I Was the Fastest Girl in America, Until I Joined Nike | NYT Opinion

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    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: nyti.ms/34DgcNu
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    Published on 6 months ago


    1. Abigail Bass

      Look, what Mary Cain went through was horrible. No female athlete should be abused about their weight, they should be watching their splits, not their weight. But Nike is not bad. Take the Bowerman track club as an example, those women are astounding! Alberto and his team were the problem, not Nike.

    2. totrill713

      She just soft

    3. Eileen Burkley

      Just bc you don’t look like gumpy don’t mean you can’t be amazing at xc

    4. Keira Lonsdale Tayler

      This story was so sad

    5. panfrick

      What a terrible tragedy. Not to mention Nike shoes are garbage.

    6. Martijn Jonkers

      Doubt this is only in women sports, though this story is horrible, i do believe young athleats suffer like this more than we know

    7. Peekingduck

      NIKE sucks

    8. [ Sofia ]

      I read fatest :v

    9. Revolve

      So she wasn’t the fastest girl in America?

    10. lucaboden

      There is always two sides to every story, but I guess Post MeToo, the female's story is always gospel truth.

    11. Stevie-Jade Flores

      As a new skater, I’m glad I now know not to support Nike or any other companies who abuse people. Especially women. #boycottnikejustdoit

    12. zR Iz

      I love my Nike shoes

    13. sports_capper

      Nike is p.o.s.

    14. efesone

      I stop buying nike products.

    15. John Petty

      This is sad ... It just adds to the 🐃💩💩💩💩 of these sneakers kids are (in some cases) KILLING each other for a pair of shoes that cost like $12 to $ 15 to make and then charge "LITERALLY" what they want to here in the U.S.

    16. Anna Osborne

      the way i thought this video was gonna end then i heard “thats what needs to change. and here’s how we can do it” THATS HOW YOU MAKE AN INFORMATIVE VIDEO ABOUT AN ISSUE! YOU GIVE SOLUTIONS

    17. Truth

      Well, it's a sad story for sure but the problem here is that her family is well grounded, far above average and well educated. They lived in Bronxville where she went to HS. This is a very wealthy area with access to everything. No doubt her story contains some truths but there are omissions here too. If you're cutting yourself you have an altered sense of reality and now it's the cutter suggesting the only true reality is the one she remembers. She needs to take some ownership for where she wound up. I'm no fan of Nike but if you're even thinking about cutting there are much bigger issues other than some weight loss.

    18. Gabriella Garcia

      Welp I'm a girl and I yea let's just say I'll never were nike again

    19. Sara Carvalho

      This is why I dont buy or support Nike

    20. Roberto Gonzalez


    21. Joshua Greer

      So she was depressed and suicidal and now she sexist. She thinks the only people who can help girls is girls just because the biggest shoe company had some bad coaches coach her. In track all you do is run so what did she expect from the coaches to give her a time and place for where she can run and just ignore her the rest of the time. And she thinks women would treat the girls better but with her logic since Nike deals with boys and girls they'd need like a transgender person thing to be in charge but instead she says women.

    22. smartszs

      This is shameful however I did not detect any physical abuse from her story

    23. Moonwalker For Life

      The ALL MALE staff was the first alarm then they act like they know what is best for a woman’s body when the program was designed for men anyway. This whole story is just heartbreaking. She had a lot taken away from her. But she is so strong she can gain it all back

    24. adam heeley

      I haven't bought anything Nike related in decades...

    25. Thomas LeMay

      Not all ( coaches) are intelligent people. If you overall health is beening impacted in a native manner you will not be successful in either short-term or long-term. When you regular body cycles are interrupted you are sick, in this case the coach caused the physical injuries. Nike owes this young lady a massive amount of money.

    26. Adam

      That’s it I’m not buying from Nike ever again

    27. • ᴍᴏᴏɴʟᴇᴛᴛᴇ •

      Salazar?...ummm is he a Slytherin,oh I mean-the founder of slytherins

    28. Jenny A


    29. 1 RedExtreme

      Never heard of her. Usually these anonymous ppl blame big companies for the work they didnt put in.I she was that good of an athlete as she sais she is probably we wouldve heard of something like this.And yes you need to lose weight for the 3000m.It is more distance,if you want to see you can look at Usain Bolt body and Kipchoge body. She was scared of looking like that but it is understandable,but being the best comes with a price.

      1. Musicalperson 237

        For your information, if you actually listened to her, Alberto designed a system that is used for men, but he then decided to use it on girls, which caused major physical problems. And it is not “the best comes with a price”. No. She didn’t get the best. Alberto physically and mentally drained her of her talent, which caused her have those suicidal thoughts. And it’s not the way she looks that matters, it’s the way she feels. So listen to the video again and try to understand that this is abuse and not “the best comes with a price”.

    30. Dan Harrigan

      You're a thousand percent right Mary, and a hero for speaking about it. Nutrition is by far the most important thing in sports/life, and a healthy weight is always best. Keep your sights on an enjoyable and rewarding future, angel. That chapter is over.

    31. Watcher WLC

      why on earth is the corporation that makes the product in charge of the sport??

    32. Blackpilled Saint

      “Women’s sports” If you can’t compete on an even playing field with men then stay in the kitchen.

