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 days ago


    1. Ross Huckaby Jr

      Let me guess, a Male-born female broke all your records? LMAO 🤣😂🤣😂🤣🌈

    2. Ryan Isacuc

      What a poor victim. Blame men. Blame men. Look at all the things you could have been if it wasn’t for men. Wait... why did you let them abuse you so long? Don’t most athletes switch programs when theirs sucks ?

    3. Dan Mitch

      You lost me at “all male”

    4. A Respectable Commie

      Always the mans fault, not her own, not because she wasn't good enough, always the mans fault. This is your world now people lmao.

    5. Dude Master

      but she still has the strongest eyebrows

    6. shonuffisthemaster

      not excusing the treatment she recieved but long distance running is a really unhealthy sport to begin with and no young person should be doing it in the first place. yeah its alot worse with abusive coaches like this. alot of sports are harmfull and we need to get out of this cult of competition and pushing yourself to the edge physically.

    7. Edouard Lombard

      If all of us boycotted Nike it would prevent this from happening again. Counting on big companies to have morals or be honest is just a way to look away. Only we can make a difference. Vote with our wallets. Buy from any other sports brand and let the world know about it.

    8. HansumRob100

      Ur body was build for power before then u were just a skeleton... that was just some yukky people....who shud be face slapped over and over...

    9. Shahrukh Hassan

      Join a🅱i🅱as

    10. Ya Neponil

      "all male nikey staff" Great, more propaganda. No thanks.

    11. Guest User

      Girl: Tells her side of the story Facts: Internet Mob: We have heard enough, we hereby sentence nike to life without parole.

    12. Delightfullydemented65 PMRChater

      Whew...if something like that happened to my daughter, all those az-holes would be living on "borrowed" time...until I caught up with em. My a*s would be in jail serving time for murder... and I wouldn't lose a second of sleep over it either. Now of course, that isn't the correct path for any father to take, nor am I endorsing such a path. I just know myself, and am relating what would happen if I were thrust into such a situation (a significant number of "fathers" would probably agree, and do the same thing). It'd be a "reap what you sow" reckoning type of thing. I'll keep a good thought for all who have been in such a situation and their families.

    13. lecorsaire

      Instead of focusing purely on health and maintaining a normal weight too much emphasis is put on being slim and toned which may not suit every single person depending on their genes.

    14. Reborn Reborn

      Nike 🖕💔

    15. pauljosse

      just another roid head bitter about losing.

    16. Adam P

      Nike lost their way about 7 years ago. Just look at their prices!!!!

    17. Leon

      Why didn't she just leave?

    18. Jake Olson

      Wow never buying Nike again

    19. yousifmq

      It is not about female trainers, instead it is about having a nutritionist, psychologist and a doctor to monitor them, doesn't matter the gender Don't turn this into a feminist propaganda please

    20. Synyster Goose


    21. James Robinson

      Let's blame everyone else but ourselves LOL you chose to follow Nike that was your mistake own up to it don't blame no one else blame yourself.

    22. Telly Jr

      She's already so thin. Free meals on NYT for her.

    23. Manuel Delgado

      Stop blaming nike you priviledge white. Nike did more to social cohesion than any other company. How can poor african females run so fast when you rich privilesge white female cant?

    24. Guilty Crown

      Well there are alot of women doing very well under the NIKE tent, why did this girl fail

    25. VanGrindz

      Last night, I ordered 3 pairs of Nike running shoes with the intention of keeping 2 pairs and returning 1. This video convinced me to return all three pairs. I will be going back to Asics and New Balance.

    26. No

      The thing is if you think this is bad you should see the way they exploited many African runners who weren’t good enough

    27. S T

      We all know men are the fastest female sprinters now anyway?

    28. SHWN SHTS

      Dramatic much?

    29. aria

      this is honestly abuse in disguise

    30. Jonathan Singer

      You didn't have all those high powered coaches when you were setting records. Woman don't need to be "protected" any more or less than anyone else. You gave away control of your body to someone else....big mistake, whether it be to a coach or a doctor. Using that lump on top of your shoulders would serve you far better.

