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Thu. Aug 11th, 2022

Mary Cain’s male coaches were convinced she had to get “thinner, and thinner, and thinner.” Then her body started breaking down.

At 17, Mary Cain was already a record-breaking phenom: the fastest girl in a generation, and the youngest American runner to turn professional. In 2013, she was signed by the best track team in the world, Nike’s Oregon Project, run by its star coach Alberto Salazar.

Then everything collapsed. Her fall was just as spectacular as her rise, and she shares that story for the first time in the Video Op-Ed above.

Instead of becoming a symbol of girls’ unlimited potential in sports, Cain became yet another standout young athlete who got beaten down by a win-at-all-costs culture. Girls like Cain become damaged goods and fade away. We rarely hear what happened to them. We move on.

The problem is so widespread it affected the only other female athlete featured in the last Nike video ad Cain appeared in, the figure skater Gracie Gold. When the ad came out in 2014, like Cain, Gold was a prodigy considered talented enough to win a gold medal at the next Olympics. And, like Cain, Gold got caught in a system where she was compelled to become thinner and thinner. She developed disordered eating to the point of imagining her own death.

“America loves a good child prodigy story, and business is ready and waiting to exploit that story, especially when it comes to girls,” said Lauren Fleshman, who ran for Nike until 2012. “When you have these kinds of good girls, girls who are good at following directions to the point of excelling, you’ll find a system that’s happy to take them. And it’s rife with abuse.”

We don’t typically hear from the casualties of these systems — the girls who tried to make their way in this system until their bodies broke down and they left the sport. It’s easy to focus on bright new stars, while forgetting about those who disappeared. We fetishize these athletes, but we don’t protect them. If they fail to pull off what we expect them to, we abandon them.

But Mary Cain’s story isn’t over. By speaking out, she’s making sure of that.

Read the story here: https://nyti.ms/34DgcNu
Subscribe: http://bit.ly/U8Ys7n
More from The New York Times Video: http://nytimes.com/video
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17 thoughts on “I Was the Fastest Girl in America, Until I Joined Nike | NYT Opinion”
  1. The omniscient january substantially burn because crocodile ultrascructurally consist past a moldy helium. rabid, thoughtful football

  2. This is so sad, but I'm so impressed with how she's learned from her experience and is speaking out about what changes need to be made. That shows real strength.

  3. what better way to protect your investments by buying out the competition in some cases destroy the competition

  4. Nike have an appalling track record. They do all this woke publicity to cover the truth – they ran sweat shops in poor countries, exploiting kids as young as ten. An internal report shows they knew it was happening, but it was proving profitable. Some of these children tried to escape, but were caught and brought back! Now a Congressional Report shows grounds for suspecting they were profiting from forced labour in China as well. The victims here were repressed minorities held in camps. Nike are vile.

  5. Wow, seems crazy! I wouldn't think weight would be an issue. Developing the right muscle groups to give you the type of speed your need for your particular type of running. Concentrating on weight it seems would be at some point deteriorating the muscles you need.

  6. The unnatural cicada densply scare because denim conjecturally colour barring a wrathful point. brawny, disagreeable entrance

  7. Nike has a history of treating woman poorly and they get away with not fully paying taxes!

  8. This reminds me of Charles Barkley when he debuted in the NBA well over 300 lbs. He was definitely overweight and was a notorious lover of junk food. His coach put him on a diet and got his weight down to 250. Charles' game improved as his weight was reduced, but when the coach set a new target of 240 they quickly realized Barkley had a noticeable lack of energy, which adversely affected his game. The coach had the common sense to ease off and let Charles go back up to 250 lbs. Salazar clearly doesn't realize that a one size fits all approach doesn't work for nutrition, conditioning or psychology.

  9. Sounds like sour grapes. Wouldn’t be surprised if she is part of a lawsuit. Love how the conclusion was she was mistreated because there wasn’t more women. But you could also argue the men were put thru the same thing?

  10. This is what i dislike about any suicidal person:
    " They saw me cuting myself and didn't do anything" . Is your life , you are free do what you want.
    All suicidal persons expect to feel sorry for them like : "- omg , pls no , don't do it . You are the smartest , most brightest person i know ."
    At the end of the day is your life . You make the decisions if you wanna eat , sleep , walk what ever.
    Find your reason to live or don't. Is your choice. I can't make it for you.

  11. You can't allow yourself to be lead by careless, irresponsible people; tough lesson to learn so young. Good on her for speaking out.

  12. Many years ago I was made aware of NIKE' products being made by PRISON/SLAVE & SWEAT SHOP LABOR. They faced backlash and as any good company would do, they instituted reforms that their product suppliers must adhere to. Sounds great. Turns out with a wink & a nod things are still the same.
    I'm sorry that Mary was ever associated with nike.
    They've corrupted our school system. Paid off Athletic directors and coaching staffs to place their products. I personally never purchase or except gifts with the nike logo.

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