Some athletes wow us with their sheer physical brilliance, others through displays of courage, poise and passion, or by their willingness to push limits, break barriers and hoist fans’ hopes on their shoulders. This week’s Sports Illustrated celebrates those special stars—the inspiring performers who made 2012 a sports year to remember.
For their refusal to be silent victims of sexual abuse, two of those performers, New York Mets knuckleballer and 2012 National League Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey and 2012 Olympic judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison are featured on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated. In a year when the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State rocked the sports world, award-winning SI senior writer Gary Smith asks us to reimagine, a century from now, looking back on the plague of sexual abuse and celebrating the courage of Dickey and Harrison, who shined a light on a dark history.
Both were abused as children—Dickey by a babysitter and a stranger, Harrison by her judo coach—and the pain of abuse became part of who they were. Smith describes the torture Dickey and Harrison had to endure en route to breaking their silence, and how they support victims who now have the courage to tell their own stories.
“My heart broke for those boys in the Penn State scandal because I knew what they would be up against,” Dickey would say. “And then … I felt for Jerry Sandusky because of what happened to him in his life. The toxicity of it all is so frightening. It energized me, made me see that there’s a real need for activism. The taboo’s been breached. Finally the elephant in the room is out—it’s raising its trunk and bellowing” (page 66).
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