    33. Jibz06

      Has this girl ever heard of leaving Nike? Also don't expect people to say anything if you cut yourself lmao

    34. DJ and Martha

      I run but I got adidas shoes now so👏🏻

    35. LAW MAN

      You know you're a baby. I was an athlete and I had crappy coaches and I just left them. Obviously Nike is getting results with their other athletes. If you don't like the program then leave the program. But nowadays people can't leave a program without trashing it first. If you don't have what it takes to succeed this is what you do

      1. LAW MAN

        @Musicalperson 237 she wasn't beaten. Nobody Twisted her arm to stay. Obviously the program was wrong for her. Her health is ultimately her responsibility. There are plenty of other athletes that are getting results under the very same regime she was under. Because she's prepared to condemn that coach that doesn't mean that I am prepared to. Extreme accomplishment and Athletics requires extreme sacrifice and it's not for everybody. That being said some coaches will over-train you and you need to figure that out sooner rather than later and get to the right coach. That is ultimately The Athlete's responsibility. And I hate people coming out and being victims for the choices they themselves made. I'm old school and Homie don't play that.

      2. Musicalperson 237

        Dude. She could’ve died if she continued with this system. Did you even listen to the video?

    36. Alex Diaz

      Just take the nikes off bruh

    37. Ruben Espinoza

      Maybe Dr. Mike should have seen this video before uploading his running video, which was sponsored by Nike.

    38. Julia C

      Just do it doesn’t sound the same anymore

    39. Alan Lowberg

      good for you girl. sorry for all the trauma you had to go through.

    40. Hex 720D

      Since she's the fastest, shouldn't she be an expert of her own? Sucks that people just had to take control over something they don't know much of.

    41. bulgn

      Just another reason to build that wall

    42. Alex

      Boo hoo, evil corporation screwed you over, cut the crap, nothing new

    43. suddhasatwa banerjee

      you ll do great girl.

    44. Nehemiah Pouncey

      Barry allen:finally a worthy Opponent. Our battle will be legendary.

    45. derfer007

      “It was just a bunch of Alberto’s friends.”’ What a friggin fraud he & the company are.

    46. Saved By The Swell

      You ran terrible taking estrogen pills.....weird.

    47. Zoë Gubbels Tennis Player

      What a story. Such a talented young woman got destroyed. So much respect for Mary Cain's story. 🙏 I am a tennis player myself and I know how important the people around you are. They need to be good influences instead of bringing you down constantly. 🎾

    48. zan zy

      She was never the fastest girl in america. Foh

    49. Rvsesi

      i’m so glad she’s out of there. she’s amazing and deserves so much more to succeed.

    50. Hurrystream

      Heartbreaking to be an athlete at the top of ones craft, only to be destroyed by what you thought was the best place to develop.

    51. Бульбаш Бульбашович

      Никто не мешал разорвать контракт, и даже если продолжить работать с Найк, то это не должно доставить неудобств, ведь психологического насилия не существует.

    52. Ethan Lee

      No NUTRITIONISTS??? On a SPORTS TEAM?? Oh no no no no

    53. ♡ MintRose Draws ♡

      I heard Nike makes kids work for them tho That’s why I don’t shop there anymore

    54. Raccoon On A Rampage

      Quite frankly This isnt going to stop me from buying nike clothes, I really like their stuff🤷‍♂️

    55. Andrei H

      Adidas won

    56. Alie Builds

      I really thought it was "I was the Fattest Girl in America...." 😂😂

    57. Salomé

      I've never bought anything of this brand and I'm so glad about it

    58. Oddy Stef

      Yo girl I'm saying from experience If a 50-year old man named Alberto asks you to go to a second location You Say No

    59. BHopsad __


    60. Phirk

      So basically never trust nike in terms of running training?

    61. Johnnie Guitar

      So....14K viewers don't believe her? Is that it?? Shameful!

    62. I agree

      Soooooooo that on you!!!! Nike can't make me do drugs and If i'm fast without Nike then I don't need Nike...

    63. emmzzystar

      I thought the title said I was the fattest girl in America till I joined Nike I was very wrong.. 😂

    64. Urizen

      Maybe I’m paranoid but such a level of callousness really sounds deliberate and intentional to me.

    65. Eva Guerrero

      As much as I see where she’s coming from I don’t think women should HAVE to train differently than men. It’s hard enough as it is being a female athlete so her saying that women shouldn’t train like men is something I don’t agree with. I believe Nike just needed better resources and options on whether or not a female can train like the men.

    66. annastasia

      I swear, a female coach is not a solution. I know female coaches who do exactly the same! It's the system and lack of health control (both mental and physical).

    67. radio king

      fastest real girl who was born female not born with a D

    68. Sona Sharma

      Shame on u Nike

    69. elyanor villanueva

      I thought nikes made her stop running

    70. pg3d黑

      Alberto is a jerk, i was surprised that she did not quit after all she has been through. 1 like= Alberto gets 1 punch

    71. Khloe Lanee

      She reminds me of sockie Norris but older

    72. Hil Jason

      The thumbnail reminds me of an old cartoon character I forgot about

    73. Marcus A. Rivera

      I don't buy Nike products anymore!

    74. ali gunaydin

      You look like a young grandma

    75. Naomi Grace

      lokey a sports cult...

    76. Olivia Golhar

      This really changes my opinion on Nike

    77. Michael G4

      I thought she was gonna blame the shoes

    78. Bella G

      So THIS is why my parents never buy Nike

    79. Merino 33

      Nike with their abusive behavior and shoes made in sweatshops but push their whole "believe in something even if it means losing everything narritive" I hate Nike

    80. stevmaister

      A bunch of criminal !