018
"I didn't know most of these girls and women but I just found an instant connection. We are really an army of survivors and this is just the beginning for us," she told Kotb.
Photo credit: Getty / Zack DeZon / Contributor