    31. Big Kev

      And you could've left at any time. No mention of your ego or your choices you made constantly to continue with a situation that you felt was unhealthy in any way. Always skeptical when a person like this takes ZERO responsibility and then turns it into a gender issue or some other wrong source. Quit buying there shoes and go start your own program if you know better.

    32. Denis Sytmen

      Youre awesome Mary Cane !

    33. Thedoggydevl Awesomeness

      Don’t buy Nike!

    34. William Wood

      I thought the title said the “fattest”


      Nike symbol is for Luciferian death cults. "Shwoosh" is actually grim reapers sickle.

    36. Flash_Drive

      Nike, Nike treat employees just like slaves Gave LeBron a billi' not to run away

    37. David Sawyer

      here’s the thing, as a current d1 athlete I feel like I have some authority to speak on this. Division 1 athletics, or athletics on any high level, destroy your body. I wake up every morning in pain I am constantly yelled at for my weight and it is incredibly mentally taxing. Where some of the things she went through bad yes but a lot of the time that is what makes you the best and that is all that matters because if you can’t handle it someone else will and pass you.

    38. Georgie Henderson

      Great, I love how she found her power and turns her experience into sth she can use to create good for others and herself. Well done!

    39. Noelle SM

      Please tell me the Nike organization is seeing this and is finding solutions remedy the pain this young lady and other women has endured.

    40. mad mike475

      Boycott Nike!!

    41. guap

      Did I ask

    42. Enano H

      1st Im worry about the psychology and physical abuse, If she was my family I punch this guy till hospital, wait out side until recover and punch him again and hes all "team". 2nd This guy need go to jail not suspend. 3rd I wont buy any other N*ike pair of shoes from now on, NEVER hope many do the same. 4th Give a great to TNY to get this out, hope keep the good work. This skinny agenda has to end, belive me NOBODY like skinny girls only magazines.

    43. Miryam Hussain

      But my Nike’s are really soft, they’re my favorite trainers 😢

    44. Slim Master J Jude Scratch

      Mary: I’m the fastest girl in America Transgender: Hold my ballsack

    45. DragonMusicOfficial

      Look what , nobody have forced you to do that things or to accept those things. You wanted to join and you could quit anytime , now you cry for what ? It was your own choice. It’s like somebody cry cuz they drink alcoholic or do drugs , bro nobody is forcing u , you’re doing that to yourself.

    46. Aniv

      I never purchased Nike shoes in my life, cuz they are actually mediocre shoes priced very high than what they are made for. Its all the marketing BS!! After I saw this video, I'll never buy nike ever!! Useless overhyped brand!!

    47. Ted Becker

      This is weird. Why didn’t she just leave?

    48. Mommy Bellydancer

      I hope they are all put away for their abuse, a lot of the damage is permanent, will not buy Nike products, I'm sure they'll try to do charity to clean up their reputation, but still no way

    49. montie mehsling

      Congratulations for breaking free of the cult....

    50. Nesha Swan

      wow 😬

    51. Donald Kern

      Being the best isn’t easy, she was the best highschooler, it’s a different level going into college and the olympics...you have to pay a price for everything...the greater the achievement the greater the price

    52. Robin Lundgren

      Thinking about it I’m not surprised- but I was not aware. Thanks for sharing your experience, no more Nike for me (not that I had any Nike products anyhow). A proper feminist uprising and restructuring of male dominant society is long overdue.

    53. billyman

      Or maybe she peaked at a young age and needs to blame somebody other than herself. Maybe she could've finished high school and spent a couple years at college? Maybe she reached for greatness too early? Maybe the coach wasn't honest or good enough... ultimately it's her failure. That's life.

    54. bignarro

      fk nike and their commi loving system

    55. Adaneth

      Wait, you talking about the "woke Nike"? I'm SHOCKED!

    56. luvsilly60

      Sounds like the 1970s. Coaches had no clue. Nike is an American disgrace. Need to break away from Nike completely.

    57. Its Just Me

      So sorry that happened to you. You didnt deserve that. Wishing you the best the second time around.

    58. Eric Wood

      Nike wouldn't hesitate tp endorse a trans to be the fastest "woman" anyway. Nike is sick. I will never own a pair.

    59. Ayanda Radebe


    60. will brito